Peter York on Ads: So there are these two blokes sitting in a café...

The Electoral Commission
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The Independent Online

The personal is political. Do you remember that lovely rallying cry of about 1969? It elevated a mass of individual concerns - from ladies' intimate cycles to the rights of trees - to The People's Struggle. Maddening for old-school politicians who thought the women's movement, the Stonewall screamers, and Friends of the Earth were a lot of air-headed, bourgeois individualists who were blocking the road to real change.

Now we're used to it; single-issue politics grows a new pressure group every day, but people increasingly don't vote in national and local elections. The centre isn't holding. Turnout in the 2001 general election was a record low, 59.4 per cent, down from 71.5 per cent in 1997. Add to that the deep disenchantment with this Government post-Iraq, and Michael Howard's failure to register with voters and you've got an electoral crisis in the making. How low can it go?

The Electoral Commission's job is to keep people engaged and voting. Their first annual audit showed a "serious dislocation" between people and the political process. So they're out consulting away at public meetings this month and next (what order of turnout will they get? And will it all be retired schoolteachers?) And they're advertising. The new Electoral Commission commercials are in black and white animation, in the Everybloke style that government affects when it's talking to allsorts, with voice-overs from those lovable uglymugs Jim Broadbent and Timothy Spall.

So, two blokes in a café (more working men's than Starbucks). Bloke 1, reading newspaper, to Bloke 2: "So what about this European Parliament then?" Bloke 2 (a finger-wagging Brummie): "I don't do politics". Bloke 1, it turns out, is one of life's bantering sarky pedants. In the car, when his friend's complaining about the roadworks, he's in like a snake, "Hey, you don't do politics!" And on he goes.

We can't talk about Brits winning international sports, or the price of a pint, or graffiti or the licensing hours in pubs because it's all politics, see. By this time, understandably enough, they're sitting at separate tables (under a naked lightbulb, nice touch).

Then there's a very self-satisfied young lady voiceover with a Today programme environmental reporter sort of voice who says that politics affects almost everything so if you don't do politics there's not much you do do. And you're a hopeless illiterate underclass worm. This is the point, in that recurring Fast Show sketch, where the bloke cast among the chattering classes says he'll get his coat.

Peter@sru.co.uk

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