The Nameless Horror

Oh, a Tory survey

Something entitled “The Big Eastbourne Survey” appeared through our door today, a copy for both me and Mrs R. It’s a puff item for our prospective Tory candidate, Caroline Ansell. Looking at the website for it immediately sees you redirected to bigsurvey.conservativesurvey.co.uk, which means I suspect that similarly leading multiple choice questionnaires have been sent out in numerous constituencies. (The whois query for the domain leads to Anthony Hind, of Conservative Calling, a Tory party canvassing outfit pushing for votes in marginal seats, of which Eastbourne is but one.)

Unfortunately, as a broad multiple choice agree/disagree/unsure set of questions, I was unable to suitably nuance my answers so I’m including the whole thing here. Pay careful attention to the titles given to each question.

Let’s kick off.

Family friendly public Wi-Fi

1.Caroline has been visiting local cafes, shops and Wi-Fi hot spots to see if young people can access pornography and gambling sites.

I’m surprised she’s allowed back into Starbucks after that.

Do you agree with a campaign to encourage all public Wi-Fi providers to install family friendly filters that stop children looking at inappropriate material?

No. I support a rival campaign to encourage parents to install family-friendly behaviour in their children to stop them wanting to look at inappropriate material in coffee shops. Frankly if my children are stupid enough to go browsing for porn in public they deserve to be kicked out of wherever they happen to be. But tell me, what is it that constitutes “inappropriate”? Who decides? Who designs these filters? Will they do a better job than whoever designed the one in place at the cafe a journalist friend tried to read the Independent’s coverage of the proposed opt-in porn (plus an expanding variety of other things) filter only to find he was barred from the page because it featured the word “pornography”? Why should this responsibility be taken off the hands of parents in the first place?

Viewing pornography is, as far as I understand it, already illegal for children. Gambling online is also illegal for minors (not to mention exceedingly difficult without a credit card). Why are current laws insufficient? Are they simply not being enforced by the government? Let’s not forget that this is a government that has a former minister as head of the National Casino Industry Forum blogging at Conservative Home about easing gambling laws.

The A27 and traffic congestion

2.Prospective MP Caroline is meeting with the transport ministry to discuss safety and congestion on the A27. Do you agree improvements to our road are a priority?

Going from the mention of “transport links” (for “digital enterprise”, but whatever) in the propaganda on the back of your cover letter, I’m assuming you do. But you don’t say what, exactly, you have in mind, and whether or not you’ve considered alternatives. Turning it into a dual carriageway all the way from Polegate to Lewes? (For non-locals, that’s a ~8 mile, IIRC, strip of countryside that runs in front of the Long Man of Wilmington etc. etc.) Altering its intersection with the A22 by demolishing a bunch of small businesses?

I am, of course, framing those options in a way that makes them seem unpleasant, a reverse of the original process.

Protecting local heathcare

3.The local NHS Trust have transferred Hospital {no, I have no idea why that’s capitalised} consultant-led maternity services and overnight paediatric care to Hastings. Caroline is part of the campaign to get them back to Eastbourne. Do you support this campaign?

No, I favour putting the sick and unwell on spikes on the road leading into town. Everyone in town supports it, including the incumbent MP since his days as a prospective candidate. As you know. Sadly, funding cuts and the overall state of the NHS under a government that swore blind it wouldn’t slash front line services and then promptly took a gleeful axe to them have seen those and other services lost from the DGH despite total opposition from everyone here.

So, uh, thanks for that. Nice job, you guys.

One BIG change

4.What one thing would you most like to change in Eastbourne?

Mandatory pillorying in the stocks for those dog owners who leave shit in a constant carpet all the way to my son’s school. Next.

What matters most to you and your family

5.Which of the following issues are most important for you and your family? Please choose up to three issues

An interesting one this, since it’s just a list of titles with no slant. So, for example, if I and everyone else chose “The NHS” as an answer, one could easily proclaim “98% of respondents said that the state of the NHS was a concern, so it is vital that we push through our current sell– opening up of the health service”.

I’ll admit I’m curious as to what you would say if enough people chose “university tuition fees”, since it was on your watch that university became an option only for the rich or the financially reckless.

I won’t list them all (you can find them at the website if you want, gentle reader), but if you’ve read the Mail or know standard Tory politics you won’t be surprised at any of them.

6.Which of the following issues are most important for the country as a whole? Please choose up to three issues

It’s the same list and the same complaints apply, just slightly more loudly. And no, there’s no title on this one.

More free schools

7.Local campaigner Caroline Ansell is passionate about education and would like to see more focus on science and language studies. How strongly do you agree with this?

Free schools are, of course, both contentious and twice as expensive to run than state schools, according to the National Audit Office. The 40-odd which have opened since 2011 have largely done so under-subscribed, and performance has been mixed to say the least. (75% or so get ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ grades from Ofsted, but locally, our regular state schools are all within this band, or were last time I checked.) Science is a core focus under Gove’s Victorianisation of the curriculum, so I’m not sure what that has to do with free schools. (And, for what it’s worth, free school-happy Sweden has seen its standing on maths and science fall sharply of late, in part due to corruption in its corporate-funded free school system.)

Strengthening the economy

8.Thinking about the economy for a moment, please say how strongly you agree or disagree with the statement that “Dealing with Britain’s deficit and debt is the only way to get back to a strong economy.” on a scale of 0-10, where 0 means you disagree strongly and 10 means you agree strongly.

Again you make no allowance for how, and you’re also expecting, were this a fair survey, which we all know it’s not, your audience to be economists. Look at that phrase “the only way” lurking in there. It doesn’t leave any room for replacement with “an important factor”, on the face of it, at least. But I’m going to go out on a limb and say that many people wouldn’t pick up on such a turn of phrase and any agreement will be treated as a ringing endorsement of Osborne’s vision of a food bank friendly bright corporate future when it might be nothing of the sort.

The final four questions are voter demographics, in which the only matter of note is including only Ed Miliband and David Cameron as “main leaders” likely to be Prime Minister. While we all know what’ll happen to Clegg and the Lib Dems come the next election, that seems a bit of a low blow on a coalition ally.

Now then, were you all paying attention to the titles of each question? They amount to both an election manifesto and a form of hoped-for word association with the candidate. Interestingly, the Conservatives only get a couple of very low-key mentions on the whole four pages, and no logo or branding at all.

Possibly because of their widespread unpopularity with anyone at the other end of the poo-smeared stick they’ve waved at those beneath them the past two and a half years.