Joe Sparrow : Simon Cowell, political agitator

I truly don’t want to add too much to the unwanted post-election opinion-chunder, so here’s some bullet points on why, in the next five years, Simon Cowell may turn out be the true political revolutionary of our time:

  • The shows Simon Cowell makes are most childrens’ first introduction to mass polling. Voting for your favourite act on X Factor et al to appears to be an example of proportional representation. Whether voting by SMS or making opinions heard via Twitter, a tweet/SMS appears to have the same weight as another.
  • We now routinely base decisions on the number of Likes, RTs and views: they are an indicator of quality and popularity. These are simple decisions, made via complex interpretation: yes, Zayn Malik got 100,000 RTs — but who are those 100,000 people and what does it mean?
  • So what do the UK public, attuned to quick analysis of figures, feel when they look at the numbers after the election? Just over a third voted Tory, but they got a majority government with 331 seats. UKIP polled 13% of the vote and were given one seat; which is 55 seats less than the SNP, who polled half as many votes. It is clearly unfair. Do they feel cheated?
  • Meanwhile, we still vote like we always have: walk to a polling station, and someone crosses your name off a paper list before handing you a voting slip. All you need to do is tell them your name and address — no ID needed!
  • Voting by app would be, relatively speaking, cheap to initiate, simple to manage and less likely to be defrauded. Compare the complexity and inherent risk in a banking app, or the micro-transaction system in Kim Kardashian: Hollywood.
  • The 18-24 year old electorate, raised in a world of apps and instant voting (and I think it’s OK to regard hitting “Retweet” as a tiny socio-political endorsement) are effectively being held at arm’s length by the government. But for how long?
  • While the figure of nearly 60% of 18-24 year olds voting is decent enough, how will these social media natives feel when they compare the impact of their vote with the world they are used to?
  • Our political system no longer merely seems like a systematic quirk — it just feels wrong.