Sunday, 3 May 2009

Blears has got it right....and oh so wrong

Hazel Blears has three points in her already infamous article in today's Observer:

(i) The next election will be fought on policy. Tick.

(ii) The Labour party must share the emotional instincts of the electorate. Tick. Quite a number of people raised the Gurkha issue with me yesterday in Shrewsbury and Telford (I am a Labour candidate for the European Parliament in the West Midlands if you didn't know);

(iii) YouTube is 'no substitute' for traditional campaigning. Tick. In fact, I have made similar arguments in articles in the past. But if you read the tone of the piece Ms Blears gives a strong impression that traditional campaigning can exist without new media. That is where we get into a problem.

Well, I could write this blog on a type-writer and put it on a table in my local coffee shop but what would be the point when others do it on a PC and publish their blogs online? New and traditional media co-exist. The problem with the now equally infamous YouTube announcement on expenses wasn't the limitation of new media. It was that it was so ineptly done: basically it was a House of Commons statement delivered to camera. There are still too many people in the Labour party who are so obsessed with 'getting our message' across that they utterly fail to. The point about the modern communications environment is that it is about conducting a dialogue with the electorate not using new media to try to force-feed your message of the day to the electorate.

Hazel Blears is right about street campaigning. I most definitely did engage in a conversation with dozens of people yesterday and very worthwhile and enjoyable it was too. They just happened to be people who were passing. What of the other 4 million voters who are in the West Midlands?

No, that YouTube clip was the equivalent of the first TV news broadcasts that were just the radio news read over the TV. The White House 'open for questions' is how you do new media. It combined a live audience, TV coverage, web streaming, questions sourced and transparently chosen via the web- including one on the legalisation of cannabis. It worked because it combined media and was open, engaging, and inclusive.

This stuff used to be dismissed as geek-speak. However, the internet is a simulation of a new type of politics that will combine traditional and new forms of communication and policy development. It will be two-way, transparent, involving, and it will save us from the anti-political mood that is rising. I hope.

Now I'm off to do some more street Warwickshire.


  1. A lot of people who do actually vote, like older people, do not twitter (witter?)about or use the Internet. The Tories have this down to a tee as they get involved in local community groups for old people, hold tea dances, flower shows etc etc. When election times comes the old folk are given a nice ride in a shiny posh car and treated like Royalty. The problem with our party is is that its full of trendy apparatchik politics students who have no idea about any of this (or much else..) and hence the Tories are beating us hands down.

  2. good luck in the west midlands!! althoguh i doubt there wa much point in campaigning in dear shrewsbury as a lab candidate...sorry i missed it tbf

  3. I was amazing that Blears article got such attention- I struggled to find it in the paper, and then found that it said virtually nothing controversial at all. If "YouTube if you want to" is seen as a leadership challenge, how the hell are politicians meant to speak honestly, without being labeled as a conspirator?