A theme is emerging in the run up to the poll and it’s not so much user generated content as user-generated poster advertising. The airbrushed for change David Cameron mash-ups have been the most prominent but this week Nigel Farage of UKIP gets the grassroots advertising rollover treatment.
Idontwanttoberude.com is home to the poster above a riposte to Farage’s barrage of abuse directed at the Belgian-born EU President Herman van Rompuy in which he told the European leader in the EU Parliament that he had the charisma of a “damp rag” and the looks of a “low-grade bank clerk”. The boos in the chamber have been followed by more abuse on-line for Mr Farage who also described Belgium, as “pretty much a non-country.” Look’s like he won’t be off to Belgium in a hurry but one voter at least has told him where to go.
Apple Daily, a newspaper and website based in both Hong Kong and Taiwan has used computer graphics to recreate the alleged bully boy tactics of the prime minister. The video is gaining traction on news sites in the UK and through social networks.
Whilst hardly in the James Cameron league when it comes to CGI the clips graphically illustrate the nature of the claims made by journalist Andrew Rawnsley and even exceed his allegations in terms of the severity of the alleged acts. Whilst somewhat slapstick in their delivery this clip can’t do the prime minister much good at home or abroad.
In an article in The Times today Alastair Campbell claims that the social web has altered the power balance in political campaigning. “The internet and, in particular, social networking have changed the terms of the relationship between the parties, the media and the public, taking at least some of the power to influence away from parties and media, to the benefit of the public”.
The former journalist and spin doctor supreme has himself embraced the social web and so may be well placed to judge. He is a regular blogger and his twitter account @campbellclaret (claret here is a reference to his beloved Burnley football team rather than Burgundy wine – Campbell is teetotal) has over 15 thousand followers. Political blogger Iain Dale names Campbell as the number 2 Labour twitterer after the Prime Minister’s wife.
Compared with the US presidential election of 2008 the level of engagement via the social web has been low in the run up to the 2010 UK general election but there are many politicians experimenting with on-line dialogue. There are now signs that all of the major parties are stepping up their on-line activity. It could be that the phony war is over and Alastair Campbell, so influential in previous elections, has just fired the starting gun on the social media election battle.
In the hours following the Labour Party Rally in Coventry where the Prime Minister unveiled Labour’s vision for the country under the slogan “A Future Fair For All” the twitterverse was awash with the rumour that the Official Monster Raving Loony party had adopted a very similar slogan “A Future Fun Fair For All’.
The official home page for the Raving Loonies throws doubt on the veracity of the claim. There is no mention of it at all. The likelihood is that it is a product of witty twittering. It does suggest that one of the biggest effects of the social web during the election campaign will be the spoofing of parties, candidates and especially leaders. We have already seen it with the fabulous Cameron posters. We are going to see it again. And again.
The surprise expressed on-line at the sudden departure of ex Cabinet minister James Purnell will be short-lived. In his statement he said himself “I have spent all my working life in or about Westminster. And while this has been a huge privilege, I’ve realised I don’t want to have spent all my life in frontline politics. I’m looking forward to completing my project at Demos. After that my hope is to contribute ideas to public service and to the Labour party.”
Whatever the outcome of the election there is no frontline future for Purnell. He publicly quit the cabinet in an attempt to force Gordon out and he failed. In politics that means that you exit stage left. This may well be a clearing of the decks before the date of the election is announced. There is much chatter around the Labour mini conference planned in Coventry tomorrow and if Gordon doesn’t name the date, and he might, he will certainly be setting out his stall and by tea time tomorrow Purnell’s political pursuits will be a footnote.
We all know that the UK General Election will be on May 6th. Defense Secretary Bob Ainsworth gave the game away on Sky News in January when he said: “I think the British public will wake up and rue the day if they wind up with a Conservative government in charge of this country after May 6. Chris Bryant, the Europe Minister, mentioned the same date a few weeks earlier.
