April 30: Sentiment analysis and second homes
THE issue of MPs’ expenses hasn’t had quite
the profile I thought it might in the election campaign.
There have been the usual pledges
re-iterated by all the parties to "clean up" politics, of
But I was struck by the simmering
resentment and anger that still exists among voters when the
subject was raised at a KM hustings meeting I chaired earlier this
The five candidates who are standing
for Maidstone and The Weald on our panel were asked if they would
claim for a second home and continue to have a job if they were
All but one said they would not. The
exception was the Conservative candidate Helen
Grant, who explained why she would in some detail and, to
be fair, in a very upfront and direct fashion.
Her justification for doing so can be
read and seen here
Whether you agree with it or not, and
many in our audience clearly did not, it illustrated to me that
while the expenses scandal might have been overshadowed by other
issues over recent weeks, it is still in the forefront of many
Politicians – and would-be politicians
– would be wise not to underestimate this. There is clearly still a
large well of public resentment over the issue.
Not least among hard-pressed commuters
juggling their own family lives with jobs in London and elsewhere
who do not have such an opportunity to live in or indeed claim for
a second home.
One of the key priorities for the next
Parliament will be to continue to address what some call the
"disconnect" – a horrible word – between MPs and the people they
are there to serve.
The fiscal deficit is one thing but
let’s hope they remember how low their reputation got during the
Will Tony Blair be
riding into Kent to help Labour’s faltering campaign?
Party managers have downplayed the
idea despite a report in The Guardian suggesting
that the south east is pencilled in for a visit ahead of polling
Having seen him in action on the
campaign trail over the years, there’s no doubt he could spread a
little bit of stardust.
Party activists could certainly do
with something to cheer them up.
I hear the mood in Labour marginals in
the county is rather sober. A major problem is that the party has
lost a huge number of ‘foot soldiers’ prepared to trudge the
streets canvassing, largely as a result of apathy and losses in
council elections over the years.
More critically, come polling day,
they just won’t have the same level of manpower to bring out the
vote. The Conservatives had precisely this problem back in
And look what happened to them.
Despite predictions, this will not be
the first election won or lost on the Internet.
Nevertheless, its impact and
particularly the use of social networking sites has been one of the
most interesting phenomenons of the 2010 campaign.
But how do you measure its impact and
gauge whether it is influencing support for the parties?
There’s a fascinating article by
Rory Cellan Jones of the BBC that examines how
people are trying to measure "sentiment analysis" in the form of
tweets supporting or opposing the party leaders during the three
Best quip during our hustings meeting
came from Rav Seerethun, the Labour candidate.
Asked whether he would claim for a second home if elected, he
joked: "If I win in Maidstone and Weald, I'm going to bet on myself
at William Hill!"
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