Monday, 18 January 2010

Technology will win next elections, not policy - debate notes

This evening I went to a debate with the above title organised by Henry Jackson Society and Delib agency.

Panellists were: Rory Cellan-Jones, Kerry McCarthy MP, Julie Meyer, Bruce Anderson & Rishi Saha, hosted by Danny Alexander MP

The discussion was interesting in a funny way - I felt like I was stuck in 2008. The panellists spent 20 minutes discussing whether enough people in the UK are online for digital to make a difference in the next elections. This is one of the typical arguments of why digital is not important. So bored of hearing it again and again - people in this country spend days online, just look at the Neilsen, Ofcom and other reports. Discussion over. Moving on.

Undoubtedly, political parties accept that they can not ignore digital if they are to engage the voters. The problem is though that they try to engage us in the same way with the same strategies they used to engage us pre web 2.0.

Panellists laughed at the fact that Cadbury's chocolate has more fans than a Labour or Tory Facebook pages. Well, those are your voters so you need to find the way to speak to them. Not with wonkery, but by addressing the issues that they are bothered about/enjoy/consider entertaining. And to gauge this - you go to social networks.

And yes, as Bruce Anderson said, this doesn't mean you do everything they say (like Obama didn't legalize weed just because that was the most prominent campaign on his Citizens briefing book website). It's just that politicians are so scared of openly debating/saying no because they think it'll damage their image. While it's more likely that people will respect them for standing up for what they believe in and/or treating lay people with interest in politics with respect.

So all in all I was disappointed with the level of the debate. Which at moments descended into party-political mud-slinging.
I really expected that people will start with the lessons of the Obama campaign and discuss what could work in this country, with our political parties.

Rory Cellan-Jones said in his 2-minute intro that he fears that the election 2010 digital campaign will result in a virtual Westminster Village. The discussion tonight makes me fear the same.

Stuff that could be of interest

PPCs (224) on Twitter: CON 38% LAB 29% LD 21%
MPs (111) on Twitter: LAB 57% LD 23% CON 14%
Labour online community for the people who care about global issues.
Labour's climate change community.