Vote Dalek

In general, this election is going to be difficult for me. I am currently a contracted BBC presenter, broadcasting an improbable six days a week – and my residency in Nemone’s slot is now set to run to at least May 21, long after the new government has been signed in – which means, as I understand it, I am unable to make any public statements about my voting intention, a ruling I take very seriously indeed. This happened in 2005, too.

I remember the election year of 1992 vividly, as I was then working at the NME, and although the “old days” of donkey-jacketed, barricade-storming left wing tub-thumping were behind the reconstituted weekly, I was proud to have commissioned a nice, gritty piece from Stuart Bailie about politics in rock and he kicked it off with the story of Victor Jara, which, I’ll be honest, jarred with the general upbeat, irony-laden style of the paper at the time. I gave myself the job of editing the letters page, Angst, on the week of the election, and made no bones about it: every ed’s comment was basically an urge to “Vote Labour!” (Interestingly, Stuart Maconie and I wrote and presented a humorous skit about politics in pop for Radio Five’s magazine show The Mix and we ended it with a joke about BBC impartiality, followed by the two of us saying, “Vote Labour, vote Labour, vote Labour, vote Labour” to fade.)

I am able to make observations about the electoral race, however, and I must admit I agree with my neighbour John’s assessment of the televised leaders’ debates thus far: that they are “sterile” affairs. Certainly, whatsoever the colour of your rosette, it was exciting to see the underdog, Nicholas Clegg, surge out of the shadows and trounce “these two,” as he called Brown and Cameron – after all, everything’s so stage managed and rehearsed, and the first-past-the-post voting system seems designed to smooth out any surprises, you have to take your entertainment wherever you find. This Thursday, a glutton for three-party punishment, I watched Question Time directly after Sky’s leaders’ debate – in other words, I followed a debate with a debate of the debate – and the difference in atmosphere was palpable.

In the first programme, the public had to sit on their hands and bottle up their reactions, as per the rules of engagement; in the second, they were free to respond, whether it was by grumbling or rolling their eyes or applauding or booing or whatever took their fancy. This is what democracy should be about.

I’m going to vote Dalek, like the Radio Times told me to.

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5 thoughts on “Vote Dalek

  1. The Radio Times was prescient, with equal coverage of the “three main parties” with three different Dalek covers – red, blue and yellow.

    This was before the first Leaders’ Debate – only actually after the debate could the “yellow Dalek” really be said to represent one the “three main parties”!

  2. Comparing the leaders debates to Question Time is like comparing Midsummer Murders to Pulp Fiction…dull dull dull in comparison.

    That said I really don’t know who I’m going to vote and am yet to be convinced by any of the above.

    A hung parliament is surely on the cards.

  3. Funnily enough I was just about to comment when my Lib Dem candidate came and knocked on my door. Good on him for actually doing that – no candidate has ever done it before. Ever. But he looked a bit put out when I refused to shake his hand and told him I hate the Lib Dems. He didn’t even ask me why. OK, he’s not going to get my vote (and sadly he might not need it), but at least he’d have got my respect if he’d asked me why.

    The only good thing about the “Clegg surge” is that it makes what was otherwise inevitable slightly less so. (I’m sure a lot of people hope to see the day when Dave comes to regret his crass “He was the future once” jibe.) But there’s something very depressing about so many people suddenly getting behind a party that isn’t, you know, new or anything. I wouldn’t mind if there was some clear reason for their support, but there doesn’t seem to be one, or any. It just seems to be this loose, empty movement. Voting for “him” because he’s not “them” seems to me to be voting in hope rather than expectation. And I don’t buy into the idea that hope is in any way audacious. I do worry that we’re moving into a world where no one dares to be seen to believe in anything.

  4. I think I’m with Dave on this one. Far from being “excited” by the Clegg surge I view it with a degree of despair. This is partly fuelled by my own experiences of local government elections where the most vicious and nasty campaigns were always from the LibDems. But my own personal prejudices aside I am concerned that the democratic process appears to have been reduced to the ability to deliver a pleasing soundbite.

    I think there are possibly a couple of reasons for this. There is technical explanation; the number of leadership debates for a short campaign period, three in four weeks are too many. The debates dominate to the exclusion of the usual election process. This dominance is exacerbated
    by a decline in political participation, political parties need television to reach the public because of their declining organisational capabilities.

    Then there is the ideological explanation; New Labour was post-ideolgoical. Politics exists in a technocratic sphere where “they are all the same” and the old tribal affiliations do not have the same hold. In such an environment the new kid on the block becomes attractive because we don’t know much about him. Instead of a hard headed discussion about how to sort out the mess we are in, we will focus on the individual. Far too much hope and expectations will be placed on their shoulders and then when they fail to met these lofty ambitions internet forums will howl with derision. Cynicism about politics and politicians will grow until the next new fresh face not associated with the “old parties” emerges. Interesting times.

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