Category Archives: Labour

Channel Four Debate ‘Ask the Chancellors’ – TV and the Back Channel

Tonight’s televised debate between the leading candidates to be the next Chancellor of the Exchequer will provide a solid indication of the potential relevance of social media in the coming election.   Whilst the arguments are played out in the front channel (the TV), the arguments and analysis will be broadcast simultaneously in what has become known as the back channel.  Specifically social media and in particular, twitter.  The programme makers are promoting this and have created a hashtag #askthechancellors, so that two-screen viewers can follow the debate – front and back.  Live online reaction will also be played back to the TV audience.

The on-line debate will alow anyone to voice an opinion with the potential for that opinion to be propelled either by other like-minded voices on-line or through broadcast TV.  There will also be the coordinated voices of campaigners like the InVinceCable, the social media pressure group who launched their campaign to back Vince Cable earlier today.

Before the credits roll we will have a clear sense through the on-line commentary of which of the pretenders to Number 11 Downing Street has caught the mood of the nation.  This is important partly because it paves the way for what will happen in the party leader debates but also because it is our economy that is at stake.

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.

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.

Purnell Quits Ahead of Election

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.

Date of the 2010 Election – Britain’s Worst Kept Secret


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 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.

“Buff” Hoon to Stand Down

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.

Why Sarah Brown’s Million Mums Won’t Save Gordon

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.

MPs Gear Up to Campaign on Twitter … Oh No They Don’t

‘MPs turn to Twitter to talk to voters’ shouts the headline on the Daily Telegraph site today.  If the august, if conservative (small ‘c’) columns of the Telegraph are saying it then it must be so.  Well it aint.   Yes there are lots of MPs on Twitter now, if you call just over a hundred out of 646 MPs a lot.

Taking its most of the stats from Tweetminster the Telegraph also notes that John Prescott has over 13,000 followers (at the time of publication it was actually slightly under).  Hardly enough to guarantee  a Labour landslide.   With months to go before the US presidential election the candidates were counting their online support in terms of many hundreds of thousands.  Most MP candidates have a few hundred followers.  In fact @Election10 beats a lot of them hands down.   The online influence of bloggers like Guido is far greater than any MP or parliamentary prospect.

There are only weeks to go and whilst the web will undoubtedly play a bigger part than ever before it’s not the MPs who will be setting the agenda, least of all with their paltry twitter followings.  

Top Flight Backing for Hewitt Hoon Bid

Former cabinet ministers Patricia Hewitt and Geoff Hoon are urging Labour MPs to hold a secret ballot on Gordon Brown’s leadership in advance of the 2010 general election slated for this May.  They have written to all Labour MPs saying the issue must be resolved.

The text of the message states “As we move towards a General Election it remains the case that the Parliamentary Labour Party is deeply divided over the question of the leadership. Many colleagues have expressed their frustration at the way in which this question is affecting our political performance. We have therefore come to the conclusion that the only way to resolve this issue would be to allow every member to express their view in a secret ballot.”

Both Hoon and Hewitt are exceptionally experienced political operators who would not make such an unprecedented attach on the leadership so close to a general election unless they had senior level support, most likely from within the cabinet.   It is even more likely that they have the backing one of the potential successors to the Brown leadership. 

After an apparent split with the Prime Minister and a somewhat bizarre period of political silence, Lord Mandelson has returned to the fold in the last 24 hours which rules him out from any association with the plot.  Or does it, there is no more arch a politician in the Labour camp than the ‘dark prince’?  

Initial observations say the plot is doomed to failure but either way if such deep divides remain at the top of the party hierarchy this may well extinguish the faint glimmer of Labour sustaining enough seats and votes to avoid outright defeat.