Apr 212010

The Lib Dems may indeed now be within striking distance of power.  It doesn’t make me in the least happy – but I am interested in investigating the wider reasons.  Perhaps this is all the result of a sociological perfect storm – a coming together of a number of different factors that have been out there just waiting to ambush us.

For example:

  1. we’re a highly educated populace, suddenly empowered in so many ways: 
    1. we’ve all been taught by astonishingly cheap corporate technologies and a wider belief in a consumer materialism to demand instant and unequivocal gratification
    2. we’ve all been taught by an overarching and comprehensive system of government targets to expect a neverending production-line like sequencing of improvements in our public sector services
    3. free – or essentially free – communication infrastructures like the Internet have not only brought PCs to most households but have stretched what they can usefully mean in relation to each other: no longer do we see these machines as devices to battle with in the painful privacy of our own homes but – rather – as communicating windows onto a world we can travel round at the click of a button
    4. meanwhile, the comely mobile phone – in a creeping and curious way (offspring as it originally was of Alexander Bell’s century-old invention) – has encouraged almost everyone in the country, whether technophobe or not, to acquire a palm-held computer and use it for a fraction of what they cost only a decade ago
  2. we’re a highly educated populace with long memories:
    1. some of us seriously suffered under a government led by Margaret Thatcher
    2. others felt most aggrieved by Blair’s achievements
    3. all of us felt – in some way or another – that politics was a closed book run by those in the know, very much on behalf of those who generally only chose to participate every four or five years
  3. meanwhile, social media, exploding as they have over the past two years into the daily communication habits of millions of Britons, tell a very different story – no one does anything on behalf of a social media fiend, and where they do try, they may do so at their most serious and public peril

All these factors lead us to one simple conclusion: and yes, Ed, indeed it is true -we have lived in a country where politically speaking coalition, cooperation and living with one’s slightly off-beam neighbours (what ordinary people have to do every day of their working-weeks, incidentally) are unusual activities and essentially frowned upon.  But social media is all about cooperation and getting to know the off-beam – that is to say, about treasuring and sharing difference: sharing that eccentricity through the magic of electricity.

Coalition politics may, in fact, be the paradigm of the social media era.  We might find out that hung parliaments may be to governance what Facebook, Twitter and blogging are to communication.  A little ragged, a little imperfect, a little eccentric, a little crude – a little overwhelming and occasionally rude at first, in fact: but, in the end, a game with ground rules just like any other.

The key to all of this is to recognise that game.

The key to all of this is to recognise that the game which really changed during last week’s TV debate between the three leaders of our main political parties is not the one the parties play with each other.  No.  The game which really changed last week is the one that all politicians play with their voters.

And what it now means is that the voters, softened up by years of empowerment in other areas of their lives, now demand the same from their relationship with their political representatives.

What it now means is that the voters are now on top.

That’s the perfect storm we’re currently enjoying.

Or not, as the case may be.

Apr 212010

The problem with social media is the fact that it is a dialogue.

Yes.  Quite.  At least in political campaigning, anyhow.

First the Tories go with Broken Britain, then it’s a Big Society, now it’s Benefits Scroungers.  How can you possibly have a dialogue with either the voters or your opposition when the goalposts are changing so continuously?  I almost wonder if they’re not deliberately running a dysfunctional campaign so that engagement and discussion becomes entirely impossible – and, out of sheer frustration perhaps, the voters will simply end up giving in, kow-towing and voting for cuddly Dave.

Or not voting for anyone else.

Are the Lib Dems going to be given a blank cheque then?  Remember what David Brin most wisely said:

“It is said that power corrupts, but actually it’s more true that power attracts the corruptible. The sane are usually attracted by other things than power.”

A plague on all our houses?  No.  I don’t think so.  But it would show the depths to which the British political and electoral system had fallen, if the Lib Dems were to be elected with such a half-hearted examination and discovery of their behaviours in all those places where they do currently have some sort of power.  It might be the case that circumstances have made tackers and trimmers of them all – and that given a proper control over the levers of government, they would change radically and suddenly become the personification of nonchalant sincerity.

