Message 86: Electioneering

The eighth song on OK Computer is “Electioneering.” According to the OED, “electioneering” has two meanings. First, it is the art or practice of managing elections; canvassing on behalf of candidates for membership in representative assemblies. Second, it can be used as an adjective to describe a person or group of people that takes an active part in elections.

Jonathan Percy’s notes to the song on Green Plastic Radiohead claim that Thom Yorke was “was thinking of the Poll Tax Riots as he wrote this, the scenes were people … breaking down the gates of Downing Street.” Although England has a long history of protest against poll taxes, the Poll Tax Riots to which Percy refers occured March 31, 1990. Black and white photos of the riots taken by Paul Ross, a London freelance photogapher, are available here. A pamphlet titled Poll Tax Riot: 10 Hours That Shook Trafalgar Square containing first-hand accounts was published in 1990 by Acab Press. Though somewhat biased, this article provides a concise account of the riots.

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