Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A bit of satire

Though there is perhaps the argument that I should have tried harder, I just could not resist sharing this satirical video depicting the US presidential campaign of 2008.

Having watched it twice i think it is slightly pro-Obama given its depiction of McCain as a warmonger and the serious digs at Obama were the discredited 'Osama bin Laden' attacks and his relaxed communication style shown on chart shows and some public appearances. Kind of nice to see the whole contest given a pseudo-South Park make over.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Its all about having a digital footprint

As part of the CENMEP project I have been reviewing how UK political parties used the Internet at the 2009 European parliamentary election. Looking back at Wainer Lusoli's work from 2004 it is hard to see any significant differences in strategy. Websites are now better constructed using the most up to date technologies, but only if you have the resources. In the case of the the majority of the 25 parties standing it was an online brochure offering little that was engaging when compared to the norms of Internet use across the corporate and not-for-profit sector. The big difference is the migration into social networking sites. Most parties now feature on Facebook, many use Twitter, YouTube is an easy way to promote videos be they sophisticated or home made, Flickr hosts photos of the leader or perhaps candidates. These do offer a new level of engagement, as on the whole you can comment on many of the material posted but I wonder if that is really the intention. Few parties seem to do much that encourages interaction. It seems to be, as the post title suggests, a way of extending the party's digital footprint; being found easily and so getting the message out as opposed to communicating with potential voters. So is the use of social networking little more than a way of advertising for free for political organisations? Beyond a small minority that seems to be the case. But the question is can we expect more, can the interactive features of SNS be adapted for political purposes within the context of a persuasive campaign? The suggestion is that we will see more of this at the UK 2010 election but whether there will be a substance to this online migration is a big question - all thoughts and predictions welcome.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

What are the point of parties having shops

Well if: "you've ever had your heart set on an official Conservative Party mug, an 'It's time for a Change' baby-grow, or even a 'Honk for Change' car sticker, then I've got some good news for you" is the opening line of the promotional email send under the name of party chairman Eric Pickles. The 'goodies' are not exactly original, I am unsure how often 'Time for Change' has been used in some form as a slogan, though it is expected of any challenger when their opponents have had incumbency for a long period of time. Equally Honk for... car stickers were popularised during the contest to be nominee and President in the US - even with a Honk if Hillary scares you variant. I quite like the T-shirts 'Don't blame me I voted Tory' and 'Release your inner Tory', winners of the party's recent competition, and they are quite amusing in a non-political way while getting a message across.

But are these things that will really have any impact in terms of support and visible endorsement or contributing to the party funds? The latter I doubt a lot, and lets face it if there is even an expectation that there will be a financial impact then the party are in trouble financially and strategically. It is the former where these may be important. There are a range of impressions such things convey, wit and humour firstly which can defuse some of the negative impressions of politics. Secondly they are a visible expression of support and may have influence on people if they are seen around. Thirdly, and important in terms of campaigning locally, a team of people wearing Conservative logos and slogans can create a buzz on the streets. It shows a presence, it raises the profile of the campaing locally and gives the impression that there is an enthusiasm and excitement for the campaign.

Perhaps actually this is something that all parties should consider supplying to their activists. A uniform T-shirt that gives the party visibility beyond the rosette or badge. It may not be the latest fashion item or be worn down the shops or in the bar, but as a campaign tool it may have a deeper significance.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Should the BNP be given the oxygen of publicity

It is a question that seems to be of concern to many at present and opinion is divided; should British National Party leader Nick griffin be allowed to appear on BBC's Question Time? The no argument is based upon whether it is right that a group that holds views out of step with those of a multicultural society should be given a public platform and the credibility that goes with that. There is a danger in censoring the BNP in this way, that is that we silence all opinions we do not agree with and that is a slippery slope away from democracy and the ideal of free speech. The yes argument essentially focuses on free speech and the fact that the BNP is a legitimate political party. Peter Hain questions this on the basis of last week's ruling that they need to change their constitution or be outlawed, and interesting twist that could have some truth if they are unable to conform to the ruling. But there longstanding argument is that the BNP should be allowed to take part in open debates in order to expose their true character. If their arguments are contested openly, their validity questioned, particularly their arguments regarding repatriation, then they may have less credibility in the longer term. It is an interesting idea and one I have much sympathy with; but it very much depends on how the debate goes and who is fielded to oppose Griffin on Question Time - makes it almost essential viewing for all those interested in politics! But there is a big question here, should anyone have a say? Should some views be censored? Or should their ideas be given the oxygen of publicity that may give them credence or see them die under the spotlight of public and media opprobrium? Writing to the BBC, Hain argues "In my view, your approach is unreasonable, irrational and unlawful." but is he correct?

