Monday, 14 May 2012

Silent Running - Twitter and Local Elections

You may think social media and elections were made for each other and conventional wisdom is that it is. We hear about Facebook campaigns which helped propel Obama to the Whitehouse and you’d be forgiven for thinking Kirklees politicians, myself included have learnt very little from this but as with many things there’s a lot more to it than that.

 As local election campaigns were beginning to take off in Kirklees I noticed the Labour Candidate for Newsome had set up a Twitter account. I was naturally going to follow her. She had a few initial followers already including prominent Labour Cllrs. Very soon I discovered I’d been blocked as a follower and after a few initial tweets from her all went very quiet. Twitter is a good way of letting everybody know what you are doing and thinking and during an election campaign. If you are targeting a seat you don’t particularly want your opponent to know what you’re up to and what streets you’ve been on . Fortunately for me the oldest form of social media ‘the community jungle drums' pretty much kept me abreast of what’s was going on, who was on the streets, where they were and what they were saying on the doorstep – ‘Street Twitter’. ‘ Electronic Twitter’ went into ‘silent running’ mode like submarines keeping a strict silence lest they be discovered by the enemy above.

My own twitter traffic during the election lost a bit of spontaneity. Things I wanted to say about the election would have been unwise to say. I started making ‘Non Election News’ Tweets such as “I extracted 2 pints of worm wee from my wormery this morning. Useful as a liquid fertiliser. Back out on the stomp!” I was definitely ‘extracting the urine’ with that tweet! Another tweet was “my sweetcorn, leek and tomato seedlings are coming through. Rain makes canvassing tough but the patch gets watered!” Now I know twitter is supposed to express your trivial musings in less than 140 characters but didn’t I realise there was an election on?! I certainly did but even saying where I’d canvassed and what response I’d received could be giving information to an opponent who didn’t have my best interests at heart in the slightest.  I thought the best thing I could do was let them know how my allotment was progressing!

I did break this rule on one occasion. When I was reliably informed by locals that a prominent Conservative Cllr had been spotted canvassing in Newsome I wanted the world to know that I knew what was going on and that she’d been spotted. She then had the option of carrying on canvassing in Newsome and be accused of abandoning her own backyard or go back campaigning in her own patch. By my reckoning and given her particular style of canvassing I couldn’t lose either way but the quandary over what to do was not mine, it was hers and I’d got more than enough to deal with at the time.

Here’s a couple of songs by Joan Baez 'Rejoice in the Sun' and 'Silent Running' from Silent Running starring Bruce Dern in the 70’s Sci Fi masterpiece and ecological thinkpiece. In order to protect the last earth trees Bruce's character takes his forest carrying spaceship 'offline' and goes 'silent running'. It doesn't get much more 'hippy sci-fi' than this!


  1. Would the Greens here raise allotment fees by 67% to £110 per year as they have in Brighton?

    Absolutely unfuckingbelievable

  2. I thought £110 sounded a lot for an allotment. I checked the Brighton Argus and they say a Brighton Allotment following the increases will cost £55 so I guess you have 2 plots. I don't know the detailed factors behind this particular decision but ultimtely huge cuts in central government funding are what is driving this and other hikes in allotment and other fees around the country.

  3. No.

    I pay £30 per year and that's steep. It's been that for five years. And it aint going up. £110 for god's sake? It's okay if you're a well-to-do Green voter who's seen Fearnley-Whittingstall's programme and fancies growing asparagus for a year, and then getting bored with all the work an allotment requires. Growing your own food is as green as it gets, hell you could make a case for it being subsidised due to health benefits and people spending their saved money into the greater economy.

    Precisely NOT what a green council should be doing.

  4. I'm totally confused now. Do you live in Brighton or Kirklees or somewhere else? Brighton fees aren't £110 they're £55. If you pay £30 then I think that's about the Kirklees rate which I pay for my allotment.