It’s the students & young people that are making this election campaign interesting

Summary

The mainstream party operations have delivered us nothing but a yawn-fest. So it’s great to see students and young people bypassing the sterile zones around big name politicians and taking seizing their destiny with their own hands.

I’ve been following students & young activists from Labour, The Greens & the Liberal Democrats throughout the campaign in Cambridge as everything goes down to the wire. It’s been a damn sight more exciting & energised than the poor excuses the mainstream centralised party operations have been coming up with.

Irrespective of any policy differences, I don’t believe David Cameron deserves to stay on as Prime Minister given how he has desperately tried to avoid face-to-face grillings with audiences of young people – audiences that the other party leaders have subjected themselves to. Instead, we’ve been faced with scenes that have been brilliantly parodied by Ballot Monkeys on Channel 4 that almost read like they are documentary rather than comedy. Staged audiences of rent-a-crowds or talks in work places where no employee dare ask the politicians awkward questions lest they lose their jobs. This is what passes for a campaign which makes the 2001 campaign look exciting.

Encouraging politicians and activists who are women to speak directly to the women of the world, inviting them to take part in democracy & political action

Because let’s face it, no matter how much I blog, tweet or post, I’m not the right messenger for the message. It’s got to come from women themselves. All I can do is to make the process a damn sight easier for everyone by doing the filming, editing & uploading of the footage. Hence filming as many activists from across the political matrix in this campaign as possible, asking them to talk about their experiences of campaigning & standing for election. Every so often, you strike gold – someone whose presence, disposition & demeanour you find completely inspiring. Step forward Amelia Womack, deputy leader of The Green Party.

I’ve found similar with Jo Swinson of the Liberal Democrats…

…Stella Creasy of Labour

IMG_0617

…Dr Sarah Wollaston of the Conservatives, and Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, the cross-bench peer & former gold-medal-winning paralympian athlete.

Puffles & TanniGT

Comparing the two photos with the two videos, they reflect my evolving approach. The earlier approach inevitably involved me and the dragon making a lot of social media noise. This culminated in the 2014 election with Puffles getting 89 votes in Cambridge. In 2015, I’m using video and turning the camera around to face the people I want to feature.

“Why women? Why not some other group?”

This helps explain why -> http://www.5050parliament.co.uk/

At the same time, over the years I’ve learnt so much from the women I’ve chatted with online using social media. It’s changed by views, attitudes & perceptions in a relatively short space of time. At the same time, I’ve also learnt that I don’t need and don’t want to be at the forefront of everything. I’ve been asking myself regularly who those other people are who can have a greater impact on improving things than me – especially given my not-great mental health.

If we want more diversity in politics & public life, somebody’s got to do something at the grass roots – inside our communities. It’s anything but glorious. It’s a long hard slog, often requiring going to meetings, events & gatherings you’d rather not go to. I had to fight off an intense bout of mental exhaustion (taking emergency medication) to get video footage of the debates and hustings in Linton (a village just outside Cambridge) for the South East Cambs constituency (see here). This was the final opportunity to get video footage for that constituency of the candidates standing for election following the declined permission from the Conservative candidate at the Fulbourn hustings. With the help of other politicians and also some friends in the Conservative Party, we managed to overcome the barriers & video footage of all of the candidates I was able to record for the people of South East Cambridgeshire.

Inviting young activists to talk to camera about their experiences campaigning

That’s what I’ve done – asking them to describe to camera what the election campaign has been like for them:

The couple of Conservatives I’ve asked have politely declined, and I haven’t found any young UKIP activists locally – not that I’ve gone out of my way to hunt them down. In anycase locally, Richard Taylor has more than enough footage of both parties at past meetings so in the grand scheme of things, all of the major parties are covered.

Frayed nerves and basic errors

As exhaustion kicks in, I’m seeing some very basic errors being made by various parties & activists locally & nationally. I’m not going to talk about them prior to Thursday – rather I’ll review them after the event. Inevitably some involve social & digital media – this being a far more ‘digitally intense’ election campaign than previous ones. There are also things happening in this election that have never happened before – such as the Milibae fandom that has run rings around the corporate print media that, with the exception of the Guardian & Mirror Group have backed the Conservatives and/or the coalition that will keep Cameron in Number 10.

Tactical voting on both sides

Just as The Mirror encouraged voters in 1997 to vote tactically to kick out the Tories (with devastating effect), The Sun & The Daily Mail are encouraging their readers to vote tactically to keep out Labour. Thus in Cambridge we are in the bizarre situation of two of the most pro-authoritarian newspapers in the country backing one of the most liberal MPs in the 2010-15 Parliament. Online there are a number of sites looking at the Green-Labour side of things with the aim of targeting former Coalition MPs. It is these, along with so many other variables & factors that makes Cambridge in particular too close to call.

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