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How I jez didn’t make it and lost the general election


Photo Rwendland CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

I am a huge fan of the election simulation game Prime Minister Infinity and, true to form, publishers 270soft have come out with an update just in time for the snap UK 2017 general election.

 Having struggled in the role of Ed Miliband playing 2015 version – though doing better than the real Ed in getting a hung parliament – I again stepped into the shoes of an embattled an Labour leader, this time Jeremy Corbyn.

 I tried to play like the real Jez running a generally positive campaign focusing on policies for health and education with an occasional jab at the Tories for being champions of austerity and enemies of public services.

 As in real life, however, things didn’t go to plan. A couple of weeks in, the polls had Labour stuck under 30% with predictions of Tory landslide of 400 seats –  and the worthy policy speeches of Corbyn-me simply not cutting through in terms of media coverage.

 Having started off optimistically venturing into a few Conservative marginals, I quickly found myself like the real world Corbyn retreating to heartlands the north of England and Wales, visiting places like Hartlepool, Hyndburn and Middlesbrough, trying to stop the possible loss of supposedly safe seats to the Tories. Read More…

Use your Ed? How I put Miliband into Number 10 (just)

I’ve long been a fan of 270Soft’s election simulation games: President Forever allowing you to replay US presidential contests (including primaries) both historically and for 2016 and Prime Minister Forever which translates the format for British general elections.

There are also versions for Canadian, Australian and German parliamenary elections.  So I was delighted to get an early release of Prime Minister Infinity, which allows you to simulate the forthcoming UK general 2015 election with party and strategy of your choice.

The game is essentially an exercise in positioning and managing and deploying resources – realistic enough many political scientists would say – which entails framing your platform and picking your campaign themes; targeting your leader’s campaigning, debate preparation and issue knowledge; and planning your advertising. Needless to say Events-Dear-Boy can intervene  and you also get to spend of your precious time and resources spinning good or bad news.

Anyone familiar with President Forever and its spinoffs will find the game quick enough  to pick up, although options and gameplay have become more complex compared to the earlier Prime Minister Forever –  especially with the provision for much more detailed constitutency-level campaigning. Few real political devotees would probably mind this, although it makes for a longer a game (2-3 hours) and anyone serious political geeks could probably spend a couple of days carefully scanning the marginals and the polls before plotting their next move (the game has daily turns from early January untill May 5 Polling Day.

Anyone not familiar with the 270.soft stable of games will probably have steeper learning curve or might want to have a crack at President Foreover where you have a mere 50 states, to range over rather than 650 constiuencies, although PM Infinity does provide helpful regional summary which simplify your task a bit.

Relishing a challenge and wanting to have a real chance of power, I stepped into the shoes of Ed Milliband with the computer playing the part of the other parties (including a small rather unrealistic bloc of Independents who I probably should have turned off at the start – they eventually won four seats). Read More…

>Golden Brown: How Gordon might have pulled it off?


And here’s a UK election result you won’t see this Thursday – again courtesy of the Prime Minister Forever 2010 computer simulation game: Labour and the Tories tied for the popular vote on 30% with Labour gaining 300 seats and Cameron’s Conservatives way behind on 230, and also marginally behind in terms of popular vote. The Lib Dem advances proves – as in real life and the last simulation I played – hard to stop, but this result is in terms of political consequencs the mirror image of the previous simulation: Lib-Lab co-operation with electoral reform in weak form on Labour’s terms.

The trick? Intensive debate practice for Gordon (he and Nick Clegg drew all three – Cameron as in two of the three real life ones ineffectives – and, of course, keep him away from the voters and stick to set piece events; coupled with a strategy concentrating on attacking the Tories in big cities and the electoral battlegrounds of the North West and Midlandss, more or less sacrificing Labout MPs in the South East and East, who were duly decimated at the hands of the Tories., so their colleagues in London and Birmingham could hand on against the odds. The upside of this from the Labour point of view was also that the low Labour vote in the South allowed the Lib Dems to win a few seats unexpectedly off the Tories – including, wonder of wonders, Mid-Sussex. The Greens, again, picked up Brighton Pavilion.

>Virtually Nick Clegg


I didn’t go to Westminster school, can’t ski, don’t speak Dutch and may not vote Liberal Democrat, but in a very real sense for about an hour last night I was Nick Clegg and, what’s more, I see the 2010 election results come in seat-by-seat and I can tell you all about them. The Lib Dems achieved the electoral breakthrough all the polls have been forecasting on a impressive scale with105 seats – very much at the upper end of what the pundits were saying. Unfortunately, however, the Tories also put in a much better than anticipated performance winning 296 seats, coming close to a majority and, giving a good moral claim to be PM. I

t looks like some kind of Lib-Con pact is on the cards, probably centring on electoral reform, but the Lib Dem hand isn’t as strong as it might of been if Dave can buy off the Scottish and Welsh Nats – who hold a total of 12 seats and the Democratic Unionists. Things look very bad for Gordon Brown – Labour was outpolled by the Lib Dems (26: 25 per cent) and Labour has just over 200 seats. Minor parties did better than anticipated though: Caroline Lucas came through the middle to take Brighton Pavilion, as did Salma Yaqcoob for the Respect party in Birmingham Hall Green. The BNP polled a scary 21% in Barking.

