Britain How to win elections
Baracking the voters
British parties want to emulate the American master
At ten o’clock, recalls a Labour Party staffer, the sweep began. From neighbourhoods across America, information rippled up a telephone chain. By 10.25am on election day, Barack Obama’s campaign headquarters in Chicago knew exactly where its troops were and how many ballots had been cast in each precinct. Activists were promptly redeployed. The same thing happened at 2pm and again at 4pm. The visitor was left wide-eyed, and inspired: “It can work in Britain, too.”
据英国工党（Labour Party）某成员回忆称，当天上午10点，行动开始展开。来自全美各地的信息使得电话声连绵不绝。选举日上午10点25分前，位于美国芝加哥（Chicago）的奥巴马（Barack Obama）竞选总部已准确地把握其宣传人员的部署以及各选区的票数。这些宣传人员随即受到重新安排。随后，当天下午2点和4点，部署又进行了相同的调整。那位目击全过程的工党成员对此大开眼界，并大受启发道：“这一套在英国也行得通。”
Astonishing as it may seem, the 2015 British general-election campaign has begun. The Conservative Party’s campaign headquarters sports a countdown clock informing staffers how many seconds remain before polls open. Like Labour and the Liberal Democrats, it has a list of target seats. And all three parties are keen to learn from the great American vote-wrangler.
虽然有些惊人，但2015年英国大选活动也已展开。英国保守党（Conservative Party，译者注：下文的Tories亦表示保守党）在竞选总部得意洋洋地挂起一架倒计时钟，以向其成员明示开票日前的所剩时间。同时，保守党也和工党与自由民主党（Liberal Democrats）同样罗列出所争取的国会席位。以上三党都希望从美国高效的拉票团体中学得一二。
The campaign model they so admire rests on three foundations: a large and disciplined field operation, a good system for managing data and plenty of cash. British political parties used to boast formidable field machines, but they have slipped. Even Labour, which boasts most boots on the ground, has a membership of under 200,000. The Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats are finding that coalition government is glyphosate to the grassroots.
With traditional parties shrinking, Britain’s politicos talk of the Obama model as a solution. The art of community organising—convening energetic groups of activists around local issues—is all the rage. Honed by Mr Obama in the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF) in 1980s Chicago, it inspired his decentralised campaign machine. Labour has flown in Arnie Graf, a former IAF director, to overhaul its structures. The Conservatives have established a residential training academy for campaign managers. The Liberal Democrats want to defend seats they hold by running almost purely local campaigns.
This is easier said than done. Britain’s politicians tend to keep activists on a tight leash—and have little cash with which to recruit and train professional organisers. Matthew McGregor, a Briton who was part of Mr Obama’s digital communications team, says building the Organising for America network took a “will to invest” that is mostly absent from Westminster politics. Time to select candidates and build local movements is running out, adds Paul Goodman, a Tory commentator. “Having cups of tea with people is very important,” he explains.
但这一方法言易于行。英国政治家常对拉票人约束甚多。同时，在雇佣和培养专业管理人员的资金上也是捉襟见肘。曾担任奥巴马数字通信小组的英国人Matthew McGregor表示，“组织美国”（Organising for America，译者注：奥巴马当政后成立的政治宣传计划）这一网络的建立需要人们“有出资的意愿”，而这一意愿在英国政府中十分少见。保守党评论员Paul Goodman补充道，在确定候选人与组织地区活动的同时，时间不断流逝，“和人们喝喝茶显得相当重要。”
If the campaigners are the limbs of the Obama model, a good data system is the brain. It enables campaign supremos to target tailored messages at precisely the right voters. Of the British parties, the Liberal Democrats are farthest ahead technologically. In 2011 they bought the snazzy Voter Activation Network used by the Obama campaign, which enables users to generate finely customised lists of voter contact details. Sadly, the party has little raw information—and too few canvassers with which to obtain it. The other parties are hurriedly upgrading their systems.
在奥巴马竞选模式中，如果说拉票人构成其四肢的话，完备的信息管理系统就是其大脑。通过该系统，竞选人可将合适的信息准确无误地传达给选民。在英国，自由民主党在技术上遥遥领先于其他各党。2011年，该党购置了奥巴马竞选时曾使用的“选民活化网络”（Voter Activation Network）这一时髦货，为其准确地生成了各个选民详细联系方式的特制列表。但可惜的是，该党的一手信息不足，并缺乏为其收集信息的宣传人员。而其他党派则忙着革新自己的竞选系统。
The Conservatives enjoy the healthiest balance-sheet, although it is footling by American presidential standards. According to the Electoral Commission, the party has out-fundraised Labour in three of the past four quarters. Its debts are much smaller and its finances less reliant on unpredictable trade union bosses. This makes it easier to invest in staff and technology: the Tories have already recruited three waves of campaign managers for 2015.
Along with the other parties, the Tories are concerned at their over-reliance on the (admittedly deep) well of donations from wealthy folk and institutions. Politicians are therefore looking covetously at Mr Obama’s extensive network. In the 2012 campaign, the president drew on a much broader pool of 4m small donors. Mr McGregor insists that, with time, an equivalent British donor base of up to 1m is eminently achievable; others scoff at that.
As they rush to emulate American methods, British party operatives acknowledge a fundamental difference. In America, the personality of the top candidate infuses the campaign. It is used to energise supporters, court donations and unite a sprawling operation. In Britain the same tech-savvy, decentralised structures are being used quite differently: to win over an electorate that loathes national politicians. The Liberal Democrats plan to fight “75 by-elections” precisely because their role in the coalition—personified by Nick Clegg—is so unpopular. Even David Cameron, the most appealing of the three main party leaders, has been conspicuously absent from recent Tory election literature. Whereas presidential candidates must insert national politics into voters’ lives, Westminster’s unloved politicians benefit from keeping the two separate.
就在英国各党纷纷急于效仿美国式竞选时，其成员也承认两者存在根本上的差异。美国的竞选领袖可将人格魅力渗入竞选之中。以此可博得支持、换来资金，并能统一杂乱无章的拉票活动。而在英国，这一同样技术精良而分散各地的系统在功能上截然不同，其目的是从厌恶政府的选民那里赢得支持。以克莱格（Nick Clegg）副首相为代表的自由民主党由于在联合政府缺乏民意支持，因此打算瞄准本次“75个补缺选举名额”。就连三大党派领袖中最具人气的卡梅隆（David Cameron）首相，显然也在近期的保守党竞选活动中毫无动静。尽管候选人必须使国家政治深入选民心中，但英国这些不受欢迎的政治家们反而从政民分离中得利。翻译：沈骜