Friday, 11 February 2011

Happy Birthday to…US!

This blog is celebrating its first birthday today, and to mark the occasion I thought I'd throw out a brief synopsis of the last 12 months! You lucky devils…!

So, on a cold Sunday afternoon in February Tom pitched the idea of setting up a British Election blog to Chris. It would be loosely based on the excellent American site Electoral-Vote and he suggested we named 'Parliamentary-Vote'; Tom would deal with elections and Chris would look at party politics and strategy. Chris' response can be summarised in four words; 'good idea, **** name!' And so '' was born.

The first post went up exactly year ago and it is scarily topical. Tom had a look at the constituencies the three Labour MPs (Elliot Morley, David Chaytor and Jim Devine) who had just been charged in relation to their expenses claims. The barmy idea to try and predict the General Election seat total by looking at every constituency in the country was then slowly formed. How Tom persuaded three others to help him in this ridiculous endeavour he'll never know, and how we managed to finish the project whilst still meeting University deadlines is even more of a mystery!

We made some good calls; we made some bad calls. Although we predicted a Hung Parliament we were a fair way out when it came to seat numbers. This was almost entirely because we got a bit too carried away with the whole Clegg bounce malarkey! Still, we learnt some valuable lessons; mainly, put a degree of spread in a 632 seat prediction and start the whole thing a lot earlier! We'd like to think we are putting this experience to good use now we have started this year's coverage.

The biggest problem we faced by starting this website so late in cycle was that every man and his dog were blogging about the General Election. We were picked up by a few established bloggers, most notably Jonathan Calder and Anthony Painter, but for the most part it wasn't easy getting noticed in the competitive world of the blogosphere. I guess being a bit more accurate would have helped!!! After the election we suffered a bit of a slump, and our excuses include, but are not exclusive to, University deadlines, illness and general blogging fatigue. The deferred election for Thirsk & Malton gave us something to look forward to whilst we decided on the medium term future of the blog…

Given the name and aims of the blog it's a wonder we didn't come up with the idea of focussing on Council by-elections before the General Election. Thankfully, somewhere around the time of the awkward marriage, the penny dropped and we started looking into how feasible this would be. The main thing that struck us was the lack of Independent by-election news on the internet. The Liberal Democrats, Conservatives, and Labour all had varying degrees of internal communication on the near weekly events, but save a paragraph or two in The Independent there wasn't much else around. So, we set about trying to become the accessible, unaffiliated source of by-election news. I let you be the judge of how well we have done on that front!

For Chris and Tom last summer was mostly about writing thousands upon thousands of words for our respective MSc dissertations. The regular by-elections were a nice source of content and traffic during these months when finding time to write the sort of interesting articles that get picked up by others was difficult. Of course, many of you have found this site via our Thursday night tweeting of by-election rumour and results, which was initially just a supreme act of procrastination by Tom when he was working late one night in the library. It was quickly apparent that others, namely Helen Duffet and Kristopher Keane, were already doing this but they seemed to welcome us into this bizarre weekly ritual, and so the Thursday night live tweeting was born!

Since the end of the summer the current format of the site has settled down. We have had some bumper election nights to cover, with our personal favourites being the deferred Exeter & Norwich elections and the Tower Hamlets Mayoral contest. With our Masters degrees done and dusted, although sadly no Master level jobs (damn you recession!), we have also been able to write a few more general articles to mix the content up a bit. Just this week we have welcomed a new contributor, and we are always looking for new ideas to help improve the site. We are now in full election mode again for this spring's devolved assembly poll, and there will be more on the many Council contests and the AV referendum as we get closer to May.

We have enjoyed that last year and we are hoping everything we have learnt from it will help us in the next. The site's readership has been consistently growing since last June so we like to thank all of you, whether you've been with us since the start or you have just stumbled upon us recently. Hopefully a few more will pop by in the coming months and add to the site with local feedback on the forthcoming elections.

So, thanks again; and remember – if Britain-Votes, we're on it!


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