Cheer up, everyone! There’s only six more weeks of this to go. Forty-two days until we can watch David Dimbleby tell us what the exit poll has said, and if it’s anything like previous years, feel what it’s like to have the bottom fall out of our world.
Today’s unanswered broadcasting question: are Channel 4 going to be doing their own election special again this time? Because their 2015 effort managed to give us one of the most pointless hours of television ever broadcast. Some genius decided that they’d start broadcasting at 9pm, rather than waiting until 10pm like the other channels. Unfortunately, there’s a good reason why they wait, as polling stations are open until 10pm, so reporting restrictions still apply, which meant Channel Four had an election special that couldn’t really talk about the election much, and so turned out to be little more than an hour of people telling us things they might be able to start saying at 10pm…but by then everyone had turned to the BBC or ITV for the exit poll.
Anyway, best campaign suggestion for the day, and certainly much more interesting than anything else we’ve seen so far in this campaign:
Take that poster of Ed Miliband in Salmond’s pocket, then make it Theresa May in Farage’s pocket.
— David Whitley (@mrdavidwhitley) April 27, 2017
Will anyone try it? You’ll have to wait and see, but might get us a more interesting discussion than today’s experience of lots of people saying ‘mugwump’ repeatedly. Today’s also given us the news that Rachel Johnson, sister of Alexander “Boris” Johnson, has joined the Liberal Democrats, and in a week when everyone’s discovered the joys of looking different with FaceApp, given us plenty of pictures of the Johnson siblings looking like someone’s been running them through it.
One thing I have noticed over the first week or so of this election campaign is a lot of the assumptions people have about the potential result. For instance, there’s an assumption that Labour will win at least 150 seats because that’s a hard floor thanks to their vote piled up in safe seats. The problem I see is that FPTP elections have a tendency to shatter these assumptions on occasions, because they expect that voters will be following the same ebbs and flows as they always have done. There’s always a simplification factor to any assumptions about electoral behaviour, especially when it filters down into the media, but those assumptions and simplifications have proven to be reliable over time. Like so many other political trends, though, they work perfectly well right up until the moment they stop working, and very few failures get spotted in advance. No one expected Brazil to concede seven goals to Germany, but once they did it was quite obvious why it all went wrong.
So, if this is a ‘realigning’ election, and if voter behaviour is going to shift on a wide scale, then assumptions about hard floors and ceilings to party results could be on shaky ground. (They could be perfectly solid, of course) At the last election, the general assumption was that local factors would keep the Lib Dems around 20 seats, and there was no way the SNP would win over 50 seats in Scotland as that was just unheard of. Likewise in 1997, Labour winning over 400 seats was as unlikely as there being no Tory MPs in Wales or Scotland. (For lots more of this, look at Canada where every couple of years brings a national or provincial election that ends with one party wandering around dazed saying ‘that’s not meant to happen’) Sometimes voters — or the factors they base their decisions on — can shift quite suddenly on a national scale, and the first sign we get of will be ashen-faced politicians talking about to David Dimbleby about just how nice their hat tastes.
And finally, as always, time for Election Leaflet Of The Day, where we’re getting close to multiple choice, with two Tory leaflets (one from Wallasey, one from Scotland) being disqualified at the last hurdle for not being entirely clear as general election leaflets. That means we have a shock winner as the man known throughout the Liberal Democrats as Sir Simon Hughes-Is-Late has produced a leaflet, got it delivered, and had someone in the constituency willing to scan and upload it after it came through their door. Not much else to say about the leaflet itself but if we have to now get used to Sir Simon Hughes-Has-Done-It-Before-Most-Of-His-Colleagues, maybe that is a sign of some shocking election results still to come?
Originally published at www.nickbarlow.com on April 27, 2017.