May 2015: General Election (or wasn’t Life Easier with a Swingometer with only two colours)

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Im glad thats over…. The 2015 General election process seemed to go on forever. A long winded campaign which tested the most hardened political animals and impassioned voters. I like Politics on the most part and the art of debate and discussion of a range of issues. Unfortunately the 2015 campaigns lacked coherence with scattered and disjointed policies and personalities.

The Parties daily dose of scattergun policy edicts and the continual lack of discourse did not give a clear view. Even during the meaningless debates, the leaders spent more time talking over each other rather than promoting what makes their party great. Most of all the closeness of polls, caused parties to concentrate on soundbites playing on the voters fears and verbally abusing their opponents.

Everyone stressed (rightly so) the importance of voting, but the above behaviours must have turned off some people. As a dedicated democratic voter, I even struggled to pick a party who I could 100% believe in. I spent most of the campaign, dispairing of the tactics used and continually switching off Broadcasts, debates and news programmes in disbelief.

So to show the issues I had with this years election, I took a little bit of old school Peter Snow and a little bit of ‘Have I got News For You’ to create Billy’s Swingometer of Political No-Nos.

IMG_4797Starting with a basic swingometer. A red circle is cut out then a blue half circle stuck to it. A piece of white card is folded and on the front face a half circle is cut out, creating the space for the swingometer. The red blue circle is placed in-between the sheets and is positioned behind the half circle gap. A silver butterfly clip is pushed through the centre of the circle and through the back of the card. This is fastened in place tight enough for the circle to revolve. Next a pointer is attached from the clip, stuck to the join of colours on the wheel and protruding unstuck over the edge of the gap. Thus making something to grab onto to make the Swingometer swing. The card was glued down the open side but the top and bottom were left open as this seemed to improve the movement of the device.

Next a base was created to help the whole thing stand up. It also allowed mIMG_4798e to colour in a tableau of the dejection I felt after what had seemed to be an eternity of Political rubbish. Finally I made some degrees for the swingometer. They don’t represent stages to the left and right but show some of the things I am not voting for. The List that follows, are the political no no’s raining down over the democratic process this time

  • The Scottish Threat & The English Question
  • Bacon Sandwich Gate
  • Red Lines
  • Racism/Sexism/Homophobia
  • Stereotyping The Poor And Rich
  • Celebrity Endorsements/Interviews/Appearances
  • Debate Interviewers More Important Than Politicians
  • Brain Fades – Forgetting Your Football Team Or Important Policies
  • Someone Else’s Fault – Previous Government, Europe, Immigrants
  • Politicians Pretending To Be Working Class By Supping Beer
  • Poor Quality Leaflets & Party Political Broadcasts
  • Not Answering Questions Or Stock Party Line Answers
  • Pop Interviews With People Who Don’t Care
  • Marginal Constituencies Deciding The Election
  • Business Endorsement Adverts And Letters In Newspapers
  • Difficult Decisions To Make And We Are All In This Together
  • Parties Vying For Centre Ground And Middle England

It should be said that the one positive moment, was the appearance of the local Liberial Democrat councillor on our doorstep who had a 20 minute discussion with me regarding 5 years of coalition and we had a friendly debate regarding their influence (good and bad). A great talk and a brave politician.

So May 7th appeared with the Conservatives and Labour neck in neck in the polls. Lib Dems were struggling, UKIP and SNP seemed to be doing well and would be destined to shape a future coalition government. Early in the morning I went to vote with British democracy in a balance. During the day I planned a paper project of creating an impossible Tangram, which could not solved. The pieces would be the parties based on seat size but with ‘Red Line’ coalition points would create edges which wouldn’t match up. By the time I got home I had a plan.

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Well who would have thought this would have happened. At 10pm the BBC announced an exit poll, in which the Conservatives would have a majority Government. Nobody believed it especially Paddy ‘I will eat my hat’ Ashdown. After Sunderlands very quick return, the unbelievable became fact  slowly during the night. By the morning the Conservatives had gained 331 seats and a majority. Labour were in disarray with 232 seats. SNP were jubilant being third biggest party with 56 seats. The Lib Dems with 8 seats had been decimated. UKIP and the Greens were disappointed with their 1 seat returns. Whilst Northern Irish and Welsh parties stayed pretty static. A couple of hours later, 3 leaders had resigned (one would come back) just to finish off a stunning political day.

Many political experts far more qualified than me will dissect the results and work out why the polls and exit polls were so different. But using the above cubes I will share some of theories which I thought were relevant. This is my take on how it all transpired, you may have your own views (and you’re probably more correct.)

IMG_4800The collapse of the Liberial Democrats. 5 years of coalition government decimated support for the Lib Dems, reducing their seats to 8 and the loss of many of the parties hierarchy. Their support seemed to split to the left and the right (like their politicians) and feed into the big parties.

IMG_4796The SNP effect. The expectation that the SNP would take many Scottish Labour seats came to fruition. But nobody including the SNP expected 56 seats. The Labour party suffered from the previous years Scottish referendum and its closeness to the Westminster establishment. Inadvertently this also led to the strengthening of the Conservatives, with the Tory’s use of the ‘Scottish threat’ of the SNP joining with Labour to form a Government.

IMG_4795The rise of UKIP. Only one seat but the third party (on share of vote). In the South, they took voters from the Conservatives when the policies were not Right enough. In the North, they took support from Labour (finishing second in many seats) by seemingly being more working class. An enigma.

The multiparty system. As I suggested above, when I started voting (in the late 80’s) it was a two horse race between a blue and red team. Every so often the Yellowy/Orange team would make an impact (usually when a protest vote was happening). This time a range of parties had an effect. The threat of a hung parliament and coalition allowed parties to express their views and gave UKIP, Greens, SNP et al more broadcasting time than ever (including participation in debates). Their personalities made bigger impacts without their policies being properly scrutinised. Excluding the SNP, this didn’t result in massive seats but increases in share of the vote (see below). This has lead to calls for Proportional Representation.

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So with the Tangram idea crumpled up at 10pm, I had to come up with another idea. So I have went for a simple and effective info graphic. I have created a cube for each party where the cubic cm’s of the structure equals (ish) the number of seats the party gained. For example :

  • The Liberal democrats cube (4th cube in Orange) represents 8 seats measures 2x2x2 cm
  • The Green cube (6th Cube in bright Green) represents 1 seat measures 1x1x1 cm
  • The Conservatives cube (1st Cube) represents 331 seats (which unfortunately is a prime number) so is 6.92×6.92×6.92cm (approximately 331cm cubed)

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Each cube was created as a template on the computer (handy for getting exact measurements) and cutting out and scoring were carefully carried out. Before I assembled there was one thing I needed to do. I have been very careful not to give away who I voted for or express my personal views about any of the parties in this post but I felt I needed to add this to the artwork. I am too political and opinionated not to say something about how I felt, so inside each box is my own personal views regarding that specific party on a sheet of paper. In each of the cubes, the paper is multiple folded. Cubes got increasingly more difficult to assemble as they got smaller with the thickness of the card starting to effect the measurements.

The finished cubes I think give a clear and simple indication of what happened. I wish politics was this simple. Roll on the next 5 years.

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