Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Photos on ballot papers

A long time ago I agreed (in retrospect, probably not very wisely) to take part in some research being conducted by the University of Strathclyde into whether putting photos of candidates on ballot papers would make any difference to the way voters voted. Not sure on what basis I was selected, but other participants included Roger Berry, Chris Bryant, Sir Paul Beresford, James Gray, Paddy Tipping, Claire Curtis-Thomas, Joan Whalley and Martin Linton - so I guess it was just a random selection of people who look completely different to each other (and who the general British public haven't heard of!). The results are about to be unveiled at a parliamentary seminar on 4th June. Not sure how any of us will feel when it's revealed that the 64% of people who were planning on voting for us before they saw the photos has now dwindled to a mere 14%!

They don't seem to have included any BME MPs, which would have made the experiment more interesting: if, for example, they'd included Dawn Butler or David Lammy, would it have made much, or any, difference when the voters discovered they were black? Not so easy to do with MPs of Asian origin, as their names tend to give it away. Of course Kerry could be a man's name; many people assume so, judging from the correspondence I receive. I wonder if that turns out to be a factor? Interesting, but not sure it's a path we want to follow here in the UK.

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