Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Transcript. Jared Margulies, WCRX-LP culture correspondent dispatch on Parliament elections. Oxford University.

WCRX-LP: Good morning. This is an interview with one of the WCRX-LP culture correspondents. Today, we are talking to Jared Margulies who is in Oxford, England and this is Parliament election day. Hello, Jared.

Jared Margulies: Good morning.

WCRX-LP: Jared, tell us what time is it in Oxford.

Jared Margulies: Right now it is 3:00 in the afternoon. I’m sitting in Keble College overlooking the main quad. The croquet sets are put out for an afternoon match. The clock tower has just struck the hour. The sky is cloudy and it is election day for the Parliament. It’s a big day here.

WCRX-LP: And, are you going to be voting in the Parliament election?

Jared Margulies: No. I’m not voting today. I’m an American citizen and I don’t have the right to vote here. I’m only here for the year, doing a Master’s course. That of course, is in addition to my full-time art project serving as a culture correspondent for Bexley Public Radio.

WCRX-LP: You’ve done some other on-air and production work for Bexley Public Radio.

Jared Margulies: Yes. I consider my reporting as a culture correspondent to be the first priority in my work, including academic work. I feel very privileged to be able to do a report today on the Parliament elections.

WCRX-LP: This is the first culture dispatch from the UK, by a Bexley Public Radio culture correspondent. Tell us what it is like to be an American standing on the sidelines for an election to Parliament.

Jared Margulies: I won’t pretend that I can offer an unbiased perspective: Oxford is a university community and I live in it. Political opinions are weighted very much toward the left, from liberal Democrats to Labour. There is a recognizable despair among students that they might awaken tomorrow morning to have a decisive Tory electoral victory. But all students are not left-wing ideologues. There is a conservative presence among the students. Among British colleges and universities, Oxford is probably the most conservative. There are probably a large number of students at Oxford who will be happy if Mr. David Cameron wins. Mr. Cameron is an alumnus of Oxford University.

WCRX-LP: Please tell us about the election campaigning on the Oxford campus.

Jared Margulies: Oxford University is embedded in Oxford the city. There is no central campus. The colleges are in different parts of the city so there is no one central place where politicking might occur. Most of the politicking that I noticed was television coverage. Particularly interesting is that this campaign featured the first ever American-style television debate among the candidates. This and the other television coverage of the candidates seems to have changed British electoral politics almost overnight. Suddenly, the voting public is interested in how sweaty the candidates look on television. The TV coverage looks at the personal backgrounds of the candidates; the gaffs that candidates make when they don’t realize the media microphones are turned on; this is a new development in electoral politics here. Almost overnight, television coverage in this election catapulted the Liberal Democrat candidate Nick Clegg into national prominence. From obscurity, Clegg became a viable national candidate for the Prime Minister’s seat. No matter the outcome of the voting, whether Gordon Brown, David Cameron or Nick Clegg wins tomorrow, or if there is a hung vote, I think British politics is changed because of the televised debates in the election.

WCRX-LP: When you said that the results would be know overnight, it reminded me of another characteristic of the American electorate: the American need for instant gratification. Americans can’t wait for overnight returns. We need to know results immediately. Americans use projections to forecast election results and usually rely on them. Has American haste become part of UK elections and vote counting?

Jared Margulies: Actually, the timing of the announcements of victories depends on how close an election is. The voting takes place overnight and if there isn’t a clear consensus it might be well into Friday before the victors are announced. Since this is my first year in the UK, I’m not sure if the media will be on the story constantly, for the next twenty-four hours, doing minute-by-minute updates like you get in the U.S. elections, or if everyone gets a good night’s sleep and wakes up to a big surprise.

WCRX-LP: Another characteristic of American elections is the offer of assistance in voter registration. Do campaign volunteers knock on doors here offering to help people register to vote?

Jared Margulies: I think it happens to a lesser degree in the UK than in the US. We’ve had campaign literature and pamphlets pushed through the door mail-slot. We’ve had a few people knock on the door and ask us who we are voting for; but, I would say not to the extent that I experienced in the U.S. Both David Cameron and Nick Clegg have made reference to their campaigning model and electoral strategy being based on how President Obama ran his campaign. But those claims strike me as mostly lip-service because I haven’t seen the mobilization of young people or the use of new media that characterized the Obama campaign.

WCRX-LP: Jared, we’ve gone on for a quarter hour on the UK election, can we shift topics and talk about life at Oxford University. Tell our listeners what your plans are for the coming weekend. What does a college student at Oxford do on the weekend?

Jared Margulies: It is Spring. A typical Spring weekend for a college student here begins with one of the May Day balls. Sometime this weekend a typical Oxford student will put on his black tie, dinner jacket, and head for an all-night ball, get impressively drunk, and wander the streets recklessly. By that staggering hour, the student’s bow tie will be untied, dinner jacket slung over his shoulder and if the sun is rising on the horizon, the student and his girl friend will do a quick punt down the Thames. When the sun is fully risen, the student will find a neighbor's croquet court, begin a game and enjoy some morning hot tea offered by the neighbor. This is an image of one hundred years ago, but it is still almost true.

WCRX-LP: You’re an American, is that how you will spend your weekend?

Jared Margulies: No. No black tie for me. I’ll go to my favorite bingo parlor in Oxford, have burgers and brats for lunch and then watch DVDs of my favorite NASCAR races.

WCRX-LP: Our time is up. Thanks to Skype, we have been speaking with Jared Margulies live at Keble College, Oxford University in the United Kingdom. Jared is a culture correspondent for Bexley Public Radio. Jared is a graduate of Bexley High School and we thank him for this dispatch on today’s Parliamentary elections. Good report Jared. Again. Soon.

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