podcasting and Politics

By Brendan Carlin, Political Correspondent

Last Updated: 2:15am GMT 24/11/2006

  • Video: The Tories ‘sort-it’

    With a use of language that does not spare the blushes of traditional Tory activists, the party has launched an internet campaign called “the inner tosser”.

      Homepage of the 'Sort-it' website
    Personal debt is just the first of a number of topics that will be featured on the site

    The so-called “viral ad” campaign is the first of series designed to reach younger voters via the internet.

    Mr Cameron, at 40 the youngest by far of the main party leaders, has set great store on using the internet to target young people.

    Francis Maude, the party chairman, has also claimed the “blogosphere” for the Tories, claiming Right-leaning bloggers dominate the political internet.

    The new campaign features a video showing a young man being persuaded to spend beyond his means by an evil sidekick – “the tosser within” – who embodies his worst impulses.


    Click to learn more...

    It shows the man being persuaded to use his credit card to buy clothes and shoes as well as huge flat-screen television.

    “Two years’ interest-free credit – what do you care? You could be dead by then!” advises the evil friend.

    The young man finally buys a sports car, before being advised to curb his “inner tosser”, a slang expression with a variety of meanings.

    The campaign has been created by Ben Bilboul of advertising agency Karmarama, which was behind David Hasselhoff’s recent “King of the internet” campaign for Pipex.

    Mr Cameron, a former PR executive at Carlton, today justified the campaign.

    He said: “We know that we need to reach out to people disengaging from the political process.

    “We are launching ‘Sort it’, an innovative and provocative internet-based campaign designed to encourage young people to think about their own social responsibilities.

    “The first issue we have chosen is personal debt, but many more will be addressed in the months ahead, such as racism and homelessness.”

  • source


    3 November 2006 

    Woman watching podcast

    The SNP is seeking to target the younger generation

    A hi-tech video plea to voters using podcasting technology has been launched by the Scottish National Party.Party leader Alex Salmond will be hosting regular podcasts over the next six months in an effort to reach young voters, graduates and professionals.

    The Scottish Executive has already moved into the realm of MP3 downloads, with selected events and first minister’s questions available online.

    UK Conservative leader David Cameron has also started his own video weblog.

    ‘Target graduates’

    The SNP’s podcast, filmed in Glasgow’s George Square, was also published on the YouTube website.

    “With an estimated one in four 25 to 40 year-olds with MP3 players such as Apple’s iPod, the SNP is using this media to target graduates and young professionals,” the party said.

    “Polling confirms this age group as the strongest supporters of independence and the SNP is wooing these voters with a pledge to lift the burden of student debt from thousands of young Scots and their families.”

    The Nationalists are planning a series of podcasts in the run-up to the 3 May Holyrood and local elections.


    I’ve just spent a surreal 30 minutes over at ‘webcameron’, the brilliantly named, and cunningly contrived attempt, to portray Conservative party leader and Prime Ministerial hopeful David Cameron, as both web-savvy and stylishly informal.

    My initial impressions, are that an awful awful lot of focus group planning, and  My-Space market research has gone into moulding and shaping something designed to look, as if it was thrown together by a happy accident.

    The whole site has the kind of low-level polish, that you would normally associate with something like a boy band or an MTV ‘reality’ show. You get a sense that the people involved in its creation have spent both hundreds of thoughtful hours, and tens of thousands of pounds, creating just the right level of ‘amateur chic’ to appeal to their target demographic.

    Like almost everything else created by our modern political leaderships, it’s amazingly short on depth, and frighteningly long on surface. It also seems to foreshadow the next staged electoral farce. Where we will probably see the lumbering Labour party lizards, led by the terribly dour and terminally uncool Gordon Brown, battling a fresh-faced version of the old boy Etonian Tory network, reinvented for the 21st Century, and fronted by the awkward hipster chic of Mr David Cameron.

    Judging by this early effort, it promises to be both a truly bizarre spectacle and a well planned foregone conclusion. All the early running has Cameron ahead by a very long political mile.

    The British political establishment and those who give them their marching orders, are well aware of the damaged credibility, and shortening shelf life of this present government. Currently mired in an unpopular war, and damaged by years of lying, it seems unlikely that they will be able to carry off another electoral term, without exposing the elite’s policy agenda to a level of unnecessary scrutiny.

    Thus it is, that with the launch of ‘webcameron’, we are beginning to see the pointless political posturing and positioning, that is the prelude to a changing of the political guard. One designed to placate the restless disaffection of the British public, and to convince us all that we really do live in a truly interactive and representative democratic society. The truth of course, is something very far away from this, and no amount of clever contrivances can disguise the shallow and callous centre at the heart of the British political machine.


    Good guys, including YouGov founder Stefan Shakespeare and Politico’s founder Iain Dale, plan to launch Britain’s first political Internet TV Channel on 10 October.

    18DoughtyStreet Talk TV will broadcast for four hours a night, Mondays to Thursdays, from studios in London’s Bloomsbury with a mix of live and pre-recorded programmes. It aims to stir up current affairs television with a mix of opinionated and controversial programming. Because it goes out on the internet, it is not bound by the political balance rules.

    The station is currently prospecting for e-reporters, and aims to build a network of 100 nationwide and worldwide citizen journalist reporters, each equipped with their own camcorder, to film reports for 18DoughtyStreet’s broadcasts.

    Daily votes on the station’s website will determine which news stories headline each programme, and viewers will see live blog streaming as they watch the presenters.

