Confessions of a bored psephologist

Is it just me, or is this general election the most tedious on record? Perhaps I’m getting jaded. Maybe the meaningless of the electoral ritual, after which the government always wins, is finally getting to me. But it’s proving difficult to get enthused, or even engaged.

Two weeks before polling day and we’ve had just one leaflet through the door from our complacent Tory MP, grinning like a Cheshire cat at the prospect of an easy return. Things on the streets seem eerily subdued, as if the people are sheep-walking to the inevitable Tory victory. Switch on the TV news and all we find is the BBC transformed into an extended Conservative Party Political Broadcast, wheeling out any old right-wing Labour has-been to fill a spare slot to have a go at that evil softie Corbyn.

As the BBC subtly hammers home the implicit contrast with the ‘strong and stable’ prime ministerial quality of the TMaybot, the only thing of interest left is how big a majority it’ll be. Will it qualify as a landslide? Will Labour survive? Will Tony Blair rise from the dead to reinforce belief in globalisation and greed?

On the right ex-Ukip voters appear stubbornly determined to punish Theresa May by ensuring she sees out the brexit negotiations and ultimately becomes the most reviled British prime minister ever. ‘Strong and stable’ fools nobody but the starry-eyed forelock-tugger.

Meanwhile, in the centre, as the likelihood of a Tory Government passes beyond inevitable, political discourse goes little further than a near hysterical call to the faithful to vote ‘tactically’. No matter whether it makes little psephological sense and ignores the numbers. No matter who the candidates are. No matter if it’s a blatant cover for tribalism or not. Just ‘stop the Tory’! I said ‘STOP THE TORY’!!

In Cornwall things are even more febrile. The number of candidates in this election is – at an average of four per constituency – the lowest since 1987. Furthermore, it’s easily the lowest of all the nations of the UK. In two constituencies the choice is confined just to the three old Westminster parties. Somehow, I can’t get that riveted by the prospect of a return to the 1950s and the politics of nostalgic deference. We seem to be drifting hopelessly towards a Gilbert and Sullivanesque political mind-set where

‘every boy and every gal
That’s born into the world alive
Is either a little Liberal
Or else a little Conservative!’

It’s just getting altogether too weird. Recently we saw the Tories win the Cornwall Council elections, gaining 15 seats in the process. But then the same old coalition of incompetents as before – Lib Dems and Independents – end up in theoretical control of the Council, despite losing a combined seven councillors. The winners came second and third, the losers came first. Can we hope the general election gives us the same result please?


4 thoughts on “Confessions of a bored psephologist

  1. Suppose the election’s tediousness depends on how secure, confident and confortable you and yours feel under current circumstances. To some of us it feels like a matter of life or death.


    • The assumption that the main motivator in voting is materialism, standards of living and economic circumstances has been pretty soundly rejected since the 1990s, undermined by the effect of cross-(main) parties’ neo-liberal policies, I suspect. As evidence for that it was interesting to see the socio-economic group breakdown in the latest poll in the Times. That showed the gap between Tory and Labour was closing fastest among the AB groups (i.e. the more comfortable), while the CDE groups were sticking with May. This is of course the opposite of the voting pattern of the later 20th century. If feeling insecure and being economically vulnerable was the main predictor for electoral engagement then we should expect turnout among the poor to be higher than the better-off. Unfortunately, it isn’t.


      • No Bernard, you show signs of having been an academic too long. I write about feelings and you respond with statistics. I am not analysing anything, or attempting a psephological theory, I am saying that as human being, as a father, as someone who will be old, as a worker on a zero hours contract, as a citizen of Cornwall and the UK, I am personally so frightened by the prospect of five more years of misanthropy, selfishness and social vandalism under May that I do not feel I have the luxury of boredom (!) or of failing to try and do something about it. Please stop being bored (bored! Who could be bored with stakes this high?) and help us make the change people need.


  2. We can’t all be the same, Paul. You do the passion and I’ll stick with the stats. The means may differ but the ends aren’t that disconnected.

    … and even different means can be complementary.


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