Freesteel Blog » 2019 » December

Friday, December 13th, 2019 at 11:28 am - - Whipping

It was like an election between the nineteenth century novelist Jane Austen and Marie Antoinette who was running on the slogan: “Get Brexit Done, then we can have Cake!”

There will be no cake since the whole point of Brexit is to stop the imports of sugar and flour. Maybe this will unleash our revolution.

Now I’ve been on a lot of anti-Brexit marches in London. They don’t work; the politicians go on holiday and don’t hear a sound. Extinction Rebellion with all their road blocking hardly makes a dent on the normal traffic congestion. And labour strikes require a huge majority of a set of people who are all doing the same job to quit at the same time, which is very difficult to organize even when here are the right circumstances.

When any of these three actions are undertaken and don’t gain any result, it is demoralizing and self-weakening. It cannot be repeated again and again.

But there was one action that happened during this election that so many people got involved in, which was canvassing. In the last three weeks I’ve been door knocking and board running in Barrow, Lancaster, Bolton, Runcorn, Crewe, Clwyd and Aberconwy (all but Lancaster were lost).

Everyone I went out with, mostly just random people concerned about the political direction of this country and felt they had to do something, seemed pretty reasonable, thoughtful and politically informed.

The voters in their houses watching telly, however, were astonishing.

Now, you’re not supposed to say that all these people who want their Brexit done are stupid, but let me put it this way: People were promised various things in order to persuade them to vote for Brexit in 2016. (It’s not important what these things are, or what each of these persuaded voters personally believed, but it included things like: more money to the NHS, stop immigration, take back control of some unspecified laws from Brussels legislation, and so on.)

But get this: To a man and woman who said to me that they wanted their Brexit done, they have literally forgotten what it was they were hoping to get from it. I have combed through every ad from the Conservative Party and the Brexit Party, and not a single one says what Brexit is going to do for us either. (Although, to be fair, some say it’s going to “unleash our potential”.)

It is very much like you going out the door and down to the shops, and forgetting what it was you’re supposed to be buying. And I say: “What the hell are we continuing going towards the shops for when we don’t know what we want to buy? Why don’t we turn round and go home?”

After doing this a few times, people generally discover how to use a shopping list.

As Mark Lander of the New York Times said in The Daily podcast about the fix we are now in, this country is going to experience two major hang-overs as a consequence of this. The first hangover is that Brexit won’t be done on the 31st January 2020; that’s just the beginning. And the second hangover will be when we discover just what kind of US-vassal state, Singapore-on-Thames style Brexit the Tories in charge have signed us up for.

Congratulations. You went down to the shop to buy some oats, and you came back with a bag of Polonium. Now everyone in the house is sick and going to die. Be careful what you vote for.

Here’s a political action that could be organized.

On the anniversary of this election campaign next year, we ought to do some mass canvassing of the kind we were doing during this election. Pick some new Tory constituency with its hospitals and schools in crisis, round up 5000 or so people from around the country who have an interest because they have to live under this Tory administration, and organize board runners, door knocking, questions, surveys, and visits every house in the district on a single day, and get all the data from the ground about how people are feeling. Perhaps there is a candidate who can put their name on the leaflets, but it should mostly be about providing some PublicWhip type news-sheet about some of the most egregious things their MP has voted on recently in Parliament in their name that they have no idea about.

For this to work, we need some better software. I did get to spend an afternoon entering data from the board running sheets into the diabolical Contact Creator software, which some old duffers in Labour Party have contracted from Experian and probably thinks is ace. They spent half a million quid on it in the last few years. Here’s one of the invoices.

It seems to be a some kind of crappy customer-tracking [touchpoint] software, except it doesn’t track any customers because there’s no evidence they’re matching up voting data when people move. Here’s an even more crappy youtube promotional video from when it was launched in 2008.

There was also a web-app called Labour Doorstep, which did its best to interface to some API in Contact Creator software to make it portable, but there is only so much it could do when the underlying system is so awful. Most of the time it didn’t work.

Now, what you really ought to do is start with the web-app and base it on mapping from OpenStreetMaps. In some parts of the country (eg in parts of Runcorn) every house number assigned to a building outline, which means you can find your way around through all the addresses. This is particularly essential in places where there are stupid house names instead of numbers, like you get everywhere in Llanfairfechan. It would not take long to code up, and the OSM editor could be embedded into the app.

A phone-app could also be sharing live positioning with all the other door knockers in your team, so you’d get little dots of where people are and you won’t keep losing them. This tech is really easy to do through the internet.

How about this: you click on each building that is in green, and residents and their information pops up with some checkboxes for you to fill in when you are conversing with them at the door. Then, when you save the data the building polygon goes blue on the map, so no one else visits it. With 5000 people spread out through a whole constituency using their phones like this, they could do about ten houses each, have decent conversations and find out what’s going on out there, and maybe have time to move on to the next constituency in the afternoon.

You know, this would be rather edgy. It would get something done. You don’t need an insane number of people to participate, and then get ignored. It would be cumulative, and empowering. The Conservative Party would get annoyed and try to ban it, which is when it would get interesting.

We are expecting them to bring in Parliamentary gerrymandering and unnecessary voter-ID laws to suppress the turnout during this term. But when they try to ban citizens talking to other citizens about who they should vote for, that’s something that can be directly fought for.

There is a lot of anger out there, which is being mis-directed and then amplified by the billionaire press we have around. Door knocking is not usually like this, but here is an example of a bad one, which the individual was evidently proud of:

This can’t be healed if we leave people in their boxes, self-medicating on manufactured outrage and anger.