The grass-roots in the UK is shattered. Party membership and volunteerism is tremendously low, and long-term disengagement with national politics had only the briefest of respites as a result of the televised debates, and still resulted in a lower voter turnout than in 1997. The netroots, a coalition of literate, web-savvy and young activist voters, were supposed to change all that, but they never blossomed. So how do we get them back, and could we ever have a ‘Shepard Fairey moment’?
Firstly, we have to address what stopped it swelling this time. For Nick Clegg, the frequent deployment of the Obama Comparison in the runup to May 6th managed to be entirely disingenuous, especially with its allusion to a netroots community poised to thrive. It was widely believed that this election would be fought online, with viral campaigning reaching a sophisticated peak in the fortnight before the ballot. What actually happened was that broadside assaults on the Conservative campaign platform took place long before the election was announced, and effectively vanished in the final push. Continue reading →
Within forty-eight hours we might have a picture of what the next five years will look like in the UK. Might. It could well be that we don’t even know how the UK electoral map has finally turned out. But in terms of the next Parliamentary session we have next to no idea what will happen now.
The background to tonight’s election result is phenomenal; Athens is burning under reaction to newly approved austerity measures while the DOW went into freefall, after what Paul Mason has described as ‘fat finger trading’. Meanwhile voter turnout has rebounded after historic lows, possibly due to the televised debates, and those voters have found themselves locked out and turned away throughout the country, their votes having little effect.
For me tonight began innocently enough, with reflection on the campaign to date. On Gillian Duffy the room drew inevitable parallels to The Thick Of It, trading jokes that would later be mirrored in Channel 4’s election coverage; on the debates each of us mimicked Brown’s “winning” “smile”; we critiqued the newspaper cartoonists; we drew up catchphrase bingo cards.