    The channel says that “conventional political TV has let down its audience by dumbing down political debate to the lowest common denominator” and looks forward to “championing rebel opinions in all of the mainstream parties and constantly questioning authority”.

    Source – Adam Smith Institute

    5 October 2006

    Tony Blair with Bill Clinton

    Bill Clinton (R) gave a speech at this year’s main conference

    The Labour Party is to ditch its annual spring conference next year in favour of a series of smaller “seminars and consultations” across the UK.Party bosses said shelving the 2007 party meeting in Glasgow would help to involve more people in policy-making and was not designed to save money.

    Blogs and podcasts would be used to broaden “online engagement” with the new “interactive party”, they said.

    The party had debts of about £28m earlier this year.

    While the main conference was held in Manchester in September, some 3,000 delegates had been expected in the Scottish city next spring.

    ‘Record bloggers’

    Labour’s National Executive Committee said it had decided to take politics “out to the country”.

    The committee said the Manchester conference had seen “a record number of bloggers and podcasts”.

    “The change of format will involve the largest-ever number of people in our discussions on future policy priorities.”

    Peter Watt, Labour’s general secretary, said he was “excited” about the plans.

    “The Labour Party has always led the way in reforming its structures and outreach to involve the largest possible number of people in policy-making,” he said.

    “This new approach will allow us to involve the greatest-ever number of party members and supporters in the preparation of what will become our next manifesto.”


    25 July 2006

    Derek Wyatt's website

    Derek Wyatt says his site shows people what he does

    Politicians should use the internet to fight cynicism among voters, said Labour MP Derek Wyatt as he scooped an award for his website.Mr Wyatt won the elected representative section at the New Statesman magazine’s new media awards.

    He said websites could help MPs show their constituents what they did and how they could make a difference.

    Environment Secretary David Miliband was highly commended in the competition for his recently-started blog.

    The judges said Mr Wyatt had used new technologies on his site to communicate with local constituents.

    “His mix of weekly blog entries and podcasts provide users with a variety of means to keep updated on Wyatt’s work and local issues,” they said.

    ‘Working hard’

    Mr Wyatt said about 10,000 people visited the website every week, with 60,000 weekly hits.

    In the last few days he had been able to post emails from constituents thanking him for getting money from a benefits agency for them.

    “People can see the effectiveness of my office and it shows them that we are not all cynical politicians buying cowboy boots,” he told BBC News in a clear reference to John Prescott.

    “Some of us are working very hard.”

    Mr Wyatt is now planning to run more podcasts to see if he can get greater numbers of younger people interested in the site.

    Democratic conduit

    Other winners at the awards included the WriteToThem website, which helps people find and contact their local councillors, MPs, MEPs, MSPs, Welsh or London Assembly members for free.

    The site, which is run by the charity MySociety, won the contribution to civil society award.

    Judges said it was a “wonderful example of a service which the government could provide”.

    “WriteToThem is a superb conduit for democracy and the exchange of ideas via the 21st Century’s technological world,” they said.

    Other winners were:

    Education award: Sonic postcards. Highly commended http://www.filmstreet.co.uk and http://mapzone.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/giszone.

    Advocacy award: PledgeBank

    Accessibility award: Commission for Social Care Inspection

    Independent information award: OpenDemocracy. Highly commended: http://www.foia.blogspot.com (about the Freedom of Information Act)

    Innovation: BBC Backstage. Highly commended: Readspeaker Podcaster

    Modernising government: Love Lewisham. Highly commended: Stop Crime – Devon and Cornwall Police. http://www.stopcrime.co.uk/

    Contribution to civil society: Highly commended: Patient Opinion.


    29 September 2006

    Scottish Executive podcast page

    One podcast was downloaded just eight times

    Attempts by ministers to tap into the online generation with downloads to mp3 players have been criticised by an MSP.Figures obtained by the Scottish Conservatives showed eight people downloaded a podcast of a recent sports summit at Stirling University.

    Tory MSP Derek Brownlee questioned the amount spent on creating the downloads when “the figures are so poor”.

    A Scottish Executive spokesman said the service had only recently started and he expected it to grow in popularity.

    Finance Minister Tom McCabe revealed the figures in an answer to a parliamentary question.

    Handheld device

    The figures also showed 16 downloads for a recent schools junk food event and 32 for the Athletes Commission for the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

    The first audio podcast of First Minister’s Questions was made available on 7 September and the second on 14 September.

    Over these eight days, there were 580 downloads.

    Mr Brownlee said that after registering his query on 14 September, the number of downloads for the Stirling event, attended by sports minister Patricia Ferguson, jumped from eight to 90.

    This included one download by the executive’s web team.

    Mr Brownlee, the Tory finance spokesman, said: “In the four days after I submitted my questions the number of downloads of Patricia Ferguson’s Sport Summit increased eleven-fold.

    “Were civil servants and party workers ordered home to top up the original embarrassing answer of eight?”

    Mr Brownlee added: “It is concerning that the figures are so poor and, as of yet, we do not know how much money has been spent on the project.”


    Handheld devices are used to make the downloads

    Podcasts – web-based broadcasts which can be downloaded to a mobile or handheld device such as an iPod – were first posted on the executive website on 8 September.

    Mr Brownlee has requested information about the cost of the scheme from ministers.

    An executive spokesman said the service had been developed in-house at no additional cost.

    “To suggest that executive staff have been ordered to download ministerial podcasts to boost numbers is complete nonsense,” he said.

    “We make no apology for trying to engage with different audiences through modern technology.”


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