All the main parties are putting time into Twitter in the run-up to the election with the Conservatives saying it’s taking up a fifth of the capacity of their digital campaign team. If the significance of a new medium is measured by the number of political gaffes it transmits then Twitter can lay claim to having arrived following David Cameron’s outburst on Absolute Radio last summer, last month’s ‘scumgate’ episode involving Labour MP David Wright and the hacking of the Twitter accounts of politicians including Energy Secretary Ed Miliband.
Twitter is very much centred on personalities and when BBC Political Editor Nick Robinson declared earlier this month that the service had helped turn Sarah Brown into one of the most influential figures in British politics via a following of more than 1.1 million for the Prime Minister’s wife it underlined how disruptive micro-blogging might be.
LONDON (Reuters) – U.S. President Barack Obama’s use of the Web on his way to the White House in 2008 has inspired British political parties to ramp up their digital campaigns for a general election expected in May.
An unprecedented wave of initiatives — from a new breed of digital campaigner to an army of online supporters, critics and satirists — is prompting many observers to say this will be Britain’s first ‘Internet election’.
The general election will not be decided by social media. And that’s official. Sort of.
At the Social Media World Forum at Olympia yesterday, Kerry McCarthy MP (Labour’s ‘Twitter tsar’) and Craig Elder (the Conservatives’ Head of Online Communities) debated the impact of social media on British politics.
With one eye on what happened in the U.S. Presidential election in 2008, and another on the increasing use of the Web in almost every area of British life since the last general election in 2005, the presumption is that the Internet will play a much bigger role this time. But how much bigger?
Some observers are already playing down the likelihood of a seismic shift along the lines of that achieved by Barack Obama. eDemocracy points out the limited the size of the electorate open to any influence, let along that of social media. Meanwhile, Micah L Sifry of techpresident points out how Britain lacks some of the key ingredients that made it possible to build up the use of new techniques in the U.S. — greater freedom in fund-raising, a long campaign, and competition for leadership within political parties.
There are at least two new factors in the coming election — the first-ever televised prime ministerial debates and the first full-on deployment of social media during a British election (Facebook was a year old, YouTube had just started and Twitter didn’t even exist back in 2005).
In a City University panel discussion on the ‘new media election’ on Tuesday, host Evan Davies of BBC’s Today programme framed the debate in terms of which would be most influential: The old, controlled media in the form of the three 90 minute TV debates to be broadcast by Sky, ITN and the BBC? Or the new, uncontrolled variety in the form of anyone with access to Twitter, Facebook, YouTube et al?
Billboard political advertising is a mainstay of election campaigns the world over. A generation ago, the ‘Labour isn’t working’ poster was credited by Conservative party Treasurer Lord Thorneycroft with winning the 1979 election for Margaret Thatcher. But might the advent of social media mean that its days are now numbered?
Alastair Campbell, Labour’s director of election communications at the last election, thinks political advertising is losing its effectiveness: