04 October 2008

It's easy to fall off a high horse

Some readers may be aware that I frequently lurk on the UK Polling Report Election Guide, that fine guide/discussion board run by Anthony Wells, with a page for every UK Parliamentary Constituency. While browsing the Truro & Falmouth page, I happened upon this comment by a self-designated "floating voter", in which he complains about Labour and the Tories' negativity, only to spend six of the eight paragraphs slagging off everyone but the LibDems, about whom he waxes lyrical in paragraph seven (paragraph eight was just a platitude, really).

Anthony himself makes the net contribution, in which he points out that our floating voter left his e-mail address (you have to in order to comment), whose domain name leads to LibDem MP Julia Goldsworthy's website.

Now, it could be a hoax address (I know a Labour supporter who used a scottishtories.org e-mail address, to highlight one of their less popular policies) but given the tenor of the post, I suspect not.

So one of two things must be happening: either some sections of the LibDem support are now too embarrassed to admit their affiliation, or the LibDems consider Truro & Falmouth to be vulnerable, and are resorting to subterfuge in order to put their campaign across.

Either way, it doesn't look good, does it?


Stuart W said...

Don't know how it looks, to be honest, but I doubt if many floating voters will be swayed by what's posted on the..err..what was it called again?

Anyway, even if there is a bit of skullduggery going on, it's surely just a watered down version of the so-called CyberNats?

Will said...

Stuart, dismissive you may be, but in PR terms, it's an open goal for the LibDems' opponents, and can still be capitalised on. Remember in 1996, how Jack McConnell attempted to portray a General Election projection on alba.org.uk as an own goal for the SNP, only for people to discover that the party had nothing to do with the site? Even low profile websites can come back to haunt people.

And the second question is a poor attempt to justify a bad decision by accusing other people of the same thing. It's poor for two reasons. Firstly, it can be countered by the Mothers' Retort ("If the CyberNats jumped off a bridge, would you jump too?"). Secondly, it's a complete red herring: of all the things "CyberNats" can be and have been accused of, low skullduggery is not one of them. And they, unlike our LibDem friend, have the cojones to wear their affiliations and beliefs on their sleeve.

Anonymous said...

I'd never come across that site before - thanks.

Stuart W said...

Hello Will, no I can't remember the Jack McConnell incident, and I bow to your vastly superior knowledge in this regard.

However, my point was not so much about whether it might rebound on the LibDems as much as that you seemed to be saying that the post per se might have some influence on voters, which I very much doubt. Perhaps if the person who posted the message was naïve enough to think it would then it's hardly surprising that they were also naïve enough to leave such a smoking gun as an email address using a LibDem domain.

As for the CyberNats, I'm not sure how you can vouch for the honesty of all of them, unless of course they're all you using various pseudonyms, in which case that would kind of prove my point ;-)

Suffice to say, however, that if you're claiming no CyberNat could possibly post a message on the internet purporting to be from other than the true originator, then sorry, I don't believe you. Indeed, that's just the kind of thing I expect on the internet, and why I take a lot of what's posted with a pinch of salt, or to a large extent give it a very wide body swerve altogether, such as the more anarchic threads on the Scotsman and Herald sites.

Not that I'm picking on the CyberNats in particular in this regard; my essential point was that I would really expect no better or worse from them than the LibDems, and of course there are more honest people than others on the web (such as your good self, I would have thought) and I doubt that this depends on party affiliation.

However, there does seem to be a certain...er...how shall I put it...vehemence associated with a lot of what the CyberNats post which seems to be absent (or at least less obvious) from the contributions of the other parties. Plus, the CyberNats seem to have a numerically more significant presence on the web as compared to the other parties.

It was with regard to these latter two points that I meant the LibDem contribution you compained about was merely a watered down version of CyberNatism.

Will said...

Well, Stuart, the CyberNats who hang around the Scotsman and Herald websites are not the ones who blog. The ones who blog don't need or wish to go about things in the way of our LibDem friend. The ones on the newspaper websites, I fear, might be willing, but wouldn't be in a position to tap in to the subtlety required to pull such a stunt.

And I still think that this is a stick, not to beat the LibDems with, but to poke them repeatedly. (Meanwhile, for an idea of the minor brouhaha that McConnell triggered about Alba, why not get the story from one of the players?)

But what I don't get is, why would you want to go to such lengths to hide your party affiliation? What sort of tactic revolves around hiding it rather than shouting it from the rooftops? It seems un-natural to me...

Will said...

PS agentmancuso, I'm surprised you'd not come across this one before, can I take it you'll be weighing in on the comment sections now?

Anonymous said...

If by 'weighing in' you mean passing on the accumulated wisdom of my many years of pondering the vissitudes of the Scottish electorate, then, well, yes, probably.

You might as well be the first to know: I've rejoined the SNP. I haven't told our mutual friends yet, but I will shortly.

Will said...

I hope you do pass the occasional comment... it's taken a lot of the contributors there a while to 'get' Scotland and until very recently, the discussion usually centred around the proposition that "If this Constituency were in England, it'd be a safe Tory seat". Or the Labour activist from Windsor who predicted that Labour would gain Moray at the next General Election. We need more people who are good at reading the Scottish political tealeaves on the site.

And congratulations on your decision: welcome back to the fold. You'll get your free Nectar points shortly. ;)

Oh, and I look forward to seeing some of the reactions.

stuart w said...

Please note that I’m not equating the nationalist bloggers with the CyberNats, Will. I’m not over-familiar with the blogosphere, but I’ve seen nothing to draw into question the bona fides of the former, and it was more the latter I was referring to earlier. On the other hand, you’re surely not suggesting that even the respectable end of the nationalist contribution to the internet is whiter than white, and that you’re sufficiently au fait with it all to say so?

The Jack McConnell incident does ring a bell now, but I think that was more of a gaffe (by someone who didn’t know their way around the internet, which TBH I don’t think I’d even used at that time!) than anything dishonest. To that extent I’m arguing against myself, but somehow I can’t see the LibDem incident turning into UKPollingReportElectionGuidegate, but you know these things better than I do, so you never know!

No, I can’t work out why the message that prompted your post was made either; why risk being uncovered when the deed was unlikely to influence anyone at all, even if taken at face value by those reading it?

As I’m sure you know the problem with the internet is that there’s so much drivel on it that much of it is best ignored. For example, I would pay attention to what’s posted on a blog, particularly when the identity of the blogger is know, or it’s an established and reputable blog, like IoC. OTOH, I take message boards with a huge pinch of salt, because they’re so easily manipulated.

Jack McConnell’s problem was not that he misread the source of the info, it was that he chose to make a high-profile issue out of it, and it misfired spectacularly.

Calum Cashley said...

Truro & Falmouth?

Ye have strange fascinations, sir!

Will said...

Stuart, I'm suggesting that the respectable end of the SNP blogosphere is far more respectable than the 'CyberNats' you see on the Herald and Scotsman websites. Not perfect, but respectable and full of decent advocates for the party (my most recent post may interest you).

And we can't know what impact the Truro story will have - I picked it out because I thought it was funny - but it would seem that the LibDem Council By-Election candidate talked about by the fake floating voter has gone onto the UKPR site to give his side of the story so even on a low level (the local paper, if that), someone is spooked.

And Calum, yes. Yes I do!