PR podcasting

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.



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 and

Advocacy award: PledgeBank

Accessibility award: Commission for Social Care Inspection

Independent information award: OpenDemocracy. Highly commended: (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.

Contribution to civil society: Highly commended: Patient Opinion.


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”.