The Conservative victory came as a surprise only to those who focused too much on the deluge of numbers and data, the TV knockabout of he-said-she-said arguments, and the manufactured campaign moments – and not on the real reactions of people in their actual communities, far from the Westminster village.Ah, those bigoted men and women, you mean? Yes, I can see why the political class did their level best to steer clear of them…
This election has weakened my faith in opinion polls and news packages, and affirmed my belief in the power of the humble vox pop. Vox populi, “voice of the people” – the phrase has become a bit of a dirty word in journalism, the job you send the junior reporter to go and do. But we need to reclaim it, and rediscover the art of speaking to the public – this applies to both our politicians and our media. Politics is, after all, a social science. It cannot rely on quantitative findings, but needs meaningful, direct encounters with people to understand what is going on.Little use you trying to ‘understand’ if you then simply ignore?
But it seems even Suzanne Moore, of all people, has seen the writing on the Facebook wall:
In the echo chambers some of us inhabit online, everyone not only votes Labour but crows about it in 140 characters. I love social media and think it is brilliant in all kinds of ways for connecting us, but its limitations have been clearly shown in this election. Declaring one’s allegiances is fine if you understand who you are declaring them to. No one really does. Hope soon changed on election night into disbelieving, angry tweets. Is there an emoji for howling? All of this happened in self-selecting universes.*chuckles*
Many of us got things wrong, not just the pollsters. The ones who got it a bit right are those who stepped out of the bubbles. A lot of media reported the debate going on within the media, or on TV. All meta-meta, but when I watched the filmed reports of my colleagues, John Harris and John Domokos, going round the country – talking to people instead of tweeting at them – the sense of doom and uncertainty was apparent.*chuckles harder*
The England that was not keen on Labour was there in those shopping-centre car parks, those emptied-out Ballardian landscapes. This feeling I recognised from talking to Ukip supporters during happy hour in a theme pub in Ramsgate. The gap between what people were saying, and how this was reflected so little on social media, is something we need to understand. Or we literally are talking to ourselves.And the ‘Guardian’ and ‘Indy’ circulation figures will tell you that that’s a very small audience.