New media changing 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


    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.”


    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.”


    Thursday, 8 June 2006 

    Bloggers could have their own area at the Conservatives’ annual conference in a sign of a growing influence of Tory internet networks.

    Blogs such as the ConservativeHome website are increasingly popular and seen as a way of understanding Tory thinking as the party plans its policy.

    Tory blogger Iain Dale said plans for a conference blogging area showed how attitudes were changing.

    Conservative headquarters have yet to confirm the plans.

    But Mr Dale told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme about the idea, which could give Tory bloggers the chance to “meet their audience”.

    “It just shows the power and influence that some blogs are having on the political process generally and on the Conservative Party in particular,” he said.

    ‘Connecting people’

    The move would follow the US, where bloggers now appear routinely at political conventions.

    The Democrats political convention in 2004 was the first time that bloggers were accredited to attend – with a launch by presidential candidate Howard Dean. The Republicans have followed suit.

    Former Iain Duncan Smith aide Tim Montgomerie visited Washington earlier this year to explore how political campaigners were using the internet in the US.

    Mr Montgomerie is editor of ConservativeHome.

    He pointed to how his website had been able to piece together the confidential Tory A-list of candidates earmarked for winnable seats.

    “Before, every Conservative activist in the country was very disconnected from the other activists but now through ConservativeHome and other blogs they can all join together,” said Mr Montgomerie, who was aide to former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith.

    Conservative MP Michael Gove likened the blogs to the daily scandal sheets handed from journalists to power brokers in centuries past.

    “One of the secrets that most MPs have is how much time they actually spend visiting many of these blogs,” he said.

    “I don’t think it’s necessarily an obsession but I do think the blogs perform an enormously useful service.”

    Mr Gove warned that the range of views on the blogs should not be seen as representative of the Conservative Party as a whole.

    Instead, they were “the views of those who are either ideologically fired up enough to post or those insomniacs who have nothing better to do than to share with us their views of the political world at three in the morning”.


    YouTube is beginning to change politics, as the rising new Internet service is making it easy for anyone to make video available. Short video clips with political messages are chipping away at another Old Media monopoly, the political ad. Back in the old days, as far back as a year ago, you had to have a big budget to produce and air a political ad. Limited time spots for such ads on broadcast and cable TV made them expensive. But like other upstarts like online auctions and blogging, cheap video distribution is rewriting the rules. Industry old-timers are criticizing this new competition; while it is true it is easy to put a false and/or misleading political video on YouTube, that is hardly a new phenomenon. It’s easy to find Old Media examples of wretched excess in political ads dating back a hundred years or more. Politics in the 1800s was a bare knuckles fist fight compared to the relatively sedate mudslinging that goes on today. When the powerbrokers who have the most to lose start shooting the messenger (YouTube and its innumerable imitators), you know there is something to it.