Sunday, April 22, 2007

Real Choice = Real Engagement

The 'voting panel' commenting on the French election are part of the media hype of the contest, however they and the levels of registration indicate a high degree of engagement with the campaign and its issues. Take Muriel Calvez, a 19 year old student; she finds none of the candidates programmes map completely on to her vision of an ideal President, shame but her level of knowledge about the candidates and her ability to articulate reasons for not supporting the vast majority demonstrate a real interest in the campaign. So perhaps the levels of choice and belief that the contest matters for the future of French politics has encouraged more to take notice of the campaign and get involved. OK these are the voters panel, they should be more engaged shouldn't they?



The UK panel, from the 2005 election seemed to talk more about the issues not being addressed, or the parties being too similar on the major issues; so not offering a choice. Muriel's counterpart Paul Holdsworth complained of the lack of a 'World Poverty Day'; his overview of the campaign was "Too few issues of any importance were discussed and too much effort was placed on dull, stale issues which failed to resonate with much of the electorate". The contrast with the French election is stark, issues are central to the panelists' remarks and there seems no shortage of information. Yes, something is wrong with UK elections; is this a surprise?



Voters appear to feel the UK 2005 election campaign to lack saliency, relevance to their lives. Any marketer will tell you that to get people involved then they need to feel they have a reason to listen in the first place. Not to say all voters do not listen at all, but the arguments suggest that when the lsiten they hear nothing of value so have difficulties making an informed choice; the French seem to have information overload. At the last election research showed that Labour were closest to the public in their prioritisation of issues, but were still not completely in sync; this does not the seem the case in France even if the 'offerings' lack appeal to everyone the voters seem to understand the nature of each of the candidates political stance (perhaps vive la difference is not appropriate here)!

7 comments:

richard said...

of course it may be that in the uk few of us feel a need for any passionate views on politics because we are quielty content.....so see no real purpose in an ideological debate ....how much excitment can a debate about which set of managers we want generate!!!!

Darren G. Lilleker said...

Isnt that the problem, managerialism without ideas, a business plan informed just by profit and loss. While Royal may be unable to be a socialist she will draw French politics to the left; similarly Sarko will keep it firmly on the right. So the direction can be chosen rather than just forward in jerks and flops (or are those just the managers?)

Rose said...

I agree - indeed we see it in many once civic and private areas of life - the university as profit maker and efficency driver full of 'middle' managers who pay only lip service to quality of educational expereinces. As Marquand said, it is the decline of public (and with this ideas of citizenship).

Tes Coe said...

Sigh!! we are all just consumers and the whole world is a supermarket

HILLBLOGGER said...

Re: "... shame but her level of knowledge about the candidates and her ability to articulate reasons for not supporting the vast majority demonstrate a real interest in the campaign."

Agree.

In one of the polling places in my district alone (4th Paris), I was impressed by the number of young people who were queuing to vote.

The French electorate were all the more galvanized into action thanks to the internet.

Btw, I have no doubt Sarkozy will succeed President Chirac.

Darren G. Lilleker said...

Things are not all bleak in the UK, thankfully. The unique British problem is that of a voting system where the prime minister is the party leader with most MPs elected by each constituency. In the marginals there is a greater sense of engagement as each vote matters and the MP is key in courting voters. One 18 year old in a marginal seat was sent a birthday card by the MP, visited twice during the campaign and had information on which to base a voting decision. What seems to be lacking is real interest in the national campaign; I do think it is the case that parties are too similar, too remote and that marketing gimmickry has replaced ideas as opposed to the French contest where marketing is used to sell the ideas as well as the candidate.

So Hillblogger, what will the Bayrou supporters do, can Sarko win enough over to him or will they be scared of his politics? I know you are a Sarko supporter, do you feel there are worries in his camp?

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