Friday, May 14, 2010

Cleggmania, the media and election results

The election dust has now settled and Britain officially has a Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government for the first time since the Second World War. Despite disappointing election results the Lib Dems have manoeuvred their way into government with five cabinet seats and the prized role of Deputy Prime Minister going to Nick Clegg. Was this simply a case of excellent opportunism or did the televised debates and social media have a role in creating this new dawn of British politics?

The aftermath of the first televised debate made Nick Clegg the most popular man in Britain and pushed the Liberal Democrats ahead in the polls. Even social media platforms such as Facebook’s Democracy page and the Xbox survey put the Lib Dems 30 per cent ahead of the competition. All these digital votes failed to materialise into actual votes, however, with the Lib Dems losing five electoral seats, despite gaining five cabinet positions as a result of the coalition government.

One positive outcome of the debates and the influence of social media on the elections was the increase in voter turnout from 61 per cent to 65 per cent, particularly among the usually apathetic demographic of students. It is a shame that this surge in turnout was not a victory for democracy but instead exposed the flaws in the electoral system, causing long queues, shortage of materials and, most disturbingly, disenfranchised voters.

It will be interesting to see whether there will be a resurgence of Cleggmania as a result of his newly found importance and whether his party will be able to deliver on their promise of electoral reform, albeit in the less radical form of the alternative voting system. One thing is for sure however: televised debates are here to stay and social media will definitely play a major role in any future election. If Clegg’s story is anything to go by, all future candidates should start practising now how to look straight in the camera and say ‘I agree with Nick’