Thursday, 29 April 2010

Political cartoons

With the latest election gaffe dominating the news stories, now seemed like a good time to mention some sites of use for examining political cartoons and humour.
Of course most of the main Uk newspapers have their own resident cartoonists who have posted materials online.
Some well-known examples are
Matt Cartoons from the Telegraph
Steve Bell from the Guardian
The Tribune Magazine also has its own site devoted to political cartoons
Likewise weekly satirical magazine Private Eye regularly contains recent examples
However, a feature of this election has also been the use of mashup technology by satirists to mash together and create new comic examples of spoof election materials. Channel 4 has a useful discussion of this with links to some major examples.
These include the famous which has been run by opponents of the Conservative Party and features lots of examples of mock tory posters "airbrushed for change".
However, if you are seeking serious academic sites for the study of political Cartoons ones you shouldnt miss include
The Political Cartoon Society which has a historical overview of the development of political cartoons as a medium of political communication and a gallery of some images.
The Cartoon Archive at the University of Kent has an enormous collection of historical respurces covering all issues. Its catalogue enables you to view many examples online. They make fascinating comparisons with the materials being produced in 2010. Take a look at this example from the evening news in 1964 - in which a discussion group suggestions the leaders have a 15 minute round with cthe winner taking on Cassius Clay. Good advice today perhaps in advance of the last televised leaders debate!

Political communication in the election- new Media or TV?

A lot has been said about 2010 being the social media election. But is this true? Others have argued that more interest is being provoked by the televised debates.
Yesterday Radio 4 Today had an interesting piece on new media and the elections - which discussed how the parties have been using online campaigning
It featured comment about the new Labservative website - an example of a site created by the Liberal democrats to spoof labour and conservative policies. More discussion about its purpose can also be read on Campaign online
The Hansard society has also discussed the theme of online political communication on its website and digital democracy blog. See this posting 'calm down its only a tweet' which tests the theory that (twitter in particular) is ephemeral by looking at reactions directly after the first leaders debate. The site also has some interesting feedback and comment from readers.Plus a whole collection of reports which discuss the use of new media by British political parties.
Some other good starting points for following this continuing debate on social media and the campaigns include.
LSE Election experts blog - which has a weekly round up of the political blogs which highlights, discusses and analyses key trends.

A number of PR sites also have their verdict on the types of marketing and promotion being used in the campaigns which make for interesting reading.
PR week has an online sentiment tracker which is measuring and anlysing the online campaigns. The site also includes other free articles discussing tactics

Marketing week has some articles and comment on the importance of the different type of campaigns.

Chameleon PR has an interesting blog discussing related issues. See this posting on why expressing political beliefs on Twitter is not a good idea! There is also some discussion of the Conservative party poster campaign and viral marketing

Campaign is also another good place for discussion of marketing techniques.

Tweetminster - is for the duration of the campaigns running what it calls a realtime sentiment tracker. This is measuring the number and type of tweets being sent about individual party leaders. Will the social media prediction reflect the real results next week?

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Should we reform the electoral system?

One of the issues relating to a hung parliament is the question of whether the electoral system should be reformed.
Here are some starting points for considering the impact of different voting systems on election outcomes.
The main organisation calling for change in the UK is the Electoral Reform Society. It includes a large collection of online pamphlets and reports However, do remember that the ERS favours the adoption of single transferable voting.

More balanced Summaries of the the Independent Commission on the Voting System
and other Uk government reviews can be found in House of Commons Library publications. see this example from 1998 and search the site for others.
For a broader overview of the types of electoral system available, an excellent resource is the ACE electoral knowledge networkwhich has involvement from a number of leading organisations. It includes an encyclopedia of terminology, electoral laws and resources.
Another excellent resource is International Idea's Handbook of electoral system design Which examines different systems and their consequences.
In 2006, The Minority Rights Group also published a pamphlet on Electoral systems and the protection and participation of minorities which you might find useful.
Finally a resource (in favour of PR ) where you can find articles and papers supporting Proportional representation is the US based PR Library

