Dinner and Debate: dipping my toe in local politics and tonight’s Election Debate

15Apr10
It is such a cliché to begin a piece with the sentence ‘with the election in full swing’ or ‘campaigning began in earnest’ – so I am going to use words to that effect.

No I’m not, I’m just going to bite the bullet and jump on the bandwagon. 

With the election in full swing, it is hard not to lapse into serious political ponderment in rare quiet moments during the day. As a channel-hopper between GMTV and BBC my day starts with Bill Turnbull or John Stapleton followed by radio news bulletins summarising the current political events in Shreddies sized digestible portions delivered in such a way that it will tide me over until mid-morning coffee and a scan of the Guardian website Comment is Free page and the BBC news. At lunch I sit at my desk like a complete saddo and vent my journalism spleen at like-minded CiF readers (that is if I can find an article that I feel confident enough to write about without feeling under qualified) and then have scan of the front pages in the cafeteria. These are mostly the sorts of tabloids that show busty women wearing very little clothing sneering out at girls who will never get paid for their looks such as myself so it doesn’t take long for me to lose interest and avoid being lectured by the cashier who harangues me for never buying anything and stealing stirrers, sugar packets and plastic cutlery. In the afternoon I’m usually trying to meet deadlines so very little time for news unless I have no deadlines in which case there is always a news website window open for me to catch a glance at.

When I get home, I am exhausted. I catch the news before the One Show while I do a puzzle or make dinner (it’s quite easy to ignore the One Show and I like the background noise) and then I usually call it a day news-wise until the next morning. These days I can’t sit through a whole Question Time or Newsnight anyway.

Tonight, however will be an exception.  

Tonight is one of those rare things like ‘that’ Question Time last autumn, where normal people like you and I will tune in to watch politics reach another media milestone. Will it be like the QT circus? I hope not, but let’s find out when at 20.30 ITV will be hosting the first of three election debates between the leaders of the three main parties.  

I’ll be Tweeting along like last time however my microblogging will not be one of the 500 selected to monitor the temperature of the general public in an attempt to ascertain how the public feel.

I learned last night that out of the voting population, very few of them are on Twitter and so I doubt that these results will accurately reflect the way the British public will swing.

Last night I attended my first ever Liberal Democrats meeting. How did I end up there in the first place is interesting enough. Lets start from the beginning. 

Last Friday (6 days ago), I was feeling very down in the dumps about the election. I live in a Tory stronghold with Expenses Scandal poster-boy Alan Duncan at the helm. The propaganda had just started to creep up as Duncy is chums with all the wealthy landowners who are only too happy to channel some of their Life and Liberty venom into a little bit of corrugated plastic-stapling. Duncy is likely to get in again despite his forehead-slappingly bad media appearances of late because… well… it’s Middle England, isn’t it.

So what does a frustrated young voter do? She turns to the internet for help. I joined the Lib Dems and filled in the little tick-box questionnaire on their website declaring I want to help (careful not to tick the box that says ‘I’m interested in becoming a candidate’).

Saturday morning and I’m still in bed. Dad’s chatting loudly to somebody. Can’t quite tell if he’s talking animatedly and enthusiastically or if he’s really upset. Find out at breakfast that it’s my local Lib Dem agent bringing round a poster, bumper sticker and leaflet. The poster went up immediately (primarily to annoy the neighbours as we live in a cul-de-sac so it’s not going to have much political sway with the greater populous. I got into a dialogue with the agent and his wife via the internet and before I know it I’m having dinner with the whole gang five days later!

The Rutland and Melton Lib Dems have their informal dinners at a nice bistro in the little village of Whissendine. I took my dad with me as he used to canvass in Edinburgh and I knew he’d help break the ice. I was gathered in by the cheery group and enjoyed bouncing from conversation to conversation and was put at a table with an ex agent and his wife, an ex independent candidate who sided with the Lib Dems after a nasty Tory-led smear campaign scuppered her chances at local government level, the political candidate Grahame Hudson and his wife Bernadette, and my father. Dinner, small-talk and then some rousing speeches where Les, the ever-cheerful agent bolstered everybody’s optimism before handing over to Grahame who spoke of his warm feelings towards the group as well as the changes that are being made and the efforts that are being carried out.

In both speeches my name was read out because seemingly nobody has ever applied to help a campaign for the Rutland and Melton LibDems through the internet. The fact that I am an avid Tweeter, Facebooker and blogger only added to the novelty.

Out of all of those people, I was the only one who had anything to say about using the wonders of the world wide web. And the polls tonight are going to be based on, quite frankly, students, political bloggers, bored graduates (such as myself) and social-networking nerds. Hardly a good cross-section of the general public, is it?

We are talking a group of 18 – 35 year olds who have a university degree and are most likely living a middle-class lifestyle. In short, they read the Guardian and order Corona with lime at the pub to go with their kettle chips.

I should be pleased that the demographic will most likely lean towards Clegg but it will all stack up and stack up before the mighty destruction that will be the anticlimax on election night given the current gaping hole between voting demographics.

As far as I can see, there are two ends of the electorate spectrum and each side seems to miss the other like ships in the night where campaigning and innovation is concerned. There’s the older generation, the hard-bitten, loyal, bald-knuckled-from-pushing-leaflets-through-letterboxes type people who do not use the internet. This is the grey vote, the single largest voting demographic in the country. The graduate vote is online, blogging, Tweeting, putting their views on Facebook. A fast-growing and marginal demographic that are keen to feel involved in politics, however they are moving through technology faster than the grey vote.

The polls taken from tonight’s TV debate Twitter-scale are from the latter group only and I doubt we will get a clear picture from that alone. 

Please follow me as Rosebiscuit on Twitter. I will be following each of the three election debates on Twitter live. The first is tonight at 8.30pm on ITV.

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One Response to “Dinner and Debate: dipping my toe in local politics and tonight’s Election Debate”

  1. 1 Tony Harrison

    Well I read the Guardian and drink Corona with lime but fit firmly into the working class category. I am also JUST within the age bracket.

    Nice slant on things Rose. I too will vote Lib Dem and mourn the days when Labour really was REAL Labour and represented the working man (and woman!)


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