On digital defects and other political gaps

Of all the continuing reporting, commentary, op-eds and general opinion about the Damian McBride affair aka Smeargate that I’ve been reading, an opinion piece by PR Week editor Danny Rogers in today’s Guardian is pretty good.

Rogers assesses the current gap between Labour and the Conservatives in how each party sees, even understands, social media and how it works in political communication.

[…] The problem is that the rules have changed. Now [Labour] find themselves up against a band of opinion-formers that includes [Paul] Staines and his fellow rightwing blogger Iain Dale. This is a new war, fought against bloggers who operate independently of political parties or media owners. They are not reliant on being spoon-fed stories. They are not worth suing, because they don’t have much money. Moreover, this is a war fought with collaborative hyperlinks, hashtags and smartphones. It is certainly no less dirty – at the time of writing we still don’t know how Staines obtained McBride’s offending email – but at the moment it is a war that the right is clearly winning.

To be fair, the Labour movement hasn’t ignored the new media revolution. It underestimated the power of blogs for too long, enabling Staines, Dale and even Tim Montgomerie’s ConservativeHome to have a clear run. But in the past 18 months, under its deputy general secretary, Alicia Kennedy, Labour’s online team has been allowed to grow and to innovate. Inspired by the success of Obama and the US Democrats, Kennedy has latterly embraced online campaigning. Her resources have been bolstered by various consultants and No 10’s web guru, Mark Flanagan, the man who even got Gordon Twittering.

Hmm, “got Gordon twittering”? I assume that’s a little bit of journalistic license on Rogers’ part as Gordon Brown certainly isn’t twittering (although his wife Sarah is). Rather, it’s the communications team at Number 10 who have the @downingstreet Twitter ID.

Still, Rogers’ feature is well worth reading in its entirety.

Incidentally, if you search for ‘Smeargate’ on Wikipedia, look where the search result redirects you to.

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.

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