More on Hung Parliaments

Returning to the earlier theme of a Hung parliament
This week there has been more concern about what it might bring.
The British Chamber of Commerce released a survey stating business leaders fears
The Conservative party issued a briefing on the dangers of a hung parliament
Labour supporters on LabourList were also discussing 'hung parliaments'
Try looking at the earlier posting for some suggestions of starting points.In particular the BBC has a clear explanation
In addition, this week
Democratic Audit have just launched an election briefing on coming to terms with hung parliament in British politics
The Institute for Government also has a special feature
It includes the pamphlet - Making minority government work published by the UCL Constitution Unit and the Institute for Government which considers historic minority governments in the 1970s and expereinces from other countries such as Canada and New Zealand.
If you are interested in the experiences of other nations, you might like to look at the CBC archives which has historic film clips from Canada relating to minority government

Monday, 26 April 2010

How do the parties compare on health policy?

Yesterday The Royal College of Nursing warned that job cuts after the election would have disastrous consequences for the NHS.
But where do the main parties stand on health policy?
An excellent starting point (apart from the main party websites which all contain the official statements of their health policies) is the Kings Fund website. This independent organisation has created a health check feature which compares policies. They also have some webcasts of hustings and debates hosted by the organisation in the run up to the elections. This example is from the 22nd April 2010. Also interesting is a recent pamphlet which examines in detail Labour's management of the NHS 1997 - 2007.
Other examples of evaluation of the NHS management can be found on the Institute for Fiscal Studies website. This focuses upon funding. The LSE Centre for Economic Policy (CEP) has also published a recent pamphlet.
Finally the main health organisations all have websites which contain their manifestos for health and discussion of health issues in the election.
Royal College of Nursing
British Medical Association
Royal College of Midwives
NHS Confederation.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

What role is race playing in the 2010 elections?

In East London there has been increasing concerns in recent years that the British National Party will gain an MP. In 2009 the House of commons Library produced a research note which examined the performance of the BNP in Uk general elections from 1992-2005 and in local elections. Take a look to see if they are becoming more popular.
Certainly they continue to generate media coverage. In the news this week The BNP caused a stir by using images of Marmite in their election broadcast
The Institute for Policy Research recently published a survey which examined why people support the BNP. It argued that alienation not immigration was the main cause in the 150 local authorities studied.
SearchLight magazine has some articles which discuss the key battlefields and issues at stake on its Hope not hate website
The Guardian newspaper also has stories and reports covering race in the Campaigns. It also exposed the geographical spread of BNP supporters in an earlier article (which drew upon leaked membership names)
Other monitors of the dangers of the BNP are the Institute of Race Relations which has news clippings on its website and the Muslim Council of Britain
On a related note a the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust have produced a couple of useful pamphlets on the nature of the BNP and its supporters.
British National Party: Inside the Roots of Its Appeal has statistics and analysis of the socio-economic background of BNP supporters, regional variations in BNP support and the relationship between the BNP and other UK political parties.
The Far Right in London: a challenge for local democracy? was published in 2005 and considered its role and tactics in East London
Finally you can browse the Intute catalogue to find more articles and resources.

Friday, 23 April 2010

Changing language of political communication

Yesterday, The BBC posted an interesting feature on its website which used word clouds to examine visually how the words used in political manifestos have changed over the years.
In 1945 the most popularly used word was 'must', nowadays it is 'people'.

If you are looking for the full text of older manifestos- an excellent starting point is the Political Resources website maintained by Richard Kimber which has the text of most examples from 1945 onwards
You might also like to know theat the LSE Library and archives hold printed copies. For details of their election ephemera collection and how you can help by collecting 2010 materials see the website.
For scholarly discussion of elections. See the Elections, Public Opinion and Parties Specialist Group of the Political Studies Association. It includes details of the British Election Study 2010 and contents pages from its journal. You might also like to look at the conference proceedings section of the same PSA website where you can read and download the full text of many papers from PSA annual conferences since 1994. They include many examples relating to elections and the changing nature of political communications.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Did the debates promote interest in the elections?

