There are 102 posts in total.
So here's my analysis of what happened the last couple of days:
First of all, there's no point blaming the people who didn't vote (and by extension, blaming the demographic of young people who didn't vote) for the Tories winning. as with anything where the decisions are made by the people who bother to turn up to decide, elections are won by the people who bother to turn up to vote. Nobody has any idea how the people who didn't vote would have voted had they voted - that's the point of them not voting, they didn't vote because there was nobody they wanted to vote for. One can't assume they'd have all voted Labour, just as you can't assume they'd instead have all voted Tory, Libdem, Green, UKIP, or Christian Peoples' Alliance (Proclaiming Christ's Lordship). They could have voted to entrench a Tory majority even further as likely as they could have voted to bring about a Labour government.
There's also no point blaming the Tory newspapers - whilst its true that newspapers form an essential part in forming opinion, ultimately newspapers are in the sales business; they know that if they present opinion which veers too far away from the opinion of their customer base, their customers will leave for an alternative product. The other reason why there's no point blaming the Tory newspapers is people don't read newspapers at anything like the level they used to - and of course, us in the social media advocacy world have spent the last five years banging on about how social media is now more important than traditional media. We can't have it both ways. The third reason there's no point in blaming the Tory newspapers is that's actually a very dangerous proposition, philosophically speaking - if one is claiming that The Voters are so stupid and feeble-minded they are so easily brainwashed in to voting the way their newspapers tell them to vote, then you're essentially claiming that Voters are too stupid to be trusted with the vote, and that electoral democracy needs to be suspended.
I think it's incorrect to say the voters have blamed the Libdems for going into coalition. If that was the case, all their voters from 2010 would have switched back to Labour and delivered a Labour victory; Jon Bounds has written speculating that they've basically returned to where they were before the SDP. I think the Libdems have been punished, but they've been punished simply for being pointless - the former Labour voters, the Dems, realised they did nothing of consequence to reign in the previous Toryness so went back to Labour, and the former Liberal voters, the Libs, just realised that if they want Toryness they might as well vote Tory instead. It would be interesting to know how many of the eight survivors predate the 1987(?) formal merger of the party and which wings they all came from.
I think it's pointless of bruised Labour activists and supporters to go into a round trying to say they lost because they were either too left wing or too right wing. Ultimately, it's pretty clear that the Tories won because the mood of the country has moved in the direction of Toryness. Had Labour been more left wing, that wouldn't have countered the mood of the country, and had Labour been more right wing, well they may have been in the same boat as right-leaning Libdems, and even if people had have voted for a right wing Labour, that would hardly have been of value to those of us who wished for a leftist programme.
I'll modify that statement, though - Labour lost because the country moved to the right, *because leftists failed to make a convincing case for leftism*; what I think Labour needs to do is indeed move to the left, but as well as that the left needs to drop the rhetoric of just hating rich people, and hating 'capitalism', as if 'capitalism' is a thing. A left-leaning Labour needs to remind voters that we have healthcare and welfare because any of us can find ourselves needing it at any time; it needs to persuade voters that as well as Britain succeeding when working people are succeeding, that Britain also succeeds when it looks after people who are temporarily unfortunate, because those people will be ultimately more productive given proper time to find a proper job; it needs to persuade voters that Britain succeeds when we look after the sick, the disabled, and the unemploy[ed|able] *because doing so makes us better people*, and better people are always more successful people; it needs to persuade voters that capitalism is the row of shops on the high street and the buildings full of offices in the central business district buying things to sell to people who want to buy them and employing people to handle the buying and the selling, and it needs to persuade the owners of those shops and offices that it can work in their interests to help them work in everybody's interests.
Which brings me to Ed Miliband. Ultimately, as the figurehead of Labour, as the person representing Labour to the voters, it's almost entirely his fault the country moved in the direction of the Tories. I've never been able to get out of my head the image of him being like William Pitt the Younger calling on the Leader of the Opposition to test him on his Latin vocab in Blackadder the Third. Us educated liberals like to claim politics isn't about personality, but the fact is, it is. It's about leaders with the personality and charisma to persuade people to follow them, and frankly Ed Miliband has never had that; he's never been inspiring, all the way through his career as leader he's never had a credible counter-proposal to any Tory policy that's relevant to most people - when he's opposed, he's only ever opposed in sound-bites, incapable of backing up any initially-stated opposition with any credible alternative (just saying 'I can't promise anything now until I get into government'). He's allowed the Tories to own the narrative of the final Labour years in government without doing anything to counter it. On the Channel Four interview with Jeremy Paxman and questions from the audience he generally dismissed the awkward questions with 'I don't care' - well sorry, it's your job to care. He allowed the Tories to own the narrative of a possible Labour government kept together by the SNP by rather than saying 'yes, that will be what democracy will be all about' instead saying he'd never be in a government kept together by the SNP - the moment he did that, he sealed his fate and sealed the fate of Labour in Scotland. And sealed the state of the UK for the next five years, and probably beyond.
Over the last week or two at work I've actually started being a little bit naughty.
The webteam in Birmingham here, like many council webteams, sits within the Customer Services division of the council, rather than within either Corporate Communications or IT, like in many other councils. This means the word which underpins all the work we do is the word 'customer'.
Being frank, I was never particularly happy about us being moved from comms to cs when it happened - as a person out on the street who buys things, my overwhelming experience and view of 'customer services' is they're the people you take a faulty product back to, who spend a lot of time trying to pursuade you it isn't faulty, or the people you complain about an intangible service to, who spend a lot of time telling you the majority of their customers think the service is just peachy. I, frankly, have never been happy about my job being associated with that sort of thing.
I've also never really liked this description of our website users as customers, but it's only in the last few weeks or so I've been able to really crystalise why I've never really liked it. The first reason is one which I've shared a lot in many arenas, and which underpins a lot of my discomfort with a number of current council website trends - customer services divisions of councils seem to have quite a skewed view of who their customers are, focusing on the people who are complaining about potholes, missed bin collections, and leaky taps in their council houses. Those might be the biggest numbers of customers, but that shouldn't exclude the business customers (large and small), the visitor customers, and the politically-engaged customers - those other groups, because they don't register as big numbers in the statistics, it is often a struggle to get counted as also important.
The second reason i realised more recently why I don't like the word is that actually, very few of any of these people are actually customers in the usual sense of the word - customers are people who have a choice, who can take their custom elsewhere if the initial provider doesn't live up to expectation.
But for most services, council customers don't have a choice to go elsewhere - it's only councils who provide the service of fixing potholes, collecting bins, and fixing leaky taps in council houses; the customers are stuck with our service, whether we provide a good one or not. Not just that, customers are people who not only can choose who to have a service from, but they can also choose to have a service at all - but our customers have a right to these services of having their potholes fixed and their bins collected; by referring to them as customers, we're actually denigrating the fact that they have rights. And similarly, customers have the option to not choose a service - but council tax customers don't have an option to not pay their council tax!
So a couple of weeks ago at work I started, clearly and pointedly, in all emails and spoken conversations, no longer referring to customers, and instead referring to citizens - citizenship is what we want to promote in our towns, boroughs, cities, and counties, citizens encompasses everybody ensuring groups don't get dismissed, and citizens to me emphasises the fact that they have rights to our service rather than being people who should be grateful for it. And specifically when it comes to web services, I've returned to what should never have been dropped in the first place - referring to web users as, well, users.
Interestingly, not long after I first wrote this, internally the organisation did indeed start to replace the word 'customer' with the word 'citizen' in all its communications - I wonder if it was my effect that did it?Public / Third Sector Digital