Friday, October 16, 2009

One great put down

It does seem incredible that anyone can even make the link between health care reform and acting like a fascist dictator but that seems to be one tack of the anti-free health care campaign.

The respoonse "having a sensible with you would be like having one with a dining room table" (sic) is a classic from Senator Barney Frank. It also indicates just how polarised society is on this issue and how it taps into deeply held ideological positions that are engrained within US psychology. For some reason it is just not American for a broad swathe of the society Obama is trying to convince of the efficacy of this policy.

Monday, October 12, 2009

A mere toenail in the body politic

This is a fascinating interview, Boris may be perceived as a bumbling fool but there is a very quick brain behind the shaggy mop. Maybe it is the training received on Have I Got News For You that stands him in good stead, but he is able to really undermine Jeremy Paxman who was not going for the jugular but was perhaps hoping Boris would go off message. The turning of the tables and being allowed to basically give a party political broadcast is wonderful - something between bluster and fillybuster, perhaps it demonstrates a better and more skillful side to media management than the stonewalling that most politicians offer.
(Shame the BBC wont allow the embedding of videos!!!)

Friday, October 09, 2009

Conservatives try to emulate Obama

One of the key elements of Barack Obama's campaign was the mybarackobama (MyBO) section of his website. What this did was allow subscribers to network with campaigners in their region, set up their own campaign initiatives as well as be led by the Obama team in terms of phone and door-to-door canvassing. Subscribers also received extensive amounts of emails, mainly asking them to donate to the campaign. The Conservatives are emulating this technique with MyConservatives.com. It is described as an online network, though currently it is a little short of members but it is early days. The activities that the site permits are taking an active role in campaigns in target constituencies; donating; phone canvassing; and setting up fundraising events 'with online ticketing'. It is not clear how the networking aspect will work, particularly for drawing together activists as was clearly happening within MyBO. Also it seems there is no blog in place to be used as a hub for campaigning. It is, however, interesting that an Obama technique has been picked up and transplanted by a UK party; the question is whether it will take off and what role this will play in the election campaign.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Street-Level Campaigning

It may seem strange to most except Daniel Hannan that there is a huge debate raging in the US about free health care. The anti campaign is talking about this as if it will bring on the end of civilisation, it is talked of as a threat to civil liberty. Obama is of course leading the campaign for free health care and it is an uphill struggle all the way. The communication strategy, as would be expected, is multi-layered including appearances on every primetime television channel (except Fox of course). But the most interesting is conducted beneath the media radar and is at the ground level. The communication is from members of his movement, or so we are told, people like Nicola Aro. The email via the mybarrackobama.com community begins with the campaign message "I was lucky enough to be one of the thousands of people who heard President Obama speak about health reform recently at the University of Maryland. As he told the fired up crowd, "Change starts with people -- especially young people -- who are determined to take this nation's destiny into their own hands.""; it then moves on to ask for volunteers to support the campaign and lobby their representative. The Campus Phone Booth idea is about people calling other people and getting them to do the lobbying for them.

Basically it is an attempt to maintain the power of the movement that supported Obama's campaign for the Presidency. More importantly it is about citizen advocacy, people convincing their peers to get involved and back the President's initiative. It is an attempt to counter the public debate that centres on the negatives. It could be a highly persuasive tool if enough students and young people can be mobilised to run a booth and second can then mobilise others to lobby Senators. It is risky, but if it can tap into support for the initiative, and those being asked to give their time believe that they can make a difference by doing so, it could be a highly successful way of putting pressure on Senate.