Same Old Same Old
Before any election our local Conservatives get together to discuss it, plan our campaign, think about the issues and how best to communicate and address them. I commonly predict a number of things every single time which will happen. The first is that any and every thing that crops up along the way, regardless of how innocent it may be, will be spun as though it were a conspiracy by the Usual Suspects. The second is that the Wisbech Standard, particularly its editor, will help nudge those conspiracy theories along wherever possible. The third is that as the last month progresses there will always, always, always be a front page in a local paper carefully designed to “appear” like election coverage, while simultaneously pushing the opposition.
I did smile at the “online poll” carried out by the Wisbech Standard. No way to check the submissions for cheating, no recognition of the weighted nature of responders to such things, no verification of the locations of those filling it in, nothing more than the most basic test for duplicated submissions (anybody who knows a little about the internet can bypass their check easily.) They said they: “Didn’t ask which party would be voted for to prevent individuals from cheating.” So removing that question removes the temptation for some parties to cheat does it? What nonsense.
This didn’t stop them draping the front page with “the results” as though it were somehow qualitative and quantitative data. Nervetheless, let’s take it at face value and have a think about it. Apparently 48% of people said: “The Government has had a negative impact on my life since 2010.” The question is nebulous at best. It doesn’t say an “overall negative impact” and so what people do or don’t think it negative becomes a very wide field indeed. You could argue that PAYE is a “negative impact” in that without it you would have more money. You could argue thousands of things were.
One of their “big bullet points” was “not to privatise the NHS.” Which is odd, since no party is proposing privatising the NHS, except Nigel Farage, who said something about it which was quickly revised or retracted or something. They are all accusing one another of damaging the NHS, because it’s a powerful “scaremonger” issue close to people’s hearts. But unless you believe one party’s propaganda or anothers, what use is the question?
So “Stop cutting the Fire Service and the NHS,” was interesting. The Fire Service can increase their budget via the Council Tax if they want to do so. The NHS budget was protected the last four years. This is precisely the problem with these broad brush questions, they get nowhere and offer very little in the way of detail.
So how about 95% of people saying: “I am registered to vote and will do so.” Okay then. Let’s see if we have a 95% turnout shall we?
Then there was “get the Rich to pay their taxes.” Definitely no party bias there then! :) Clearly there is this idea that the vague “the rich” must all be tax cheats. Of course, there are tax cheats amongst the rich, just as there are tax cheats amongst all income groups. There are, equally, a majority of perfectly honest tax-paying “rich.” Though what precisely is meant by “the rich” is not specified.
I did enjoy “Make election pledges legally binding.” I made a proposal just like this a few years ago and was roundly mocked by all and sundry. How things change.
But my favourite is the one that John Elworthy and the Bucknors are making hay with on Twitter, in a way that doesn’t look at all orchestrated. :) Apparently, forth percent of voters are going to vote “differently” to how they voted last time. This is pronounced as though it is some death knell for something. But it is meaningless. We don’t know which way they are switching or to whom. We don’t know that it’s not two way traffic which will balance itself out. We particularly don’t know if any of this data is actually meaningful at all, given how easy it would be to fix it if somebody with the knowledge had a mind to do so.
We put out five thousand surveys across Wisbech last month. We have had just over one thousand returned. The returns are comprehensive and include many with details notes and points, from people of all sorts of political persuasions. I reckon that’s probably more valuable than the Wisbech Standard’s vague, afterthought of a poll which become front page news. But even though our survey includes quantitative and qualitative data, much of which is verifiable, it would be wrong to presume ours was “right” too. Because the sort of people who will fill in a Survey sent to them by the Conservatives are every bit as weighted as those who will fill in an online survey in a politically-active local newspaper.
The question: “Has a candidate knocked on your door asking for your vote yet?” was an odd one to ask, at the very start of the campaign period. I was surprised the number was as high as seven percent. You wouldn’t expect candidates to have reached everybody at that point. In fact, as election periods go, this seems quiet at the moment. We Conservatives are doing a full canvass as usual, but I have only encountered one other party so far and there were only two of them. Normally we’d be running into them everywhere. I guess this is because the Liberal Democrats have left the building, the Labour Party seem to be really struggling even to find candidates. And UKIP? I have no clue what they are doing. Their choices are either utter utter madness, or some kind of genius I cannot comprehend. Time will tell.