Anti-politics and anti-establishment candidate Beppe Grillo
this week pulled off a stunning result in the Italian elections, gaining 25 per cent of the vote with his Five Star Movement. We may just have witnessed the birth of a new type of public vote – the Twitter election. For Grillo, as well as being a comedian by trade, is one of the most influential bloggers in Europe and an avid campaigner on social media sites. He has nearly one million Twitter followers, more than any other European politician.
By comparison, British Prime Minister David Cameron has just 247,000 Twitter followers while Spanish leader Mariano Rajoy has a slightly more respectable 411,000. The truth is that the old mainstream parties have dropped the ball when it comes to social networks. None of them take it seriously because they are not trying to reach the online demographic who have the time to spend on Twitter and Facebook - the apathetic young or those on lower incomes and benefits. The establishment feels that these citizens have less of a stake in civil society and have historically refused to vote in significant numbers – so why bother.
The left, right and centre-ground parties instead maintain their laser-like focus on those they feel will be dependable voters – the part of the electorate who can be classified as middle aged, middle class and middle income – and the old media of print and television news. Even the hot political television show of the moment Borgen
maintains the status quo in terms of its inexorable showcasing of broadcast news and the dead-tree press – television, magazines and newspapers. Despite the great writing and engaging characters, it ignores social media – just like the mainstream politicians it portrays.
But as events in Italy have shown, young people and the disenfranchised do have a voice and they are increasingly willing to use it at the ballot box after seeing that direct action campaigns like Occupy change little in reality. Especially as Europe's economic decline means that the constituency who are young, unemployed or without hope is rapidly growing. In contrast, the ageing tribal voters of the mainstream parties are dying out or jumping ship to fringe parties like UKIP and the Greens because they see only a nano-difference of ideology between the left, right and centre.
In a weird twist of fate, British satirist Charlie Brooker aired his latest Black Mirror t
elevision drama on Monday. It was a riveting tale of a comedian, masquerading as a cartoon character going by the name of Waldo, who ridiculed politicians and came second in an election by tapping into the anti-politics vote. This despite the fact that he offered no tangible alternative manifesto. Much like Grillo, his critics would say. On the same day that the programme was broadcast, we witnessed the game-changer of an election in Italy. Life imitating art or what?
The question now is – will the Grillo result be replicated in other elections across Europe and beyond? It certainly looks likely. Perhaps, the likes of British blogger Guido Fawkes –
a.k.a. Paul Staines – will stand against Labour, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats in an election. Besides being great publicity for his blog, which is already the touchstone forum for the disaffected in the United Kingdom, such a campaign would be a great opportunity for Staines to inflict a bloody nose on the politicians he so despises.
Momentum for change is building. A new politics may be just around the corner. The old order of politicians and media will have to adapt or risk extinction. Darwinian forces are at work. Welcome to the age of the Twitter election.
As Von Rompuy says, the so called 'Five Star Movement' is a nonsense - It is not even a credible 'movement', more a collection of misinformed malcontents. Of course, they have good reason to be dissatisfied - years of self-serving government and a lack of political will to tackle corruption and the mafia is bringing Italy to its knees.
But to associate incompetence in Italian governance with fault at a European level is disigenuous manipulation of the facts. Europe is not perfect, but I'd sooner be goverened by Brussels than by a clown in Italy.
It is of course not surprising to see that this website is situated in England - a country that still insists on holding on to its colonies in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, has an incomprehensible pride in a 'constitution' that is not written anywhere and has an electoral system that permits 35 per cent of the vote to generate a majority in its parliament.
Pots and Kettles. A little bit of a clean up in your own house before criticising others might be in order or does the spirit of empire continue to render reasonable thinking unpaletable ?
Rob - Northwich