Category Archives: General

Why Tom Watson MP is Only Half Right (or Half Wrong) on TV

This evening at Millbank tower, political blogger and journalist Paul Evans hosted a panel of digitally aware politicians and commentators that included Tom Watson MP, Jeremy Hunt MP and the Evening Standard’s Deputy Political Editor Paul Waugh.  They were there to debate the subject of social media and the election.  Given that’s precisely the subject of this blog we felt it was right to be there.

Tom Watson told us that he was going to tell it like it is.  According to Tom how it is, is that this will be the UK’s first TV election rather than the inaugural plebiscite where the plebeians moderate the debate.  Putting aside the fact that this would put us 50 years behind the USA where the Kennedy Nixon run off was regarded as the first TV election, what Tom has missed is what every top TV exec now knows.  Social media has become  a critical component of event television and event television is what is keeping the broadcasters in business.

The concept is known as “two-screen” and the channel of choice is most often twitter.  When Cameron, Clegg and Brown get up in front of the tv cameras it will be one of the biggest ever political tv events and it will be the ‘two-screeners’ who decide whether one or other candidate is too shifty to elect.  The likes of Paul Waugh and other social media savvy scribes will be watching with fascination before they channel the views of the twitterati through the mainstream media.  For a social media trailblazer Watson’s got some catching up to do.

Angry Gordon’s Avatar – the Taiwanese Movie

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.

Is the On-Line Electoral Campaigning Moving Up a Gear?

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.

Loony Slogan ‘A Future Fun Fair for All”

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.

How Long Before We Vote Online?

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.

The Japanese Election Twitter Jitters

Taro Aso, the current Japanese prime minister has dissolved the House of Representatives in the Japanese Diet and signalled a general election for August 30th.  Following the significance of social media in the US presidential campaign of last year we might expect these new networks to play a significant part.  Indeed a number of leading Japanese politicians like Seiji Ohsaka of the DPJ and Gaku Hashimoto of the ruling LDP are already using twitter to comment on policy issues.

However, Japan has a 59-year-old election law that may prevent the use of twitter and other social media in the final stages of the campaign.  The law which bans posters and pamphlets has been interpreted as preventing Internet advertising.  Seiji Ohsaka has apparently been told that this law means that he must stop using twitter for the 12 days of official campaigning ahead of the election.  Ohsaka says “ It will have to be used in campaigns. It is no longer possible to say ‘don’t use it’.”

It will be fascinating to see what impact social media will have in the Japanese election and how this will impact on the campaign plans and ideas for the forthcoming UK General Election.

No Place for Secret Plans

At about five o’clock today someone known as Lens21 (or Brian van Doogledunk) posted a rumour on twitter that Labour was planning for a November general election.  Now I have no way of knowing whether Brian is a credible source but it does strike me that keeping plans for an election secret is a thing of the past.  MPs are going twitter crazy, even posting comments from within the House of Commons.

You can not marshall forces within the party without bringing a lot of individuals into the tent. It only takes a tiny leak and the story will be all over you the social web before you can say “your majesty it is my wish to dissolve your parliament”.

If Labour does have secret plans for an election they won’t stay secret for very long.

Bercow Elected Speaker

John Bercow MP has been elected Speaker of the House of Commons to succeed Michael Martin who resigned from the post in June as a result of a lack of parliamentary and public confidence arising from the expenses scandal.  He was the first Speaker to be forced out of office for over 300 years.

Bercow was elected on the third ballot of a secret ballot, the first time such a sytem has been used for the election of a Speaker.   The final round of the ballot was between Bercow and Sir George Young MP.  John Bercow led in all three rounds of the ballot.

The Speaker receives a salary of £72,862 per annum.

The final vote in the third ballot was

  • John Bercow MP            322 votes
  • Sir George Young MP   271 votes

They Want to Work For You

There is an interesting Wiki which was set up last month by Paul Youlten who is also the founder of Yellowikis (a user generated yellow pages on the web).

The stated aim of They Want to Work For You is to create a complete guide to each and every candidate planning to stand for Parliament in the next UK General Election.  New media expert Seb Bacon conceived the idea  in a blog post at in 2006 inspired by their TheyWorkForYou site.  Paul Youlten launched the wiki in May 2009.

At the moment the data is incomplete but it has the potential to be a fascinating crowd sourced database in the run up to the election.

The Long Knives

Today has been an extraordinary day in British Politics.  In July 1962 Prime Minister Harold Macmillan organised a major Cabinet reshuffle known as the ‘the night of long knives’ (after the nazi purge of the brown shirts).  Eight Ministers were sacked in one go. 

Today the knives have been directed at the prime minister.   Less than 24 hours after criticising James Purnell for his resignation Caroline Flint added hers to the growing list of ministerial resignations.  Her resignation became public knowledge whilst Brown was in mid press conference insisting that he would continue to lead the country and the party and though neither “arrogant” nor “complacent” believed himself to be the best person for the job.  Whilst resolute Brown’s assertions were reminiscent of  Thatcher’s insistence at a Paris press briefing in 1990 that she would stand in a second ballot for the Tory leadership.  She didn’t.

When the European results heap more humiliation on Labour on Sunday the heat will be turned up another notch.  Next week like so many before it will be a long one for Labour and for Brown.