With both the selection of a Mayoral candidate and the Labour leadership contest underway, the resulting spamageddon is driving London Labour Party member Neil Watkins mad.
Following a damaging defeat in May’s general election, the Labour Party in its infinite wisdom opted for a longer than usual period of deliberation over who should be its next leader. Rather than the hoped for mature and considered debate, though, the end result has simply been to prolong the pain of what has been, at times, an excruciating process.
The deluge of candidate communications from those running for leader and deputy – plus, in London, the added joy of the mayoral selection – has been phenomenal. Emails have been landing in inboxes at a rate hitherto only associated with Nigerian bankers; enough paper has flown through party members’ letterboxes to send stocks in the recently privatised Royal Mail soaring; the number of cold calls from canvassers might have made even a veteran PPI scammer wince.
While the sheer volume of stuff has been incredible the purpose behind it has not always been clear, with some candidates (naming no names) apparently not knowing the difference between actual campaigning and just generating content. The ‘widening of the debate’, meanwhile, which was supposed to follow Jeremy Corbyn’s inclusion on the leadership ballot has been a car crash, dragging supporters and opponents alike into a series of asinine arguments over whether it’s power or principles which matter most.
As with any election, though, it’s better to hear too much from candidates than not enough and, even if it can be annoying, if people are going to sign up to a political party then they need to accept that they are likely to receive a fair few emails when that party has to choose a new leader. We all know where the delete button is so no big deal, right?
The campaign’s overspill onto social media, on the other hand, has been somewhat less bearable. Visceral hatred, dishonesty, stupidity, incessant round-the-clock drum beating – we’ve had it all. Now, I‘ve been a member of the Labour Party for over a decade (ladies, form an orderly queue) and have knocked on thousands of doors in support of Labour candidates right across the UK, so it’s fair to say I have at least a modicum of interest in the party’s future. But for the love of good grief please, please oh please just stop. I get it. You support Jeremy Corbyn. Or Yvette Cooper. Or whoever.
Now that ballot papers have been posted to members you would think it might all start to die down, but you would be wrong. People have started posting photos of their completed ballots (why?!) and the opprobrium has, if anything, intensified.
Throughout the whole process, sensible voices have been too easily drowned out. The worst of it, though, is that quite often they are being drowned out by people with whom I normally get on (or in some cases am related to), but their almost myopic obsession with their slant on the leadership contest has apparently pushed all other interests out the window. And, if people like me have had enough of the whole thing, imagine what it must be like for people who had no real interest in the first place in who becomes Labour leader, or which candidate the party decides to put forward for London Mayor.
The other day I was contacted by a friend asking if I could ‘unlike’ Liz Kendall’s page on Facebook, because my having liked it (which I have no memory of doing) was apparently causing Kendall-related posts to appear more frequently in his timeline, and this was bothering him no end. What an absurd thing for one human to be reduced to saying to another.
Of course, there is nothing forcing any of us to pay attention to what people are saying online, just as nobody is compelling me to click on ’28 Cats Who Look Like Other Cats’ when it’s dumped on my screen by an algorithm. If there’s something you don’t want to see, you can look at something else, turn the computer off or even just close your eyes, yes?
Or so I thought. It turns out there is in fact a tipping point, a critical mass of blah blah blah bombardment under which the resolve of even the most battle-hardened of us may buckle. For far too many of us that point has now been reached. Please, please can we just cast our votes and then talk about something else for a bit?