Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Information Commissioner and some Lib Dem Market Research

If I pick up the phone to a pre-recorded call, it's back on its cradle within nanoseconds. If my evening is going to be disturbed by a marketing call, then I want another human being on the end of the line who I can tell to get me of their list asap.

I recognise, however, that I'm a bit of a traditionalist about these things and we have to keep up with the times. Way back in the nineties I saw good Councillors not being re-elected because they refused to telephone canvass - and Labour did everybody in the ward, despite doing nothing on the ground.

It was with something of a heavy heart that I heard about Nick Clegg's 250,000 market research calls to households across Britain. I know I have to accept this as the future, but I don't have to like it.

Now, however, I'm spitting mad at news reports that the Information Commissioner is about to come down on the Party like a ton of bricks, saying that it was not market research.

During the Livingston By-election in 2005, Alex Salmond's dulcet tones went to many voters across the constituency in a pre-recorded message and nothing happened to them. A non political friend of mine actually called me in astonishment and asked if she was expected to listen to this and why.

Now, I can't imagine for a second that the clever people in the Liberal Democrats who devised this scheme would have broken the rules. That's the first issue - I think that the party is the victim of inconsisent treatment by the Information Commissioner.

Secondly, I think there is a very strong case for political parties to be exempt from the rules relating to such matters. It's not right to be bombarded with calls every day trying to sell double glazing, loans and various scams, but why shouldn't calling by political parties be accepted as a part of the democratic process? People still have the right to put the phone down, but I think that the law should be on the side of allowing the communication.

1 comment:

Aaron Trevena said...

Looks to me like the IC is spot on, market research would have not have had an pre-recorded message by nick clegg at the start, nor would it only include policy statements of one party.

They should have used an independant market research company and applied genuine market research methods such as balanced questions on short descriptions of our and other party (or random) policies.

Essentially the phone calls allowed the party to get it's message to people - that's why it started with a message from Nick Clegg.

The party broke the spirit and word of the rules.

What's more I don't think political parties should be able to make nuisence calls like this, further the liberal democrats should be campaigning against nuisence calls rather than doing it themselves.

If you want to reach people, the you have to do the work - radical policies that make the news, be different enough that people notice, put in the legwork to talk to people in the streets and doorsteps and ensure our councils are a good example of government rather than a random collection of groups with no consistency, and wildly varying quality, from flagship excellence to unpopular shambles that make the party look bad.

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