But I don’t think so.  In fact, I even wonder whether they are psychologically prepared – as a party – for the power that might overwhelm them.

Apr 212010

More background here on what Apple currently allows and doesn’t allow in its Apps store.

As with all omniscient beings, their whys and wherefores – that is to say, their reasons for doing what they do – are essentially impenetrable.  Simply a broken process from start to end.  Apple is definitely acquiring a religious edge to its machinations.

Thanks to Stan for the link.

Apr 212010

I have to say I’m not entirely unhappy that the polls are all over the place.  In Spain, you can’t publish opinion polls the day before the election – which, incidentally, is always held on a Sunday, making it easier for working people to vote.  The day before the vote is called something like “jornada de reflexión” - which loosely translates as the “day of reflecting”.  We could do with quite a bit more of that in our politics.  The very fact that the polls seem to say a million different things to a million different people is – as far as I’m concerned – an essentially healthy state of affairs.

Twitter is a madhouse at the moment as far as these polls are concerned.  The business of polls seems to be inversely proportional to their accuracy.  The less they coincide, the more B2B income for the polling organisations is generated from newspapers and other MSM organisations eager to sell grubby newsprint or achieve page impressions.  Everyone and his cat has to have their own poll now.  I’m even thinking of paying for one myself.  I’d call it … oh, I don’t know … the MilWill poll.  (What Mil would really do in such circumstances is quite another matter.)

I have to say I do miss the Harris and Gallup polls, though.  Do you remember those comfortable, almost moth-eaten, institutions?  Like grandparents who took care of you and provided you with milk and cup cakes.  Like Wagon Wheels biscuits from the olden days (my childhood) – or Terry’s All Gold before it become Nestle’s All Gold.

Or whoever it now really belongs to.

Technology is good.  I’m all in favour of connecting humanity up – if we can’t yet move physically from one place to another in an instant, let us at least move virtually and shed those prejudices of ignorance.  Ignorance is not a crime.  Only wishing to remain so should meet with our outright disapproval.

But the way we use technology to want to travel through time – hurry time up and predict it before it actually happens … this is bad.  The result of any process is surely important.  Yet, more often than not these days, we distort the process dreadfully out of our own galloping impatience.  And by distorting the process, we – obviously – distort the result.

If ninety minutes of TV debate change the face of British politics, I will be most unhappy.  (There was that poll before the debate, mind, if I remember rightly, which showed a massive rise for the Lib Dems anyway.  Now why aren’t we talking more about that I wonder?)

Of course, out of partisanship, I do care who wins.  But I care far more how they win.  It seemed – for a while – that Cameron was going to get the change he was looking for by pouring all that cash from Belize in a clever frenzy of applied brute force.  That would have made me very unwilling to continue any consistent participation in British political endeavour.  When money aims to shape us all – like so many reformed slices of meat from the political equivalent of a Norfolk turkey farm – is when we lose our ability to think for ourselves.

But here we have a most curious situation.  Here, Cameron’s money looks like it is going to win the election after all – if win is the right phrase here * – but on behalf of a third party which has been around for so long that no one thought to give them the time of day.

And if Clegg and his cohorts do “win” the election – in whatever way you’d prefer to define your understanding of such a perception – it’ll have mainly been because Cameron’s been readying us for a monumental about-face in British politics which he, quite personally, has been unable to make his own.

So money will still rule – even as the Lib Dems borrow the Ashcroft millions.

* It’s all dependent on prior expectations now as we define what we mean by winners and losers: if the Tories get the most number of seats but not an outright majority, they’re losers.  If Labour holds its head high, you kind of think they’re going to feel winners even if they aren’t.  Whilst the Lib Dems – bound as they are by the FPTP voting system – must now storm to an overwhelming minority, just to maintain the momentum and expectations they’ve built up.