Disaggregating the electoral roll

Electioneering and the politics of self knowledge

in Journal of Legal Anthropology

Following their ‘wipe-out’ at the 1997 General Election, Scottish Conservatives worked from the assumption that they had endured their own ‘crisis’ in representation. The material consequences of this ‘crisis’ entailed losses of !nancial and other resources, knowledge and political legitimacy. This article describes how some Conservative activists addressed this ‘crisis’ in the period leading to the 2003 local Government and Scottish Parliament elections. Their efforts to render the secret ballot transparent in order to discern the voting intentions of potential supporters both demonstrated and re!ected their efforts to manage this crisis. Despite legal constraints, they constructed an imaginary of thousands of local voters’ preferences through a variety of discursive instruments, which allowed Party activists to disaggregate the electoral roll in order to apprehend a new whole – the Conservative electoral base. This, in turn, enabled a Conservative politics of self-knowledge, as a form of empowerment for these activists.

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