According to recent figures from the UK Electoral Commission. Late voter registration was very high last weekend.
Yesterday BBC radio 4 discussed this. Today reporter Sanchia Berg stated that after the first leaders' debate 120,000 voter registration forms were downloaded from the Electoral Commission website. Jennie Watson, chair of the Electoral Commission also contributed with her perspective. Their comments can be heard online from the website.
Also interesting is recent report from Hitwise which discussed how the internet plays a key role in driving voter registration. It noted an increase in searching following the election announcement
Another factor may have been the use of social media advertising by the Electoral Commission which placed adverts on Facebook last weekend.
For examples of its advertising materials. Take a look at the official Electoral Commission website Other organisations which also seek to encourage new voters are Rock the Vote and Operation Black Vote
For historic data on levels of registered and unregistered voters in the UK a good starting point is the research section of the Electoral Commission website. For instance see this recent report on the completeness and accuracy of the electoral registers in the UK.
Another good place is the Office of National Statistics. Again search for elections. Examples of data include: Post-war turnout for general elections, 1945-2001: Social Trends 33 and Parliamentary electors on the 2000 and 2001 electoral registers
International Idea also has an excellent website which contains statistics and reports on voter turnout worldwide. You can use it to compare the position of the UK with other countries.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Twitter archives do they show the rising popularity of Nick Clegg?

The Library of Congress Twitter Archive. last week the Library announced that it will be maintaining an archive of Tweets. However, this will not be open on the Internet. Access is likely to be based in the main reading rooms with a 6 month embargo on access. While the Twitter archive will not be posted online, the Library envisions posting selected content around topics or themes.
In the meantime you might like to know that the Google replay service offers the opportunity to search twitter from February 2010. Further details about this is on the official Google Blog To try it out, go to the normal Google screen run your search, then expand the web results click “Show options” on the search results page, then select “Updates.” The first page will show you the familiar latest and greatest short-form updates from a comprehensive set of sources, but now there’s a new chart at the top. In that chart, you can select the year, month or day, or click any point to view the tweets from that specific time period. One possible use at the moment is to look at the increase of tweets relating to Nick Clegg since February!
Of course he is not the only topic in the elections - Last week Prospect magazine ran an article stating that the whole election campaign should be cancelled except on twitter and the Internet and the Labour Party provoked a storm by using Young blogger and twitter fan Ellie Gellard otherwise known as the Stilettoed socialist to help launch its manifesto.
For the latest twitter feeds see a selection of the best (as chosen by the telegraph newspaper ) also useful is the Edelman site which has created a TweetLevel tracking and measuring the influence, trust engagement and popularity of the top 150 politicians, bloggers, candidates and journalists, ranked by their influence, on Twitter during the campaign.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010


A well loved feature of past British BBC election night coverage has been the swingometer - which was used to calculate how many seats the various parties would get. The BBC archive has just released a fascinating collection of clips. These cover the period of the 1960s to Peter Snow in 1997

If you are more interetsed in calculating the results for this year's election, try the current online BBC swingometer
The Times newspaper also has an election seat interactive map.
More sophisticated is the Electoral Calculus website which uses scientific calculation to predict outcomes for individual constituencies and the nation as a whole.
The UK polling report is also useful for pulling together in one place recent polls from the main agencies, giving a snapshot of the current mood.
Finally the ever reliable Richard Kimbers Political science resources website has an index of 2010 websites. There is a section for political polls and betting where you will find links to the main online betting agencies should you want to lose (or win!) some money!

Monday, 19 April 2010

The Nick Clegg effect

According to recent polls the debates have increased public support for Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg.
Here are some useful sites for finding out more about who he is and what he stands for!
His Official web site has a biography, recent calendars of events and press releases. You can also read the party manifesto
The Guardian Aristotle (which is a useful site for getting factual information on all UK MPs) has a profile and voting history.
Consumer watchdog They work for you - covers very similar ground with voting record, lists of appearance and expenses statistics
Liberator magazine has some headlines
For discussion and debate from a Liberal Democrat party prespective some sites to try are: Lib Dem Blogs which aggregates discussion from party supporters
Very similarly Libdem Voice also contains recent postings from key blogs
Next left blog from the Fabian Society
regularly contains related materials on the left, socialism and Liberalism.
The Beveridge Group exists to promote discussion among Liberal Democrats of how policies in the Social Liberal tradition of Lloyd George, Keynes, Beveridge and their radical Liberal roots, can best be adapted to the needs and challenges of the 21st Century. Its website also has discussion
Centreforum is a major Liberal think tank. Its website currently contains discussion of what the Libdems would do in the event of a hung parliament.
download this report on whether they could work with the conservatives in a hung parliament. For instance you can download this pamphlet

