This is the follow on post from the first part

Table 3. Aspects of modern campaigning – all parties

1992

1997

2001

2005

% used computers

74

85

88

94

% had computerised electoral register

43

64

71

80

% used party software

33

54

61

73

% used computers for knocking up lists

28

37

43

62

% sent ‘substantial amount’ of direct mail

23

21

31

% some telephone canvassing during campaign

32

52

51

63

Mean % of electorate telephone canvassed

7.6

7.7

7.5

% ‘knocked up’ by telephone

37

45

60

% some telephone canv in year pre election

48

47

57

% had outside telephone calling pre-campaign

19

31

% had outside telephone calling during campaign

10

16

30

% with website

44

66

NB. The dash means that the question wasn’t asked in that survey.

Soon a campaign without a computer will be as strange as an election without voting. Already British political parties are moving into the world of social media whether this is Labour Central or a multitude of Facebook groups set up to support particular constituency campaigns.

What is pretty clear to me is that this is tending to be used amongst political activists themselves rather than as a way to reach the electorate. Who can name a British election result where the perceptions of the voters have been changed by what’s on the net to such an extent that it changed the results.

The next stage will be when campaigns start putting their facebook groups details on leaflets and the collection of constituent email addresses becomes the passion that it has become for the Presidential campaigns in the US. Significant numbers of candidates are also running blogs and the static website is looking just a little staid these days.

Personally I favour direct mail that is both personalised and localised rather than something sent out by a national party as the voters I think are much more likely to perceive this as “junk mail”

With fewer activists on the ground political parties will be increasingly tempted to automate telephone canvassing as this will also be substantially cheaper than using paid staff whether the voters will accept it is another matter. Personally I can’t stand such technologies.

Table 4: Mean Scores on Index of Campaign Strength

Con

Lab

Lib Dem

SNP

Plaid

Overall

14.3

9.4

7.1

8.6

4.7

Very safe

14.3

10.4

11.4

Comfortable

13.6

15.1

14.6

15

11

Marginal held

14.7

15.4

16

15

Marginal not held

16.8

8

13.7

Possible

15.5

6.6

13.8

Hopeless

9.6

3.1

4.9

7.3

4.1

Put simply the strongest campaigns were run by the Conservatives in the seats that they wanted to gain. With the Ashcroft millions and the same electoral position of the Labour government looking to defend its majority I think this will be a pattern we shall see in the next election as well.

In the safest seats either Labour was the most effective at moving activists out to the marginals or we have problem in motivating our core vote. Unfortunately I suspect that it is the latter. Presently this is not a problem after all a very safe seat isn’t suddenly going to jump to opposition control but it is not a situation that we can let slide indefinitely.

The Conservatives put more than 3 times as much effort as Labour into hopeless seats which seems pretty stupid to me at least. This may not be a surprise to some. 

I can’t help but think that it is a boost for the argument in favour of PR because the logical extension of this focused campaigning is focused policy which would leave out the vast majority of the electorate as they are neither in a marginal seat or indeed swing voters in such a constituency.

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There is an interesting paper available online here called Constituency Campaigning in the 2005 General Election and it looks at what is happening with constituency campaigns in the UK. I’ve taken the data from the paper, inserted in the tables below and put my own spin on it. I’ll be posting up some more later but in the mean time please take a look. Also if you know how to insert tables into your wordpress posts with greater elegance than I have below please tell all.

Table 1. Aspects of traditional campaigning – all parties

1992

1997

2001

2005

% issued traditional election address

97

97

97

Mean number of public meetings

2.5

1.2

0.6

0.7

Mean number of posters distributed

1850

1800

1250

1250

Mean total leaflets distributed

62000

62000

59000

72000

% undertook doorstep canvassing

83

78

70

79

Mean % of electorate canvassed on doorstep

28

22

17

21

% ‘knocked up’ on polling day

54

61

59

69

Mean number of campaign workers

52

48

35

42

Mean number of polling day workers

135

106 70

79

Looks like the public meeting is in very serious decline. This is a missed opportunity for pressure groups to use their influence on the political process when it is most effective as I don’t think that this is a case of candidates being unwilling to do them. I can’t think of an occasion where a candidate has been ungrateful of an audience at election time.

I also think the decline of doorstep canvassing is serious because the voters actually meeting the candidates rather then seeing a rubbish photo on a risograph is simply more effective. But we should not think there was some canvassing golden age as even in 1992 only 28% of the electorate were canvassed.

Considering the fall in the number of activists the remaining ones seem to be doing a pretty good job. Great Britain isn’t ready to fully succumb to the slumber of political apathy just yet

Table 2. Campaign and Polling Day Workers (mean)

Campaign workers

Polling Day workers

1992

1997

2001

2005

1992

1997

2001

2005

Con

92

57

61

84

262

134

121

161

Lab

50

55

32

27

124

127

70

51

Lib Dem

30

33

20

26

65

62

32

45

2001 illustrates that a foregone election will see activism tumble. It also shows the limits of activism as the Conservatives has nearly twice as many campaign workers as Labour yet still got slaughtered when the results came in.

Personally I was somewhat surprised to see that the conservatives have the largest numbers of activists even in their nadir election of 1997 and in the close election of 1992 there activist advantage could well of help them win rather than any Labour tax bombshell as Chris Pattern may have put it.

Iraq has to be a substantial part of the explanation in the decline of Labour activism between 2001 and 2005 but we should not diminish the importance of the fall between 1997 and 2001 when Iraq couldn’t have been the explanation. I think we have to get better as a party at involving members and supporters and in particular we need to get better in getting them more active.

I think that questions should be asked as to why Labour has about twice as many members of the Lib Dems if memory serves me correctly yet can only must marginally more campaign workers in the average seat.