The public face of this election has suddenly threatened to turn it into one of the low points in my experience of British politics rather than the high I had hoped for.
Never did I imagine that so many friends and acquaintances would attempt to dictate who I vote for. How dare the privacy of the polling booth, one of the most sacrosanct demonstrations of personal sovereignty and modern democracy, be spilled with such liberal contempt into the baying public arena?
“You cannot imagine to what a disease the itch of news is grown”
John Cooper, 1667.
The greater sharing of information, the extended reach for campaigning, and the innovative use of new media for political purposes can be admirable. We could be celebrating an open campaign that improves the democracy we are fortunate to have. Instead, the derisory and adversarial tone of political ‘speech-acts’ is peer pressure forcing its way into my generation’s politics.
Some now feel confident (or smug) enough to reveal their private vote. Presumably, that’s because of the impression they believe it gives. Others believe it is their place to tell people who they should or should not vote for, leaving heavy-handed insinuations about the gross misjudgement that anyone who disagrees is showing.
Were I to reveal I had voted a certain way, I potentially alienate myself from a proportion of friends with whom politics had never been a dividing line before.
The ‘itch of news’, the desire for us to have our voice heard as loudly as possible, is turning social networking into a barbed popularity contest. How times have I seen X labelled a ‘twat’ or worse with no better reason than that it’s the popular thing to do. I’m glad Facebook politics has not won the day; there’s no maturity behind it.
Of course, it is more complicated than I am describing, but the bottom line is that this is a recipe for further disintegration.