It never occurred to me when I was seconded to Downing Street to untangle a couple of IT problems that the PM would drop a pile of newspapers on my lap and say "sort that". I tried to explain that poor coverage in the press wasn't an IT problem, but Mr B prodded a headline. "It's the turnout I want dealing with." He rushed off to practise doing something important for the TV cameras.
I looked closer. "Voter apathy in Euro election flop," it said. As soon as I thought of those apathetic voters, ideas started to flood into my mind. I hurried to my office and made a number of calls. I could have just presented the PM with a report, but I intended to stay at Downing Street as long as I could. Instead I would set up demonstrations. Well, to be precise, my consultancy, Slaughter McTone Regis, would get some techie sort of people to set up demonstrations. I was an ideas person - I couldn't get my hands dirty with equipment.
Just a week later I sat down for a debriefing with Mr B. I could tell he was thinking he had that serious, slightly concerned look.
"They're only prototypes," I said hurriedly. "Anything could be changed.
We need new ways to get people to vote. Remember 6%, Prime Minister." The PM nodded quickly. "Yes, but the collars that give you electric shocks during voting day until you get to the polling booth seem over the top.
We can persuade the youth market that they are an essential fashion accessory, but we won't persuade middle England to wear them. However, I will get a few made up for certain MPs. Just for critical votes, you understand." I nodded. I never expected him to go for the collars. It's always best to slip in an unpalatable option so it looks like you're offering choice.
"What about set-top boxes?" I said. "Then everyone can vote from home." The PM shook his head. "Sky and On Digital can't give them away - what hope have we got? No, the one I want to go with is the lottery ticket.
You get a free ticket that enters you for the jackpot and registers your vote. It's brilliant. Of course it'll reduce lottery profits, but they're too high. Just think how many voters we could get if it was a rollover jackpot." He rushed off (Mr B always rushes) wearing a big grin. A palpable hit, I feel.
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