Sunday, 10 November 2013

Brand Marketing

Russell Brand's appearance on Newsnight seems to have caused quite a stir and gained a lot of whatever is the internet equivalent of column inches.

Admittedly a lot of it is people saying that they always thought he was a tosser and this only confirms their opinion. What is more interesting is that so many people seem to agree with him that there is little point in voting, that all the main parties are the same, that there seems to be a lot acceptance that it is all Indian Bicycle Marketing, even if most people are unfamiliar with this term, for instance:

"The reason these coalitions are so easily achieved is that the distinctions between the parties are insignificant. My friend went to a posh "do" in the country where David Cameron, a man whose face resembles a little painted egg, was in attendance. Also present were members of the opposition and former prime minister Tony Blair. Whatever party they claim to represent in the day, at night they show their true colours and all go to the same party."

With even the minority parties, like UKIP, the Greens and the BNP steering a narrow centrist, statist course, avoiding both the Scylla of upsetting the banks and big business and the Charybdis of upsetting the homeowners and landowners, how could it be otherwise?

Some say that the reaction to Russell shows there is a huge untapped area of political support represented by those disillusioned by the present system which is not being exploited, because there is no-one who the refuseniks can feel they can vote for, no-one that anyone's heard of to head up such an anti-status-quo party. But is there?

When people are suggesting that a tosser like Brand should be a new political force, it shows how desperate things are. Problem is, Brand refuses to take part in the system, he even refuses to vote and he is encouraging others not to vote or take part either:

… my friend's 15-year-old son wrote an essay for his politics class… he prefers the idea of spoiling ballots to not voting "to show we do care" maybe he's right, I don't know. The reason not voting could be effective is that if we starve them of our consent we could force them to acknowledge that they operate on behalf of The City and Wall Street; that the financing of political parties and lobbying is where the true influence lies; not in the ballot box.

so he's unlikely to put himself up for election, which is the ultimate triumph of Indian Bicycle Marketing. Nor is he likely to be right about forcing the politicians to acknowlege anything - "If you want to send a message, use Western Union", as Sam Goldwyn rightly said - politicians don't care how many people vote for them, so long as they win.

The most depressing thing which independent or small party candidates hear when canvassing is: "Well, I like what you are saying, but I still won't bother voting for you. All politicians are the same once they get into power, and you'd be no different." Something amply confirmed by the behaviour of the Lib Dems, for years the "alternative party" of choice.

Intentionally or otherwise, Big Politics has got the UK just where it wants it, in a system that favours incumbents whilst making life very difficult for competition start-ups. Sounds familiar?
Brand gets a bonus point for this one, an ad hominem attack familiar to land value taxers:

"When I was poor [a tenant] and I complained about inequality [supported LVT] people said I was bitter, now I'm rich [a homeowner] and I complain about inequality [support LVT] they say I'm a hypocrite."


The Stigler said...

How does anyone know what you want if you don't vote? You might say that you don't like LibLabCon, but what do you want?

In an FPTP system, you are going to get 2 parties (broadly speaking). The UK is slightly strange because of the history of the collapse of the Liberal party, but even for them, at a Constituency level in areas like the South West, you have a two party choice.

And while I'm constantly trying to find ways to get a new system to replace it that means that elections are a more efficient market, the reality is that under FPTP you broadly speaking have a small number of parties fighting for the votes of a few thousand people in a few hundred constituencies. Any party with smart people running it has to understand those people, and accept how they change and adapt to it.

If UKIP get enough votes that the cons lose in Kettering, Swindon or Northampton North, leading to Conservative defeat, the Conservatives will either have to adapt to that, or lose again.

That's why it's worth voting in general elections, even for small parties. Not because your man will win, but because you're expressing what you want, and forcing the main parties to shift in that direction for the next time. But if you don't vote, they don't know which way to shift.

The Stigler said...

Incidentally, the reason that the media are interested in Brand is because he's a performer, and that is ultimately what shows like Question Time and Newsnight like. It doesn't matter that he's a comedian and actor, and not even a very good comedian and actor at that. And is pretty thick in most regards. The fact is that he can keep the words spewing out, and that they are non-mainstream words that will create opportunities for conflict, rather than intellectual discourse.

If you've never seen it, go and find Jon Stewart's appearance on Crossfire. He explains it far better than I do.

Anonymous said...

Politics has always been subverted by those with disproportionate power. Today that's business elites, whereas a hundred years ago it might have been the newly organised masses. Today politics has been subverted with much media assistance, some of it unintentional.

The idea that I should vote for a minority party in a constituency which receives 95% of it's votes for the main three parties in a roughly 50/35/10 split in favour of the Tories over Labour and then Libs is not realistic.
I'm willing to vote for someone wishing to make radical changes to the way we live and work together [something that will be termed anti-business]but those who vote are unaware of such alternatives [be they green or libertarian]or convinced they can't work due to conservative biases. Those that don't vote are either so cynical or disengaged that they really don't care who is power.

I would prefer proportional rep as opposed to FPTP. Or some hybrid version with some geographical linkage if only to eliminate the lethargy due to so many safe seats and the inertia which is built into FPTP that strictly limits the nature of policy proposals to those already deemed 'acceptable'.

Mark Wadsworth said...

PC, there's a least-bad system for that, it's called multi-member constituencies, one man one vote but the first 3 or 5 (or whatever number you choose) candidates get elected.

The Stigler said...


"The idea that I should vote for a minority party in a constituency which receives 95% of it's votes for the main three parties in a roughly 50/35/10 split in favour of the Tories over Labour and then Libs is not realistic."

It's the only thing worth doing. Or at least, voting where you want to. Voting to get a win simply reinforces the two parties in your constituency. That small party that you like will only get to be a contender if you vote for them and push them up into a higher place for next time.

OK, if we had two parties with manifestos like 1983, I'd tactically vote. But this election? There's so little to choose between the two main parties that you might as well vote 3rd party.

Anonymous said...

Looked at that but the one I thought I was describing was the mixed member proportional representation system. Variants are used in Germany and NZ. Allows for local representation but is proportional too. Best of both worlds.

Mark Wadsworth said...

PC, even with one-man-one-vote, multi-member constituencies tend towards PR if there are five or more members per constituency.

That's because a party with widespread support of about 10% will get lucky in about half of onstituencies and get a candidate elected, so ends up with about 10% of the MPs.

We have multi-member PR elections in the UK (for EU Parliament and some seats in the "assemblies"), it works fine, but really there's no need, it comes to the same thing with individual named candidates and the first five get elected - which has the advantage of direct representation without disadvantages of "party lists".

Anonymous said...

...and bugger all chance of anything resembling a real alternative. In actual fact even the LibDems [not a real alternative] regularly got shafted by FPTP unless they got to something like 30%. 9% of the seats with 23% of the votes. It's the conservative [small c] system of choice bar none.

Mark Wadsworth said...

PC, I'm not sure what you are arguing against.

We on the internet debated this all at length two years ago, and all things considered, the least bad type of election system is multi-member constituencies, as it has most of the advantages of PR and of FPTP with very few of the disadvantages of either.

Look it up.

Bayard said...

"as it has most of the advantages of PR and of FPTP with very few of the disadvantages of either"

Its main disadvantage is that it doesn't favour incumbents over newcomers, which is why we don't have a snowball's chance in hell of getting it.

Anonymous said...

"PC, I'm not sure what you are arguing against."

Me neither. [FPTP] Will look at that 'multi member' again. Anything that approximates PR is good in my view.