The hype, not just from the media but from all parties, is that the web is the new battleground. This is not just a post-Obama phenomenon, from Labour's Big Conversation to WebCameron to the invasion of Facebook by MPs and parties the Internet is being used more and more to promote parties.
I have had the fascinating (no sarcasm I promise) task of identifying candidates for the European Parliamentary election and whether they have a website. Here is something interesting, only the top six parties (Labour, Conservatives, LibDems, Greens, Scottish Nationalists and Plaid Cymru) name their candidates so far. But of those it is interesting how many, and indeed how few, have some form of web presence. For some it is a blog, for others a personalised website, and the minimum is a page embedded within the party website which offers some basic biographical details and an email or phone number. The Conservatives name 70 candidates, all of whom have some form of presence. Plaid Cymru similar have 100% presence, though there are only four in total anyway and the Scottish Nationalist party have four out of five. Next are the Greens, they are fielding 64 candidates of whom 47 are on the web, while of the 70 Liberal Democrat candidates 48 are immortalised online. But the losers in terms of a web presence are Labour. They field only 67 candidates and only 30, less than half, can be found to have a web presence of any sort at all. In fact the majority are identified only by a name on the party website with no details whatsoever. Now it may be the case that there is a lot of detail available somewhere for them all, and it is still early days, but if we take this as indicative of strategy, or the seriousness with which the party are taking the Internet, it is no surprise that the party is claimed to be lagging behind. Does it matter, well if there is anyone out there who is interested in the candidates and not only the party perhaps; or perhaps there is a broader symbolism, that it is an indication of the determination of some parties to be 'everywhere' (to steal the Obama line) and to take the election seriously.