In recent years, political discourse has become more polarised and that isn’t something we can dismiss. Social media has also increased reach for political figures, and when you combine these two factors it’s a given that Political Engagement would also be on the rise.

But has it risen by how much the Politicians want you to think it’s risen by?

A notable entry into the campaigning handbook is that wherever you go, you need someone watching you otherwise how can you make yourself look like a man of the people. But what happens when you can’t get anyone to watch your latest great speech?

Why you pay someone of course.

Paid audience fillers aren’t new in politics, especially if a promised turnout didn’t turn out, but on this most recent election we are beginning to see the possibilities of whole crowds being engineered, not just for show, but to provide positive response too.

One question we found ourselves posed with was about the Americanisation of our system. Walking out to flags and cheering crowds is a profoundly presidential thing to do, yet so many of our MPs seem starstruck by the idea of such an ego trip and attempt to replicate it.

Are we now moving to a system where every member believes themselves the star of the show? How do we combat rampant egoism in politics and ensure collective responsibility? All questions for men much smarter than I.

Now it’s important to note we aren’t cynical enough to believe that our hard working members of parliament don’t attract crowds, they do. However, some of these crowds are growing to sizes that outpace the statistical rise of engagement. It’s also important to note that it is not illegal to pay for a crowd, while it might be politically wrong and not very expedient, you can’t be arrested or fined for it unless you forget to put it on your expenses report.

So what is a normal campaign event? What is a normal sized crowd for a Politician? Based on recent studies, your average campaign event turnout is sub 50 people, maybe the low hundreds if you’re a very well known personality with a lot of activist support. Most campaign launches are done privately with activists as they are the only ones who tend to care but generally the public, especially your voters, do not turn out to events because they’ve already heard you, they already support you and because British manners dictate that we aren’t getting ourselves in a tizzy for Politicians the way Americans do at rallies.

The real grunt work and message delivering is done by knocking on doors, the voters in Britain don’t come to you, you go to them, and thats what they expect.

Let’s take a look at some that our researchers believe to be suspect.

Backbench MP has a full stage and receives thunderous applause from a large crowd

NUP Leader has 650 people attend his manifesto launch, usually an event only attended by Journalists and HQ Staffers

Former Liberal Democrat leader is “mobbed” by supporters despite presiding over a low-polling era for the party

Freshman MP draws a “sizeable crowd” despite having no prior political background

Backbench MP has a crowd big enough on a Hospital visit it requires stewards

First-time candidate receives full presidential podium treatment outside his office

Labour candidate has a crowd of 1,200 people for his launch, rents out an entire stadium (expenses much) admits its padded with trade unionists

So, we leave you to make your own conclusion, but backbench MPs are drawing crowds of hundreds when there is no history of the cult of personality, while leaders seemingly draw meagre activists. Could this be the start of a new system of modern political engineering

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