The Election Commissions

In August 1869 The Daily News published a story about disputed elections in Norwich, in which Sir Henry Stracey, the Conservative candidate, had resorted to a number of notable techniques — such as getting voters sloshed. The extract below sheds light on the 1868 goings on, and is taken from that newspaper’s report on the public inquiry.

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose

Fast forward to the 2018 disputes about Cambridge Analytica and it starts to appear as though politics has always been about attention and emotion. In Norwich in 1868, booze, cash and locally sourced cheese were the algorithmically driven xenophobic micro-targetting strategies we have today.

Bread and Circus ate our Politics

The convergence of human consciousness and technology has forced political marketers to adapt their short term tactics, while sticking to the tried and tested Bread and Circuses strategy. Was the gap between probity and practice even bigger then than it is now? Wealthy people buying elections by getting the electorate in the right sort of state is totally normal. Psychogeographic gerrymandering. Treat most people badly most of the time, but do enough good things at the right time, and you get re-elected.

Pity the Marginal Billionaire

In America, till recently, the physical gerrymandering, or redistricting, was so open and yet so taboo that things eventually had to come to a head. As with financial crashes, market failure in politics is a fact of life.

When will we learn that we never learn?

Why is the 1868 election fraud episode not taught in schools? Surely not because it’s part of a culture of widespread fraud and secrecy that ‘the powerful’ would have us forget. An investigative / environmental reporter recently told me that the real work is not in uncovering what is illegal but in educating people about what is completely legal but that nobody wants to hear.

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