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Impressions of a first time voter

April 24, 2010

I am a 21 year old student. I grew up in Jersey, I went to school in Somerset, England, and I’m currently at uni in Cardiff, Wales. I have 2 parents, 2 brothers, many cousins, good friends and fairly ordinary life. I have never voted before. At the last general election I was only 17. I am experiencing a whole world of politics, journalism and media coverage that is completely new to me. Much of the media side of it is new to everyone else too, especially with the televised leaders’ debates and the unprecedented rise in social networking. The thing is, I don’t like what I see. Here’s why:

For me personally, and I’m sure for many other people my age, this is the first time we’ve been able to properly get involved in politics. Crucially, this is the first time we’ve been eligible to vote. In the current political, economic and social climate, being able to vote for the first time should be pretty exciting. Now we can talk about politics without it seeming like a world that’s too grown up for us, and we can have our say in what’s going in. That’s been made infinitely easier these days thanks to the internet. On top of that, this is probably one of the most (if not THE most) politically exciting times the UK has seen since I-don’t-know-when! For me – never very politically savvy but aware that I probably could be if I got into it – this should have been the perfect time to emerge from the student bubble and begin making my way in the world of the Proper Adults. Should have been, but isn’t.

This is because, to me, what’s happening now is something I struggle to find words for. Ridiculous? Yes. Farcical? Like you wouldn’t believe. Childish? Have you seen the posters? If smear campaigns and militant media bias is what ‘politics’ in the UK is about then it’s an absolute JOKE! Seriously, what the hell!? I didn’t register to vote so I could have smear campaigns gawking at me from every billboard, and neither did I register so that I could have the media tell me, using the most transparent churnalistic spin I’ve ever seen, that someone is a Nazi! Where’s the positive campaigning? Where’s the “Vote for us because…”, rather than all the “Don’t vote for him, he has a silly face” rubbish. Where’s the credibility? Out of all the coverage I’ve seen of this election, I’m struggling to think of a positive example off the top of my head. Frankly it’s a disgrace.

However, it’s not all bad. Though many facets of the media are pissing me off, there are 2 things that do slightly redeem this election. The first is the television debates. The second is Twitter.

The debates have put the 3 leaders directly before the public so we can see who is good and who isn’t. More importantly, we can see why they are or aren’t good with our own eyes. Without the debates all we’d have would be the newspaper reports. Yes, most of the recent “reporting” was a panic reaction to the first debate itself (no fire without burning effigies?), but at least we can now plainly see the bias for what it is, and can make up our own minds as to who we like.

As for Twitter, in case you don’t know what it is yet, basically it allows people to say what they are thinking, simple as. That could be “Does anyone know when Dr Who is on tonight?”, or something banal and misspelt like “Cheez sandwitch LOL”, or maybe something to do with the leaders debate. If you’re on Twitter you can’t not have noticed the #nickcleggsfault trending topic, or the #leadersdebate trending topic. Trending topics are topics that looooads of people are talking about, and normally people add hashtags to them, like the ones above, if they’re relevant to a specific thing like the debates. The other day, looooads of people were putting the #nickcleggsfault hashtag in their tweets, which shows that all of thesee people – who have taken to blaming Nick Clegg for the ash cloud, for them having stubbed their toe or for Justin Beiber – understand how ridiculous and un-credible the newspaper reports about Nick Clegg have been and are biting back by taking the p*ss out of the tabloids. Literally thousands of people were doing it. It was wonderful.

As to the rest of Twitter, I’ve seen far more about the election on there than I can fit into this rant, but I’ll give you the highlights, most of which are summarised beautifully in this article by MacGuffin, known on Twitter under the profile TabloidWatch (one of my absolute favourite people whom I follow). If you’re at -all- interested in the media election coverage and you’re only going to read one article about it, you need to read this one. And keep an eye on this man’s (I assume) blog, it really is a lantern in a fog of idiocy.

As well as that, here is a rather excellent article by an American blogger who knows a lot about the EU, and was surprised with how little of the second debate was actually focused on it, or indeed any foreign policy. It’s quite long, but even if for no other reason you should click on the link to see the Sky News screenshot at the top which seems to indicate that 31% is now higher than 34%.

And finally, this article will tell you what’s really been going on with the voting system and this election, and why it’s so significant.

I do apologise for going off on one here. I had hoped to keep the election out of this blog entirely, and to talk about more fun things like Dr Who (haven’t seen the new one yet, normal service resumes as soon as I’ve seen it). If you’ve read this far and haven’t clicked on the links above then I urge you to do it. The papers lie and mislead, so if blogging and Twitter are they only way to inform people as to what’s really going on, even if only the 5 or so who may read this post, then so be it. It’s time to get political.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. HonestIago permalink
    April 25, 2010 8:58 pm

    I agree with you entirely: the constant negative billboards, hoardings and ads by all parties are a plague on all their houses. The one prediction I feel safe making about this election is that voter turnout will be even lower than the approx 68% in 2005. There will be uproar, wringing of hands and pronouncements of doom from the usual suspects.

    Everyone will blame someone else and never comment on the real reason: we aren’t been given a positive choice, only negative ones. Parties aren’t giving us reasons to vote for them, sharing their vision and values and hoping we’ll engage with them, they’re pointing at their opponents and saying “Nah nah, look at him he’s ugly/posh/Lib Dem”. At a time when the public’s faith in Parliament and the political system has been badly damaged, it’s completely counter-productive and will only cause more people to disengage.

    I think the negativity highlights another worrying trend in UK politics: the intellectual debate is becoming very polarised and starting to resemble the absolutely disastrous situation in the States where fundamentalists on both sides have distorted language so much reasoned debate is nigh-on impossible. In the UK it’s bizarre as politically we’re very much centrists: something like 95% of votes will be cast for broadly centrist parties. There’s far less political space in the UK than in most other countries. As you point out, the media is creating these divisions.

    Good blog mate, I’m gonna have a nosy around the rest of it.

    • April 25, 2010 9:12 pm

      Thanks a lot HonestIago! I’m glad I’m not the only one who thinks that about the election coverage at the moment. And yeah feel free to spool through the rest of the blog but be prepared for a lot of sporadic randomness if you go back before the first Dr Who post.

  2. May 10, 2010 10:48 am

    I get the impression that most of the reason that the parties were engaging in smear campaigns is that they know that they cannot actually fulfil any of the promises they might make. So, at the risk of being done for false advertising, they find it easier to engage in a slanging match with their rivals.
    It’s a great example of how far humanity has and hasn’t come, I think. Although unlike many animals there’s no violence in the match for supremacy, very much like some species of monkey, there’s a poo-flinging fight to sort out who’s boss.
    It’s a shame they can’t be more like bonobos, although that said, perhaps not. Sex to sort out differences of opinion simply cannot go well between politicians. John Prescott and David Cameron sorting out their differences with a reach-around? No. Just no.

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