Finally you can browse a catalogue of websites related to the UK Lib Dems on Intute

Friday, 16 April 2010

What's your verdict on the election debate?

All the main British newspapers have headlines and commentary discussing the debates today. I therefore thought it would be useful to offer a series of links to their election special pages. In addition to news most of theese also contain polls, cartoons, blogs and background information on the British electoral system.

Guardian 2010
Financial Times
Daily Mirror
The Sun - readers poll on the debate
Channel 4
ITV includes footage and blogs.
Sky politics news

finally why not try the online news service. This has an excelent collection of online news and interviews.
You can also catch up with the latest reaction from the polls by chacking the UK polling report site - which aggregates the main ones.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

The first televised leaders debate is today

This evening ITV will host the first ever televised debate of British party leaders during an election campaign.
For some background on the decision to hold this histroic event. There are a number of useful resources online.
The House of Commons Library published a research note in March 2010 which summarises recent arguments. The appendix B sets out the rules for the debate.

The Hansard Society has published a number of papers examining why debates were vetoes in the past and setting out proposals

Also available on the BBC iplayer until 19th April is a documentary called How to win the TV debate which examines the possible strategies the leaders might use.

Of course all the major news websites and politics commentators will be reviewing the performance of those involved. However an interesting blog which offers expert analysis from debating experts is Election debates

There is also an interesting YouTube/ Facebook site the Digital Debates where members of the public are being invited to participate in a digital debate with the 3 leaders. Questions are being submitted and just before the elections answers will be posted. It gives some insight into what Internet users think is important.

Finally for some background on the history and importance of debates in US political history there is the MBC History of televised debates website. This has a selection of transcripts, video clips and associated essays and teacher's notes from the 1950s until the present day.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Even more manifestos - Comparing conservative with Labour

Yesterday also saw the launch of the Conservative Party Manifesto
The Guardian Datablog has a really interesting feature which compares the Tory manifesto with Labour using Wordle
It highlights the words used the most - notice the emphasis upon peoople and government.Interestingly enough in the comparison of word count with Labour. Labour uses the word 'new' more times.
See what party supporters think of it by looking at the Conservative Home blog which aggregates key blogs and Twitter feeds. The site also has a useful Candidate watch section which highlights events and the response of the public in specific constituencies.
For a different perspective try these Labour Party supporter websites. LabourHome
and LabourList both aggregate blogs and Twitter. Also launched this week. The same old Tories website from Compass. See how it seeks to expose the 'gaffes' in Cameron's video.

LSE launch new election analysis series

The LSE Centre for Economic Performance (CEP) has just started publishing a new
series discussing the economic research evidence for a number of the key policy battlegrounds of the 2010 General Election.
Papers currently available include:
Health: Higher Spending has Improved Quality, But Productivity Must Increase
Zack Cooper, Alistair McGuire
Evaluating Education Policies: The Evidence from Economic Research
Sandra McNally,
Reducing Crime: More Police, More Prisons or More Pay?
Olivier Marie, April 2010
Immigration and the UK Labour Market: The Evidence from Economic Research
Jonathan Wadsworth, April 2010

This is a useful supplement to the IFS website which is also offering its own economic analyses of Labour economic and tax performance
and the Kings Fund which has reviewed Labour progress in managing the NHS

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

More and more manifestos!

This week has seen the official launch of a number of manifestos.
The Labour Party manifesto - a fair future for all
The Conservative Party will launch today.
A good site which is linking to the manifestos is Peter Kimber's Political Science resources.
This excellent site also has a separate manifestoes page where you can view the text of many historic ones from 1945 onwards
Other sources of historic manifests and election leaflets include: Campaign! an online exhbition from the National Library of Wales. This has images from 1906 General Election, 1966 General Election, The 1983 General Election and the election for the National Assembly for Wales, 1999.

