Only my most dedicated stalkers will remember my rant a year ago, regarding a by-election in Thatcham South and Crookham, the council ward where I live. I was complaining about the lack of information on the contest, which was eventually won by a lady rejoicing in the name Marvellous Ford. I wrote at the time:
A name you won’t forget, although not ideal for search engine optimisation.
… and right enough, I didn’t forget the name. Which is why it came as quite a surprise to see this in the first Lib Dem leaflet of the Campaign Proper:
A selection of typical local people voicing their support for former MP David Rendel, standing in – gulp! – his sixth successive general election (plus the legendary 1993 by-election). But just a minute, who’s that typical local person second from the left? Marvellous from Thatcham? Really?
Now it’s not as if there are many people called Marvellous in the country, never mind in a small – and for the record, not very ethnically diverse – town like Thatcham. But if you felt the need for total confirmation, a quick check on the local council’s website will instantly confirm that our ‘typical local person’ is indeed the Liberal Democrat councillor for Thatcham South and Crookham.
Every election brings its own fair share of crimes against design. But seriously, if you’re going to pad out your leaflet with senior members of the local party pretending to be The Average Voter In The Street – I’d probably suggest you choose people who are a bit less Google-able.
Every now and again, you come across something which reminds you that, for all our great progress in e-politics, we still can’t do some of the absolute basics.
Tomorrow there’s a by-election where I live: the Thatcham South and Crookham ward of Thatcham Town Council. It’s not a big deal, perhaps, but it’s another chance for democracy to get some exercise. I received my polling card, and I was interested to find out what I could do with it.
To their credit, the Lib Dems have made a serious (offline) effort. We’ve had a couple of badly DTP’ed newsletters, a quite convincing pseudo-handwritten letter from the outgoing councillor, and a couple of knocks on the door in the very recent past. Plus, they’ve picked a candidate who rejoices in the name Marvellous Ford. A name you won’t forget, although not ideal for search engine optimisation.
But that’s all we’ve received, from anyone. So, who else is standing? I genuinely haven’t been able to find out. Nothing on the award-winning local paper website, or on the BBC site, or (that I’ve seen) in the various freesheets we get through the door. Nothing on the local Tory party website: I’m not even sure they’re putting anyone up. (There’s nothing on the local LibDem site either, actually.) Nothing on the town council website, apart from a PDF telling me there’s going to be an election. Nothing on the local authority website, under whose auspices the election takes place. Nothing coming up on Google.
Tomorrow I’ll do my civic duty. I’ll make my way to the polling station, and cast my vote. I will be doing so in complete ignorance of the choice being offered to me. And that, folks, is a bad bad thing.