Monday, February 14, 2005

We run things

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Tony Blair was on TV last night. He was making a heartfelt speech about how his relationship with the British electorate was like a stormy marriage and how, yes, he had appeared arrogant at times but it was a marriage based on love, a marriage that worked and a marriage that deserved another chance.
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Most media commentators described this as a brave, honest and deeply personal appeal to the electorate.
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Personally, it sounded to me like he was telling us that we were all his bitches.
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I cringed throughout. The spectacle of a man speaking with rock-solid insincerity was almost unbearable. And how could he have the cheek to include the Iraq War in his marriage analogy?. 'That's the second time you've forgotten our anniversary. I'll show you. I'm going to get some mates together and slaughter a few towel heads'.
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There I was watching him speak; half-fantasising about Harrison Ford leaping onto the stage, blasting Blair with a ray gun, revealing circuit boards and voice chips in a shower of sparks, but no. No such luck.
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Tony Blair and his compadres are privy to a secret. The key to the secret is partly chaos theory, partly an understanding of Brownian motion and partly human psychology.
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The secret is that large groups of human beings can never agree on anything. When asked a question, provided that question is general enough and woolly enough, a group of human beings will always break roughly into one of four camps:
  • 30% Won’t care
  • 30% For
  • 30% Against
  • 10% Undecided
A smart political player will always target the undecided group. Though smallest in numbers they carry the balance of power and are the most fickle and easily duped.
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Take the last UK General Election in 2001 for example. Roughly two thirds of people bothered to vote. Out of 659 available seats, The Labour party won 413 seats with 40.7% of the vote and the Conservatives won 166 seats with 31.7%.
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In effect, 9% of the total vote decided the outcome of 247 seats. If those dickheads had their own party it would easily be the largest in the House of Commons. Yet, in the same election the Liberal Party won 18.3% of the total vote and only secured 52 seats. A dickhead vote secures roughly 10 times more seats than a vote for the Liberal Democrats.
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Contrary to what we are told, we are not all equal.
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Where am I going with this? Simple, the fate of our lives and the lives of people in places like Iraq are decided by the tiniest, and most easily influenced, of minorities. This minority is composed of the kind of people who live under a government for eight years and still haven’t managed to form an opinion as to whether to vote for them or not. The kind of people who are swayed by last minute lies and publicity stunts in the few weeks leading up to an election. The kind of people who call telephone polls to register an undecided vote. In a word, dickheads.
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And Tony Blair and every other successful politician know it.
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That's why they unashamedly go out of their way to be nice to babies, talk to Black people and generally act like they give a sh*t for three months out of every five years.
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And that's why, even though 70% of us might twist and cringe when listening to him, Tony still manages to win through, and win through big. He's got the dickhead vote sewn up good and proper.
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Bottom line. Sixty or seventy percent of us want good, honest government and leaders, just like we see in the movies, but we are split on what form that government should take. Ten percent of us are dickheads and they're the ones who decide what we actually get. This is sometimes referred to as democracy.
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I remember a few years ago, the BBC covered an election in one of the new Stan republics. The reporter was sniggering because one of the presidential candidates was offering every voter a free mobile phone if he was elected. Me, I couldn’t help thinking that we were looking at a particularly savvy electorate who clearly had the potential to realise that a new cell phone was tangibly better than a political manifesto filled with broken promises. The BBC guy wasn't thinking along these lines and it was all he could do to avoid wetting himself with smug merriment. Muppet.
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You could improve the current UK voting system easily enough. A simple quiz, with a vote as the prize, would do the job. The questions wouldn’t have to be too taxing. Something like:
  1. Can you read this question?
  2. Is this statement true or false; 'I always lie'?
  3. Have you ever taken out an extended warranty on an electrical item?
But voter selection will never happen. If the dickhead vote were neutralised, politicians would have to play a very different game indeed. Most of us, whatever our political beliefs, have learned to mistrust their spout and, without the support of voting dickheads, they'd have to start telling to truth, avoid talking too much bollocks, that sort of thing.
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3 comments:

Peter said...

I'm not sure I could trust an answer to quiz question 2 :)

Very interesting point about the power of the dick heads. They're single issue voters usually too

Peter said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Stef said...

Yes, yes they are.

I used to believe all that nonsense about the evils of PR - that it resulted in weak coalition governments and allowed extremist parties into the game, etc

Now I'm not so sure. Would PR be any worse than allowing absolutist government on the basis of a handful of floating voters?

PS Getting Question 2. correct is optional. Answering Yes to Question 3. would be terminal