Aspect - is part of the Glasgow Digital Library which has digital images of candidates leaflets and newsletters for the 1999 and 2003 Scottish parliamentary elections

However, if you are primarily interested in the 2010 elections. Another good site to watch is Straight Choice
Its ambition is to create a live visualization of party political leaflets as they are delivered across the country during the British UK 2010 general election campaign. It is maintained by a team who include the organisers of Users to the site may view visual images of real leaflets. They include materials from all political parties and constituency. Registered members of the public may upload their own scanned images of election ephemera leaflets and manifestos.

Don't forget - the UK is not the only country going to the polls - remember Sudan

Here are some recommended sites. for finding out more about the elections in Sudan.
A good starting point is the IFES guide
This week the Sudanese are going to the polls.

National Election Commission of Sudan is responsible for overseeing the conduct of Sudanese elections. Its website provides information on the electoral system, full text electoral laws and legislation
The Sudan Information Gateway - is maintained by the United Nations. It has news updates on the voting and background to the elections.
The BBC also has news reports and a useful FAQ on the background to the elections.
Some other organisations monitoring the conduct of the elections include:

The Carter Center - read statesments online.

National Democratic Institute includes a useful papers such as surveys of the electorate

Sudan VoteMonitor was created by the Sudan Institute for Research and Policy to monitor the conduct of the 2010 Sudanese elections. Look at online maps and reports of corruption / conduct irregularities contributed by users

Gurtong Trust - Peace and Media Project is an independent, not-for-profit, community-based project, which seeks to promote democracy and human rights in Southern Sudan. Its website includes press releases relating to the elections.
The Intute catalogue also has some useful links on Sudan and elections.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Recognising marriage in the tax system - good idea?

The Conservative party have proposed that tax benefits wil be given to married couples if they win the Uk election
but the LibDems have called this policy outdated and have launched their own tax policy for families
Labour party policies can also be read online

The institute for Fiscal studies has conducted an analysis of the proposed tax measures. You can download their full briefing from the website

other sites checking facts made by politicians during the campaigns which are worth checking are
Channel 4 factcheck blog

the Radio 4 programme More or less is monitoring statistics in the elections. examples can be heard on its website

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Are they Twittering away the election?

Yesterday it was announced that a Labour Candidate was sacked through inappropriate use of Twitter
It seems that social networking sites are increasingly being used in the election.
As this weekend Facebook users (in association with the Electoral Commission) will be asked if they have registered to vote.
The Democracy Uk Facebook website has a vote match feature where you can find out what party to vote for as well as how to register.
Returning to Twitter. The main parties have their own official Twitter sites where you can get updates on campaigns and comment.
Also in on the act are the main news services.
The Radio 4 Programme Today has a good feed with summaries of the latest discussion.
Guardian politics has some good comments

If you are looking for good, articles and links to sites covering social media and the elections some recommenendations are - great links coverign a wide range of topics including twitter
The UK election Twitter agregator from Politics Now - see major sites in one place!
The BBC's Dot.Rory blog from Rory-Cellan Jones is discussing the use of technology during the elections.

Friday, 9 April 2010

Will there be a hung parliament?

One of the topics in the news this week has been the question of a 'hung Parliament'
To find out what this is try checking the BBC FAQ
The House of Commons Library also has this useful briefing note

This week the Hansard society also released a pamphlet on this issue Who Governs? Forming a coalition or a minority government in the event of a hung Parliament sets which sets out the procedures and possible impact. It can be downloaded from their website.
The New Statesman has also gathered together a collection of articles on the topic
The Times has a useful interactive election map. It uses data from the Ladbrokes betting site and Professors Colin Rallings and Michael Thrasher, from Plymouth University to make predictions
The BBC swingometer is a more fun way to look at how swings in the vote could cause a hung parliament
and the Electoral Calculus site provides regularly updated prtedictions on results plus links to online papers and reports on both a national and constituency basis.