Crash course in politics #2

posted 31 May 2010, 16:23 by Peter Shields
C2DE's - what to do with them?

I'd never even heard of them 'til I entered the campaign trail.  In laymen's terms - 'Red Top' tabloid readers and downwards!  Vast swathes of them vote. Sadly, it's with their feet - they simply stay at home for elections.

The results in Bradford East are not atypical. The winning candidate was chosen by 21% of the electorate, whilst "Can't be bothered to go out and vote" was chosen by 38%.

Now I had quite high hopes of being able to get at least a little bit of support amongst some C2DE's because (a) I have some quite good relationships in a couple of areas through my pastoral work, and (b) the whole tenor of my campaign was quite anti-political and plain-speaking.

How wrong I was! And let me relate just how wrong I was.

A number of the people I had as proposers on my formal nomination papers would be classified as C2DE's.  They were happy to nominate me, not because of my policies but because they know me & like me.  I tried to engage them by getting them involved - signing my nomination papers, promoting my campaign to their friends & family, taking my t-shirts to wear, giving 100's of leaflets/posters and challenging them to distribute them and talk to their friends about voting for me.  At one point I was told that if I called at various houses and told the occupants who had sent me then the occupants would vote for me! (I didn't take them up on the offer I hasten to add!)

I called in on my proposers on a number of occasions to keep them updated with things.

On May 6th, aprox 7pm, I called around to see if they'd voted yet.  Their response?  "Oh, is it today"?!!  I'm not sure if they ever bothered going out to vote - I suspect not.

We have absolutely no idea just how disengaged with politics these people are.  If you read nothing more than the Star or Daily Sport, watch only MTV, and mix with people who do the same then it is more than possible to completely avoid even a General Election.  I guess it's a bit like my engagement with the world of cricket.

So what to do about it?

Well I reckon I could get nearly all of them to vote quite easily.  I would charge them £1!  Counter intuitive?  Well the flip-side is you'd have to promise them that there'd be a prize draw and 10 lucky voters in each constituency would get £1,000 with a national jackpot of £10,000,000. The General Election Lottery!  [The option of a free vote would still be available, but with no entry to the lottery!]

I'm pretty certain it'd work.  The more important question is do we want it to work?  Do we really want people voting who have no interest at all with the substance of politics?  Wouldn't it merely entrench the already depressing discovery I talked about here?

This is where a religious parallel raises itself in my mind.

Look through the history books and you'll see that the middle classes sustain the church but revivals happen when the working classes are converted.  Is it not the same with political revolution?  If you could motivate the disengaged (who are predominately C2DE's but not exclusively) to vote for you, you could genuinely bring about a political revolution.The catch-22 is that in order to communicate to C2DE's you would almost certainly risk alienating the ABC1's.  The ability to communicate to both groups, to motivate them & inspire them to action requires something incredibly special.  Which I guess is why national religious revivals and political revolutions are so incredibly rare.

A corollary of of all this explains why Party Politics is often so bland : they all chase the "middle ground" - the mass market - of people who actually turn out to vote.  Evangelism - political & religious - seems to demand more & more effort for diminishing returns.  Much safer & easier to preach to the converted, trying to convince them to join your church rather than trying to convert the heathen.

So unless you see yourself as a John Wesley, Martin Luther King or Frank Skinner ... chasing the C2DE's is going to put you on something of a hiding to nothing. 

Second lesson in trying to get elected:  decide - C2DE or not C2DE!