Now the campaign proper is in full effect and the media beast needs feeding on an hourly basis, one of the big questions on the lips of journalists is “will Facebook and twitter change the course of the election?”. The answer is of course “yes and no”.
Social media will have less impact in the UK in 2010 than in the US in 2008 for a number of reasons:
- Social networks are not as instant as people believe they take time to build. In the US fixed term system this meant they could start more than a year in advance. We have four weeks.
- We vote for local MPs. We don’t vote for a president (or even a prime minister). Social groups coalesce better around iconic individuals.
- We have national ‘mainstream media’ in a way that the US does not.
- The US is bigger, with different time zones so ‘opt in’ media that isn’t constrained by time or schedules works better.
In addition there is no party or individual that has achieved a huge level of traction in any of the social networks, with the exception of Sarah Brown who isn’t a politician. In the “yes” camp there are some persuasive arguments:
- The verdict on the all important TV debates will be on-line and will be democratic. We saw this in the Ask The Chancellor debates on Channel 4.
- In a real sense people will participate in the debate and if an issue trends the politicians will have to answer.
- Social media means that the media is ‘always on’, far more so than 24 hour TV news. Any banana skins and we’ll know as soon as the politicians do.
It’s still the view at Election 10 that the vote will be on May 6th but the idea that Brown will go to the Palace tomorrow to seek a dissolution is frankly a load of toss. Why? Because he doesn’t have to.
The last date for calling an election to be held on the 6th of May is next Monday (12th April) and that is when it will most likely happen. Any sooner and that will mean that the phony war is over and the campaign will be stepped up several gears. The shorter the campaign the better as far as GB and the Labour Party are concerned. The Tory party coffers are much deeper than Labour’s and that means more money for campaigning and costly advertising. Calling the election tomorrow will put the socialist fighting fund at risk of running out before the plebiscite. That, quite simply, is why it won’t happen.
Note: this article made a bold and perhaps with the benefit of hindsight foolhardy claim about the date the election would/would not be called. It was amended late on Monday 5th April but the original is intact as you can see for your (and our) amusement.
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.