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Posts tagged ‘Brown’

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Social Media and Political Campaigning

Hazel Blears’ Observer piece this morning makes some strong arguments about the need for the labour party to actually engage with voters. A lot of what she says is eerily similar to John Major’s (undeniable effective) soapbox strategy in the 1992 general election.

I think she picks up on the tendency for organisations (I include private companies in this as well) to see social networking as ‘the solution’. She is clearly not impressed by Gordon Brown’s video message, coining the fantastic phrase “YouTube if you want to”.

YouTube is not ‘the answer’. Social media is the means not the end.

But she misses the point – Blears calls for politicians to spend more time actually engaging with people, hearing their anger. Used correctly, social media offers a fantastic way to do this. Gordon Brown’s problem is not that he’s using social media, it’s that he’s trying to use it in ‘old media’ ways.

That YouTube video is simply a broadcast, something politicians have been doing ever since they invented the radio. Comments have been turn off – it’s about as disengaged as you can possibly get.

A lot of politicians are getting it – where Twitter, Facebook and blogging work well it’s where the publisher engages with other users. People like Tom Harris get this. He interacts with his commentators and gets into the debate on twitter. He isn’t looking at the web as another tool to broadcast but as yet another way to meet with, listen to and engage with voters.

I think the biggest sign that he gets it is that he knows it’s just one of the many methods he needs to be using. He held a town hall meeting in his constituency to listen to his electorate in person.

Everyone looks at Obama’s election victory and get excited about social media – but it wasn’t the web wot won it for Obama – it was engaging with the electorate. Online was the right tool for certain circumstances, but it isn’t a panacea that will solve everything and miraculously win elections.

So Hazel Blears – you’re right, politicians do need to get on their soapbox and engage with the public. But don’t rule out doing that online.

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The perfect storm

Whoever’s behind this knows what they are doing. The plot against Brown is a slickly organised coup, which may yet succeed. 

It’s not been the usual suspects. Barry Gardiner, Joan Ryan and Siobhan McDonagh were hardly regular members of the awkward squad and had all been given jobs by Gordon. Alan Milburn and Stephen Byers have stayed quiet so far (though you can be sure they support what’s going on).  Fiona McTaggart left the Government whilst Blair was still pretty comfortable and had never been seen as a likely rebel.  

What’s been impressive about this is how they have kept the story going day after day. A single letter (like the attempted plot to oust Blair) didnt work because it went away.  This is both capitalising on the pressure that already exists around Brown and playing the news agenda perfectly. Dripping out names and interviews day after day has ensured this story will stay in the news agenda (and all but killed the Lib Dem conference). 

Tonight they started to play their trump cards. The Standard quoted an unnamed Minister of State saying

“For the leadership to present this debate as just a dozen disaffected people is just ridiculous. By far the biggest group of Labour MPs, in my experience, is people who think he must go – and the only question that divides them is when.” http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/standard/article-23555688-details/Ministers+set+to+quit+as+pressure+grows+on+PM/article.do

And now the BBC have this minister (probably the same one) saying: 

There just comes a point where you say, ‘I can’t go on lying’, you can’t go on saying ‘I think Gordon Brown is the man to lead us to victory’ when you don’t believe it.

They’ve played their hand now, they’ll have to resign before they are sacked. 
Now this isn’t yet a cabinet minister, but if one of those plays their hand then it surely is all over.
Gordon Brown may still attempt the speech of his life in Manchester (I don’t think he has it in him) but if he loses a cabinet minister it could be his Geoffrey Howe moment – he should watch out for savaging sheep.
This story is going on and on, and I can’t see how it can end well for Brown.