Is it my imagination or are we in the throes of election fever? By my reckoning we’re going to be subjected to a barrage of media interest as the EU referendum and US Presidency election get closer. That’s not forgetting the forthcoming Council and PCC elections nor the matter of who will be the next Mayor of London.
Don’t worry I’m not about to get on my soapbox and tell you how to vote. The EU referendum for one has become much more complex than I originally thought it would be. There’s already been plenty of column inches on both sides. The problem for the voter is, as ever, sifting through the bias to understand what is really going on and what it means. I’m also trying really hard not to say too much about the candidates hoping to secure the Democrat and Republican nominations. As “Super Tuesday” gets closer I can confidently predict that we are going to witness some extraordinary speeches; and not in the Churchillian sense.
As I commented in my blog about Scotland I sense that the levels of apathy at recent local and general elections could be reversed provided the politicians find ways to engage with the electorate. People ARE interested it’s just that the old fashioned channels don’t reach all of them some of the time nor some of them all of the time.
Traditionally, candidates in a forthcoming local or general election would canvas voters with leaflets, encourage residents to stick posters on their windows, make door to door visits or even canvass by telephone. There was also the nightly treat of the televised Party Political Broadcast, screened on all three channels at the same time so there was no escape. Times have changed though. In 2016, who looks forward to answering a call on the landline? If it’s not somebody trying to help you claim for a mis-sold PPI policy, it’s news about a car accident you didn’t realise you’d had. And who reads leaflets? Especially ones without pictures. The internet has changed everything. Buying a new cooker? We buy it online. Looking for car insurance? We go to a price comparison website. A celebrity dies? We learn about it and share our collective grief online.
It’s the same with politics. We go online to find out the latest news and views of candidates. The 24-hour, instant news world means that politicians can no longer rely on a carefully sculpted public image, and social media enables an informal conversation which appeals to a broad spectrum of (often) traditionally disengaged voters. Last year’s general election was meant to be the one where social media coalesced floating voters’ minds. It wasn’t quite like that in the end, but I’m convinced that the party which harnesses these powerful tools most effectively will corner a large proportion of the electorate.
For me, and other election geeks, this year presents many opportunities to participate in one of the most enjoyable rituals of the election process – staying up late to watch the counts roll in. However, whilst we can easily watch Dimbleby present the national context, there is no opportunity to watch the live results and acceptance speeches on a local level. When so much of what affects our daily lives is decided at Council level, it seems strange that we have to wait to read about local elections as a by-line in a news article the next day. The details which impact us the most are often unobtainable.
When I tell my contemporaries that Public-i streams live public meetings they sometimes treat it like it’s something new and unusual. They are surprised that it’s something we’ve been doing for over 15 years. But if I tell my daughter’s friends what we do, they look at me as though I’m stupid. Of course public meetings are streamed! Everything is online these days for the millenials. And as the internet generation grows, being able to instantly access exactly the information you want is something that people will increasingly expect.
So, here’s the sales bit (come on, you were expecting it). If you’ve got this far and you’re organising an election this year (or you want to witness democracy in action) Public-i can webcast live from the count using Connect Anywhere. With minimal equipment, you can make the most of Connect – the public sector’s leading Webcasting platform – to bring elections alive for citizens. If you want to know more about this contact us directly.