The battle for command and control of the Labour Party

Coming next month to an internet-connected device near you is LabourList.org, a new online presence for the Labour Party with social media at its heart.

LabourList’s strapline says “Where Labour minded people come together,” a good indicator of what to expect:

[…] LabourList aims to provide a platform for debate for every level of our movement, and for those who disagree with us. To encourage this discussion, we’ll have access to and insight from government ministers; we’ll host voices from the fringe and from the traditional media; and we’ll have regular reports from the grassroots that make our movement so powerful.

[…] LabourList will add to the already expanding network of progressive new media forces – Obama-style virtual phone banking drives, ministerial webchats and new blogs – that will help us spread our message and connect with people in this New Year.

My wholly uncynical reaction is to say these are excellent objectives and I wish success to everyone involved.

But as this is all about politics, the cynical (pragmatist) side of me wonders about things like “insight from government ministers” and what that might actually mean.

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A good example is Business Secretary Peter Mandelson, one of the featured bloggers on the site and no doubt a key provider of insight.

Actually, the first thing I noticed when I visited LabourList is this snappy Second Life avatar of Peter Mandelson.

It’s very good, an uncannily-accurate render of the real life version (photo).

So Mandy already has a post up entitled “In new media command and control doesn’t work: we need to embrace and engage.”

He’s either been drinking some Kool-aid recently or whoever drafted it has as the post starts into its messaging in a folksy, conversational style:

[…] In government what matters above all else is not what you say but what you do. That is why Gordon, Alistair and myself have been, with our colleagues, working around the clock to put in place the measures we need to get through this downturn in the best and fairest way.

And with disarming self-confidence, he’s claiming some serious social media chops as he fires a shot across the bows of the traditional thinkers in the Labour Party:

[..] I have blogged before, when I was a European Commissioner at the WTO Doha Ministerial meeting in Geneva last July, and I enjoyed it. But in this, my first UK political blog, I want to say something about how we get our message out in these modern times. Because the world has changed since 1997. Now, no-one has been more identified with message and campaigning discipline than myself, something that makes me rather proud, I have to say, because, during the 1980s, I saw the Labour party repeatedly let down its voters by failing to win the battle with the Tories and the media. Back then we were in hand-to-hand combat with an almost universally hostile press but sometimes we were our own worst enemy.

Terrific stuff. Some great comments already, including this one (no link to individual comments, a pity):

Not command and control? This from the party that wants to intercept everyone’s phone calls, intercept everyone’s e-mails, intercept everyone’s internet browsing, fingerprint everyone in the country?

Let the battle commence!

(Via Stuart Bruce.)

Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.

  1. Al Shaw

    It’s really quite funny what a hash of it Derek Draper is making already – see his comments further down the page. He hasn’t really understood that these environments are supposed to be a bit rougher round the edges to what he’s used to. Given his background as a spin doctor (whose role is to control the message), he’s hardly a wise choice for what appears to be some kind of moderator. Otherwise the site’s a decent idea, provided it becomes a place where genuine conversation takes place, rather than simply a new way of broadcasting the official line.

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