Archive | April, 2009

Bloggers snipe, voters turn off and tune out

29 Apr

Well, it has happened, the first big UK political name has been brought down by British bloggers. I won’t go into a detailed discussion on the events because if you are reading this post, you will likely know the story (here is a good synopsis here in the Telegraph).  But to quickly recap, Damian McBride, a senior figure within Downing Street, albeit behind the scenes, has been brought down by the power of blogging and it looks like another senior Labour character, Derek Draper, is also losing in the battle of the bloggers between his blog, Labour List and Paul Staines, who runs the conservative blog, Guido Fawkes.

The point I want to make here, instead of getting into the history of “Emailgate”, is that both Labour and the Tories are seemingly struggling to understand how to campaign online and their efforts seem all very ad hoc with no real direction. Draper himself admitted only in February that he didn’t know the difference between “my RSS from my elbow” and from my standpoint, there has very little positive interaction with the voting public so far. While Guido Fawkes, as the name suggests, is just trying to bring down the Labour Government, although his aim is to replace it with a Conservative one and doesn’t have the anarchic goals of his namesake.

Its obvious Labour has set up their web presence to try and get some kind of Obamaesque traction on the blogosphere and from voters, after all, I may be cynical, but it is an awfully big coincidence that Draper and Co. devised Labour List in November, around the time of Obama’s victory. And as I have mentioned in a previous blog, the Conservative’s seem to be behind in this regard.

However, Labour List, Guido Fawkes and Iain Dale, another high-profile Conservative blogger, seem to just snipe and battle each other from across the political spectrum. While this is interesting from the point of view of a political junkie like myself, Becky McMichael, a colleague and fellow blogger, put it perfectly – they are just preaching to the converted.

There is no real engagement, no real message, no grass roots campaigning, no real harnessing of support from people who don’t already support either party.

There is a new post on Labour List by Mark Hansen titled “Labour is gaining fast online: Don’t let Guido wreck it“, where the author states “Just ten days ago a ragbag group of Labour bloggers and campaigners was gathered (organised by Derek Draper) to offer ideas as to how to build the resources on Labourlist and make it more useful to Party members at constituency level. How to build this Labour-minded community.”

Mr Hansen has summed up Labour’s and the other party’s problem quite succinctly without knowing it – they are trying to engage with Party members and registered supporters. These people won’t win you an election, it is the swinging voters who get you elected, any student of electoral politics will tell you that.  They must deliver their message outward, not just inward.

Peter Mandelson wrote in his first blog on Labour List about new media and the fact that “we have to recognise that the days of command and control are over. Instead we need to learn to embrace and engage.” I guess they are still learning.

Cross posted with Ruder Finn Dot Comms.


Budget 2009 – Something to smile about.

22 Apr

The doom and gloom budget has been published, but in terms of international development how bad was it?

According to the Department for International Development (DFID) the Government has confirmed that Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) will remain at £9.1billion as previously pledged. This is despite an expenditure cut of £155m.

All in all, for a budget in dire economic times, during preparation for an election in 12 months and when a Chancellor has to admit he will be raising taxes not long after – that is a pretty good result.

But before you get too excited, there are a couple of things to remember. Firstly, with a shrinking economy, 0.7% of GNI (Gross National Income)isn’t as much now as it was a year ago. Secondly, these figures are forecasted rather than actual i.e. it’s all just educated guess work, so we will see how on track the UK actually is to meeting these targets next budget. If the economy contracts even further unexpectedly or if the economy suddenly booms, we will see how these figures stack up.

But most importantly, in terms of percentages, the UK is living up to its promise of meeting the 0.7% GNI target. In 2007, ODA was 0.36% GNI (£4.921bn) which grew to 0.43% (£6.306bn) in 2008. The £9.1bn pledge is significant and hopefully, it is a figure that looks like the Government will meet.

So, from this brief vantage point, the Government has listened to itself by promising to continue to help the poorest nations during this financial crisis. At least there was some good news in this budget. Some governments may be tempted to have tightened the purse strings on issues that don’t effect the immediate electorate. But the Government has decided against this.

Organisations like Oxfam are right to be happy.

Cross posted with Ruder Finn Dot Org