David Cameron is giving his public backing to a £15 million Thatcher Museum at the same time as The Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester, National Rail Museum in York and Bradford’s National Media Museum face the threat of closure as a result of Treasury cuts.
The Prime Minister wants a museum modelled on the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in California. The memorial to Margaret Thatcher is likely to include a selection of her suits and handbags. The announcement comes just a few weeks after the controversy over the multi-million pound tax-payer bill for Lady Thatcher’s funeral.
Meanwhile the Science Museums Group which comprises the the three Northern Museums will see a £6 million cut in its budget in George Osborne’s spending review later this month. The severity of the cuts may lead to the closure of one or more of the museums.
Thatcher ‘s policies greatly amplified the so-called North South divide and Cameron risks further losing popularity North of Watford with the insensitive timing of his backing for a Thatcher Museum. The northerm museum cuts have already caused outrage with a huge on-line campaign and over 20,000 people signing a petition in 24 hours.
Withington MP John Leech, the Liberal Democrat culture spokesman has condemned the cuts and praised the Manchester Museum of Science and Industry: “It is part of our fabric here in Manchester, it inspires the hundreds of thousands who walk through its doors every year. I’ve raised this in Parliament as it’s vital we retain this fantastic museum for future generations.”
Many political aficionados were beyond surprised when David Cameron appointed the former News International apparatchik Andy Coulson, to manage his communications. Coulson was already tarred in the hacking debacle but Cameron felt he should have a “second chance”.
That decision was either a cold, calculated gamble to garner the powerful endorsement of the Murdoch empire in the run up to a general election or it was spectacularly naive. Either way it has backfired on the prime minister. Twitter is alive with condemnation and News International are hanging Coulson out to dry with the revelations that he authorised payments to the police. Is this a shot across Cameron’s bows by Rebekah Brooks?
A full public enquiry will undoubtedly turn the spotlight on Cameron and how much he knew or should have know about Coulson’s activities. It will also be very uncomfortable for a number of high-ranking members of the metropolitan police.
This has implications too for the coalition. It provides a once in a parliament opportunity for Nick Clegg to revive the fortunes of the Liberal party on an issue that isn’t part of the coalition agreement.
There are few groups as secretive as the Bilderberg group, the axis of politicians and industrialists that meet in secret every year and have been credited by some as the secret power behind the European Union and US administration. It is likely that both Peter Mandelson and George Osborne will be amongst the 130 or so attendees just as they were last year but there will be no discussions about Bilderberg during the election debates. The CEO of Google attended too in 2009.
It is unclear how influential this group actually is, but clandestine cabals run counter to the ideas of democracy. Their ability however to operate under the radar is being unravelled by the social web. Although it doesn’t appear to be published anywhere (official or otherwise) this blog reveals where the next meeting of the Bildergroup will take place. It took ten minutes to find out. Here’s how.
The Dolce Sitges is fully booked for all those dates, although every other hotel in the town has rooms. The Dolce is also away from the main town, on a cliff to and accessible via a single, easy to secure, road. Call us conspiracy theorists if you like but if you encounter Osborne or Mandelson on the campaign trail ask them if they’re planning a trip to Spain together this summer.
Back in February we speculated as to whether Sarah Brown’s twitter account might form part of Labour’s social media election strategy. It is difficult to see how it can play a major part but it will continue help to soften Gordon’s image and it is likely add significantly to its 1.1 million followers in the next four weeks.
There is no doubt that this is Sarah’s account but it does show significant signs of being ‘managed’. Her follower numbers have been in steady decline this year – possibly bots being removed – but went into increase yesterday on the eve of the election call.
Either way, if you check the video above Sarah has made it clear she’s going to keep on tweeting.
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.
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.
When David Cameron met Christian O’Connell on Absolute Radio and uttered the now infamous comment when O’Connell asked him why he didn’t use Twitter, he boobed big time. The Tory leader’s utterance “The trouble with Twitter… too many twits might make a twat.” may prove to be a far bigger faux pas than originally thought and for quite different reasons.
By branding users of the social network as twats he effectively curbed his party’s ability to make the most of the social network. In short if you are a Tory MP on twitter the leader thinks you might be a bit of a twat. The ‘twat effect’ is now becoming evident as Tory MPs fall behind on the network that was one of the social media pillars of the Obama campaign. Tweetminster delivered a breakdown of MPs (and MEPs) today that put the Tories 5 points behind Labour.
The party breakdown of politicians (MPs + PPCs) on Twitter was as follows:
- Labour 34%
- Conservative 29%
- Liberal Democrat 24%
- Others 13%
If you look at the latest share of tweets the Tory party is in third place with just 18% behind Labour and the Liberal Democrats. This election wont be won or lost on twitter by any stretch of the imagination but is does seem a little naive to immobilize a key platform just to get down with the kids.
On Saturday the Tory Party launched a web assault on Gordon Brown with a site called Cash Gordon. The site highlighted Brown’s links to the Unite union and invited users to play to earn ‘action points’ by tweeting about the campaign. When the lobby for cash story broke Cash Gordon started to gain significant interest.
At the time of writing Cash Gordon is no more and the URL is directed at the news pages of the main Conservative site.
Facebook has pitched into the election space with Democracy UK, a campaign page that will carry information from the political parties in the run-up to the vote. The sister of Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s director of market development, Randi Zuckerberg (above) is overseeing the launch. The political parties are also starting to target Facebook with ad campaigns.
Facebook was a pivotal space in the run up to the last US presidential election but so far it hasn’t gained the same traction in the UK – partly because our elections are less focussed on individuals and more on parties. The US primaries also mean that the process is ‘live’ for several months. When the UK election is called there will be less than four weeks for the campaign to run. Whilst many regard social media as instant the truth is that it takes months for the bandwagon to roll on sites like twitter and Facebook.
Democracy UK is and attempt to garner interest amongst the UK’s 24 million Facebook users but its a tough challenge – the page has less than 100 fans at lunchtime on launch day and it is heavy in information and light on applications.
Much has been made of the Tories’ foray into the web on a national stage. There’s an in-depth feature about the party’s on-line strategy in this month’s edition of Wired – print version only so rush out and buy.
The Conservative Party is clearly also taking the fight to the doorstep. Marginal seats are where the election is lost and won. This poster site was snapped at Hazel Grove station at the weekend. Hazel Grove and Cheadle, the constituency immediately adjacent are both marginals. On the bottom left there’s a URL for http://www.annesleyabercorn.com a site dedicated to Annesley Abercorn the Tory candidate. This strategy is being replicated across the marginal seats.
A quick look at the site and you can see that it’s rich in social media content. Centre stage is a YouTube clip featuring a constituency pub, a local pie-shop and a quick interview with the Coronation Street stalwart Bill Roache (Ken Barlow to you). There are interviews with local people and a clip with the party leader sounding as if he actually know a bit about the place. There’s also a link to a Facebook page.
Slightly less compelling given that Annesley is a Londoner is the endorsement from Boris Johnson, oh and the London Bus that they have given him for the campaign. I guess there’s local and local.