OK, I admit it, I haven’t had an out of body experience, slipped through a time warp, Nor has my wife been sllipping pyschotropic substances into my Nescafe. I was playing Theory Spark’s excellent – if rather belated – update of election simulation game Prime Minister Forever 2010. The game is based on their very successful President Forever game, which simulates US presidential contests (including primaries – it’s incredibly hard to win as Obama, by the way, and boy is Iowa crucial). For computer game buffs, I should say it’s essentially a resource management game with no very flashy graphics and you need to play experimentally a couple of time to get the hang of it, but there’s not too much to keep track of and enough real strategy there to make it intriging challenge for anyone with a serious-ish interest in electoral politics, who fancies themselves an armchair election general.

My strategy as the virtual Nick Clegg was to try to match what has actually happened over the last weeks cencentrating on winning TV debates and building momentum for third party breakthrough, campaigning mainly in marginal seats South and West of England and relying on the Big Mo to secure Lib Dem seats elsewhere, especially Scotland. It was tough: Gordon Brown did unexpectedly well in the first debate, but with better preparation I achieved the same kind of breakthrough the real life Clegg did in debate 1, only in virtual PC debates 2 and 3. Indeed, astonishingly my political timing was, I think, rather better than that of the real Clegg Cleggmania took hold a bit later than it has in real life eaving the Tories little time to bounce back. Gordon’s early momentum burned itself out, you will be unsurprised to hear.

My mistake though was not to campaign in the Midlands, where the Lib Dem electoral surge tended to open the way to the Tories, tranforming them into three-way marginals. The result was a distinctly Pyrrhic victory.

>Honey, I fried the planet


Nosing around for political simulation games that might be useful for teaching purposes, I came across a test version the online CO2FX educational game simulating global warming and development issues. It plays quite well. You get to play Brazil and there are parts for political, scientific and scientific advisers (although I combined all three). I go for a distinctly unhistoric free market-ish development strategy, slashing taxes and scrapping agricultural subsidies by the early 1970s and putting on few green carbon taxes when economic growth and huge popularity make this possible. I misjudge things and by the turn the 21st century I realise I have to boost R & D budgets and impose punitive carbon taxes to push the nation’s fossil fuel dependency down – compensating for this by further reductions in personal and business taxes. I do manage to get fossil fuel use down to 20% but 2040 without too much pain. Unemployment rises a bit, but GDP is still rising and the government is still popular, but human development indicators (never great under my regime) are awful. Life expectancy dips below 1960s levels. Meanwhile, the ice caps have melted, rising sea levels have caused flooding and CO2 and global temperature have soared. I blame the Chinese.

>A message to you Rudy


A growing addiction to US politics has slowly crept up on me – at least for non-academic purposes – and, may God forgive me, I’ve been following the primaries closely. The collapse of Rudy Giuliani’s bold strategy of missing out the early primaries to concentrates on victories in big diverse states is particularly interesting. But could it have worked? Just to see, I replayed it during a coffee break on the excellent President Forever political sim game:- you can generally knock together a campaign strategy and get to Super Tuesday in half an hour or so.

In this scenario running the Giuliani ticket, I was a little more cautious and did a little better than the real Rudy and his advisors. I won Florida handsomely. But the result and campaign dynamics were, sadly, basically the same: the frontrunner coming out of Iowa and the early small state primaries had so much momentum, he just blew me away (see map above). The main difference between my virtual tilt at the White House and the real one was that the frontrunner that crushed me was Mit Romney, not John McCain. Bad news for liberal Republicans in some alternative reality, but I guess is just about possible. I did manage to pick up California on Super Tuesday though, thanks to early endorsement by Arnie Schwarzenegger, but by then was then so busy barnstorming key states and throwing cash at last minute advertising to shore up my rapidly eroding polls leads it was too late. I even managed to lose New York for Rudy! Not that it made a difference given Romney’s dominance across the Midwest and the South. Hasta la vista, baby.

>Paddy power

>And amongst of the BBC’s mini-treasure chest of documentary pods is Winning the Peace, the series on nation-building and international intervention presented by former Lib Dem leader and UN High Representative to Bosnia, Lord Ashdown. The series, which coincides with the release of Ashdown’s book on the same subject includes episodes on the Allied post-war occupation of Germany, el Salvador, Bosnia (which frustratingly, won’t download but can be streamed) and Iraq. There’s a slightly know-all, even sanctimonious edge to Ashdown, but he’s articulate, to the point and clearly a high calibre politician who knows what he’s talking about. Best Foreign or Defence Secretary we never had. His conclusions – plan ahead and for the long-term; compromise with technocrats sullied by the old regime; establish rule and law and market first, do democratic elections later – seem pragmatic and sensible. Such nation-building scenarios with their multiple tracks, resource and time limitations and unpredictable outcomes strike me as ideal topic for some kind of coumpter-based political sim – a thought that has occurred to others – but alas there doesn’t seem to be any…