Two dedicated web developers are on a mission to collect the CVs of every candidate standing in next month’s general election – and some of the submissions would leave job recruiters spluttering into their coffee.
Francis Irving and Julian Todd, two Liverpool-based computer programmers, hope that when their database is complete, voters will be able to easily compare the skills of Britain’s future parliamentarians, introducing a measure of objectivity to an arena dominated by spin.
The pair have spent “every spare hour” on the project and have so far managed to gather more than 300 candidates’ CVs, all of which are now available to view on their DemocracyClub website.
Although Mr Irving and Mr Todd still have some way to go before all the people vying for the UK’s 650 constituencies are represented, the site is only a month old and they are hopeful that they will be at least halfway to their goal by the time the nation heads to the polls on 7 May.
In pictures: Experts' predictions for the General Election - 04/04/15
In pictures: Experts' predictions for the General Election - 04/04/15
1/10 Andrew Hawkins (ComRes)
“My position has moved: no party can win a majority now. I have also shifted in favour of the Conservatives winning more seats than Labour. That, however, assumes that the current Tory momentum is maintained and that they don’t do anything daft or careless between now and polling day. But the underlying pattern is distinctly in their favour.” (In January he predicted Labour would be the largest party, possibly with a small majority.)
2/10 Joe Twyman (YouGov)
“Probably: a ‘well hung parliament’. Possibly: Conservatives winning most votes and seats, thanks, in part, to SNP gains at Labour’s expense. Speculation: Conservatives unable to form another coalition, not having enough seats with just the Lib Dems, but Labour better placed with SNP and Lib Dems – albeit informally.” (In January Twyman said: “Gun to my head? Labour minority government.”)
3/10 Ben Page (Ipsos MORI)
“Stuck in ‘too close to call’ mode still, made harder by the way votes translate into seats in Parliament. If the parties remain neck and neck, Labour might just end up with more seats, but not a majority. We still have weeks of campaign to go and no clear picture for the marginals, where the polling that is being done suggests a lot of local variations that have plenty of potential to surprise us in May.” (Last time Page said it was a “mug’s game” to make predictions four months before an election.)
4/10 Rick Nye (Populus)
“Since January, the Conservatives have clearly improved on the polls relative to Labour to the point where I’d expect the Conservatives to win the most seats as well as the most votes 7 May. What’s less clear is whether the Conservatives would be able to form a government. (In January Nye expected a hung parliament in which Labour would win most seats but not necessarily most votes.)
5/10 Nick Moon (GfK)
“Something would need to change dramatically for there to be any chance of a one-party majority government. My guess: the Tories will be largest party, but some way short of forming even a two-party coalition. A Labour minority government seems most likely, but I won’t be putting money on it.” (Prediction unchanged since January.)
6/10 Damian Lyons Lowe (Survation)
“On Survation’s public polling, Ed Miliband remains the person most likely to form the next government. However, he’s far from the workable majority figure required . Friday 8 May will remain a day of deals and discussions with other parties to form the next government.” (In January he expected Labour to be the largest party in a hung parliament, by 40-50 seats over the Conservatives.)
7/10 Michelle Harrison (TNS)
“It’s less a case of who wins but who can scrape over the line. Labour polls better on the NHS; the Tories poll better on the economy. Can any claim additional territory from the other over the remaining weeks? Probably not. But our polls show that the public thinks the Tories will be the largest party. In the absence of a firm lead, I’ll go with the wisdom of crowds.”
8/10 James Endersby (Opinium Research)
“Despite the recent weekly statistical ties, we’ve witnessed the faint whispers of movement in the air and a slow, unsteady and shaky sway towards the Tories. How this shift plays out over the coming weeks obviously depends on a huge number of factors. My call, if this holds fast and momentum gathers: Conservatives 288, Labour 267, SNP 45, Lib Dems 24, Plaid Cymru 3, Ukip 3, Greens 2.” (In January he put Labour on 320 seats.)
9/10 Martin Boon (ICM)
“I’m tempted to say: how should I know? I’m just a pollster. But I feel that Miliband may just have raised himself from the grave, so I’ll add a couple to where I had them before. Everyone else largely becalmed although, I see the Greens disappearing from view and Ukip sliding a touch. Tories 34 per cent, Lab 32 per cent, Lib Dems 14 per cent, Ukip 12 per cent. I don’t trust any academic model that translates vote shares into seats, so a seat projection from this is a pure and simple guess, which is Labour to be touching 300 seats with the Tories just behind.” (In January Boon predicted Labour on 290 seats.)
10/10 Lord Ashcroft (Lord Ashcroft Polls)
He refuses to make predictions. “My polls are snapshots, not predictions.”
“You have to write a CV to apply to Starbucks – so why wouldn’t you at least have to do that to become an MP?” said Mr Irving, part of the team which set up TheyWorkForYou.com, which tracks how MPs vote. “At the moment, you apply to your party to become an MP, and I feel like that’s not really democratic. They ought to directly apply to the public as well.”
He added that while he did not expect voters to make a decision based purely on a candidate’s previous qualifications, a CV allowed them to study the facts instead of being distracted by the cut and thrust of a general election campaign.
“Generally we tend to look at national media news and things that are quite manipulated, such as election leaflets,” he added.
“As voters, I want us to look more at other stuff. It’s not that I think a CV is the only thing we should look at, but it’s a very useful source of information which everyone understands, because we’ve all had to write one at some stage.”
Some of the candidates’ CVs are smartly bullet pointed – but others leave much to be desired. Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith submitted six bland paragraphs, while Nick Clegg’s had to be scanned from an election leaflet by a constituent. Labour’s Sir Gerald Kaufman sent in five paragraphs on heavily creased paper.
And while many candidates have praised the pair’s project and have responded to their request for a CV swiftly, others have ignored it or claimed that they do not have time.
One Socialist Party candidate in Brighton declined to offer one, writing: “It’s what I stand for, not what I have done for a living that matters.”
A Ukip candidate in Essex also declined, claiming: “I haven’t needed nor had one for over 25 years.”
Mr Todd said it appeared that some candidates felt “entitled to their jobs once they’ve been selected”. But he added: “Drawing up your CV is a reduction of your life to the bare-bone facts.”
He said that in his view, the candidates should “behave as though they are part of the jobs market”, and “visibly subject themselves to the whims and brutal deliberation” of the electorate. “That’s the game these days, and it’s morally right that they play it,” he added.
They do what? The varied CVs of prospective MPs
Jonathan Wallace (Liberal Democrats, Blaydon)
A glitzy five-page document with the candidate posing with large vegetables. He gave up his job six years ago to grow all his own food. Key Details reveals: “His father taught him jam and preserve making when he was 10.”
Alasdair de Voil (Monster Raving Loony Party, Oxford East)
One might expect a candidate from the party founded by Screaming Lord Sutch not to have a CV at all. But Mr de Voil’s submission soberly presents him as a “marketing and education specialist” who is fluent in French.
Beki Adam (Independent , Mid Sussex)
Ms Adam, who has had stints as a Top Gear presenter and a Buddhist nun, tells us: “The greatest challenges in the 21st century are to stop corruption of governments by massive corporations, and to ensure positive mental health.”
The Independent has got together with May2015.com to produce a poll of polls that produces the most up-to-date data in as close to real time as possible.
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