Now it seems that the Labour party has begun printing leaflets with the date. In a gaffe of spectacular proportions the leaflets are being printed at a press that Labour shares with the SWP. According to Brendan Montague at the-sauce.org, the SWP has told its members “the General Election will be on the 6 May – how do we know? One of the printers we use is at this very moment printing millions of Labour leaflets with the date on!”
Now of course we might be seeing a series of carefully orchestrated faux ‘leaks’ designed to throw the opposition, however that would require a level of strategic consideration that has been noticable by its absence at senior levels within the Labour Party of late. May the 6th it is then.
The architect of the most recent botched coup attempt on Gordon Brown’s leadership has announced that he is to stand down at the general election.
It is unlikely any future labour leader would want someone in their top team who had demonstrated the level of ineptitude shown by ‘Buff’ as he is increasingly known in web circles. As a matter of fact this would have been unlikely ever to arise as he already faced the possibility of being axed as a candidate by furious local party activists. 56-year-old Hoon, a lifelong Derby County fan is rumoured to be in line for the role of chairman of the football league. If it comes to anything let’s hope he’s a bit more on the ball in that role.
This political poster is gaining traction particularly on conservative blogs in the US. It features a grinning George W. Bush and was initially discredited as a photoshopped hoax, but it’s really out there on the Interstate highway 35 in Minnesota. Mary McNamara, the manager at Schubert & Hoey Outdoor Advertising, the company which leases out the billboard, said “The ad was purchased by a group of small business owners who wish to remain anonymous.” However, “some people in the group were Obama supporters.”
It is proof that you no longer have to spend a fortune on political advertising (this is a one of poster execution) to get attention. It just has to be funny, insightful or engaging, even if the answer to the question in this case is…not really.
Brown has fuelled the debate on electoral reform by proposing the Aussie style alternative vote (AV) system for parliamentary elections. If it happens this may be the last time we put a cross on a ballot paper as the AV system is a preference vote that requires numbers in the boxes. But should we be using those dreadful little pencils at all. Isn’t it about time that we started to look at electronic voting from our PCs or smartphones? If we can safeguard bank transactions surely we have the wit to make online voting secure.
Cost cutting measures will see many of the official counts not even starting until the morning after the election (it is cheaper to pay counters for day time work). In the event of a hung parliament there is a real danger that the election won’t be decided until all of theses votes are in. Though there is little doubt that the media and the exit polls will have an accurate prediction minutes after the booths close.
Why aren’t the major parties talking about electronic voting? Is it perhaps because it is a short step from electronic voting every five years to regular referenda on line and a more direct style of democracy? No that really would piss on the collective chips of our elected representatives.
In the run up to the US presidential election Obama was building a fan base on social networks like Twitter and Facebook, using his infamous blackberry to tweet from the trail. Not so for the major contenders in the UK 2010 election. Cameron has stated his belief that “too many twits make a twat” (although airbrushed campaign posters seem to have a similar effect). Gordon Brown flirted with the service a couple of years ago but now prefers his wife to do the tweeting.
Gordon has form for wheeling Sarah in when the going gets tough and the media picked up on the ‘social Sarah‘ effect during the Last Labour conference. The party apparatchiks will be well aware that Mrs B has amassed well over a million followers on Twitter.
Sarah Brown like the leader of the opposition is an ex PR person and there is anecdotal evidence that Sarah’s twitter account is being used as a PR channel.
- Sarah tweets a lot. Eight times yesterday. This is an acknowledged way of building a fan base.
- The page is linked to the Million Mums campaign to enlist people to speak out against needless deaths of women in pregnancy and childbirth around the world.
- Old tweets are deleted – there is nothing earlier than December.
If Labour does believe it has an ace up its party sleeve with this twitter account I think they are mistaken. A million is a big number but there are lots of foreign accounts and plenty of spam bots amongst them, neither group boasts a vote in the British plebiscite. More than half of registered twitter users are inactive. Furthermore if Sarah Brown deviates from her stated aim of raising awareness to counter deaths of women in pregnancy and childbirth and gears up to be part of the vote machine she will lose credibility and authenticity – and on social networks people deal in the currency of the authentic.