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Posts of the day

5 Jan


1. NSIDC: Lowest December Arctic sea ice extent in satellite record – The cold may make the news, but it ain’t the story

2. Oliver Sipple: It’s Time to Recognize His Heroism

3.VAT: Robin Hood in reverse. Forget reducing the deficit, the coalition’s real objective seems to be to take from the poor and give to the rich


Pragmatism in Politics

26 Jun

What happened on that 24 hour period in Australia had to happen, it’s that simple. I was an admirer of Kevin Rudd during the first two years of his term as PM, however, it was clearly starting to unravel. The placement of the ETS on the back-burner; the awful messaging surrounding the Mining Super Tax; the number of times the Coalition were let of the hook despite some hideous mistakes including Julia Bishop’s horrendous national security passport gaffe; Tony Abbott’s numerous mistakes culminating in his statement on the 730 report that in the heat of the moment, not everything he says can be considered gospel; the complete lack of effective policy from the Coalition. As Gillard stated, this was a good government that had lost its way and the Coalition now will have a brand new, re-energised foe to face.

What the ALP must do is reconnect with the electorate.The public must understand what the Government is fighting for and why. The Government has the ammunition to blunt any of the Coalitions economic arguments and this ammunition should be used constantly. overtime the Opposition mention the debt, the Government should be screaming from the rafters that the ALP got Australia through the second worse economic crisis the world has ever faced. Australia’s forecast of being out of debt in three years has the rest of the world green with envy. Sure, the Government had to spend money to stimulate the economy, but it worked. Sure Australia have briefly gone into debt, but the fact that the economy was handled so well, employment never went as high as was forecast, debt never went as high as forecast, borrowing never went as high as forecast and Australian is in great shape because of the ALP. We will soon be out of debt and far from any  The ALP should scream this, often, frequently, until they are horse.

The ETS must be brought back and fought for at the next election, completely blowing away any chance the Coalition will have to block it in the Senate because there will be a clear mandate. The Coalition should be tarnished as the party of no and a party willing to play dangerous games with the nation’s future by putting climate change as an issue of little importance. The Greens have to be attacked as the Party of our way or the highway and as being just as responsible for the blocking of the ETS as the Coalition. This will get the ALP’s environmental credentials back and would mean votes would stop leaking to the Greens.

The Super Mining Tax is a good tax, but it must be communicated in an effective understandable way. It should be framed as the People’s Resources Fund, not a ‘Super’ tax on miners, which is currently how it sounds.It is necessary, it will help our economy and the voters agree that money derived from our resources should stay in Australia. But it needs to be sold properly.

A discussion surrounding a pull-out date for Afghanistan will also help. With casualty numbers up, people are losing faith in the war and Karzai. Obama, Cameron and NATO as a whole are discussing a pull out date, so should we.

Gillard is an excellent choice and will be a brilliant leader of the ALP and the country. She is strong, frank and very Australian. She doesn’t act or sound like the academic that Rudd did, despite being incredibly intelligent and exceptionally politically savvy. Being the first ever woman will naturally be a positive for half of the electorate and I believe the other half will soon catch up.

She has fought Abbot on numerous occasions and has generally won more often than not. She will be able to take the fight back to him, question his odd statements and show him to be the extreme right leader he is. Already, the Coalition are playing a dangerous game by attacking the ALP for having blood on its hands – Abbott is the third Coalition leader in three years – people can do the maths.

If the ALP can get this messaging right, they can regain their popularity and win the next election convincingly. It will be hard and it will be a lot of work, but they can do it.

Polls just keep on tightening

26 Feb

According to, the latest MORI report is down to 5. I’m looking forward to being in Brighton, campaigning for the Labour Campaign for International Development during the Tory Spring Conference. It will certainly be interesting.

Effective adocacy ads, other people’s suggestions

12 Feb

More to follow.

Sorry – I’ve been busy, but that’s no excuse

10 Feb

My sincerest apologies for not blogging in so so long. This is exactly what I would advise a blogger should never do, but I guess I’ll have to live with a do as I say, not as I do philosophy for now.

Just to give you a brief update of my last  weeks, I have been;

  • Helping out with Sadiq Khan MP’s campaign in Tooting. It feels good here, I think we will win it and Mark Clarke and the Tories seem increasingly all over the place. We had the Tooting Action Day last week which was about 6 hours of canvassing and envelope stuffing. Sounds awful, but it is great to hang out with people as passionate as I am. Plus it is a pleasure to help out Sadiq any way I can. Bring on the election.
  • I’ve been helping manage the launch of the Labour Campaign for International Development. I’m election and media manager for the group and again, it is great to work with people who share my passions. I won’t go into too much detail, but follow my link and you can get a good idea of what we’ve put into place.
  • I’ve been reading. Firstly Kafka’s  The Trial irritating. Secondly David Plouffe’s story of how he managed Obama’s campaign in the brilliant The Audacity to Win – read it.
  • I’ve been saving the world. Work has been fantastic, I’ve been seeing the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Pneumococcal Disease Prevention in the Developing World transition itself to the APPG for Global Action against Childhood Pneumonia as well as partaking in some pretty high-profile campaigns, which I probably shouldn’t discuss here.
  • I’ve been watching Mad Men, brilliant.
  • I’ve been planning some holidays, I’m looking forward to it

There’s plenty more, I’ll add to this list when I think about it. I’ll add hyperlinks soon too.

The mother of digital parliaments

5 Nov

By Nick Osborne and Ged Carroll

The Internet has been changing every facet of modern life, even the mother of parliaments (at least to a certain extent anyway).  An exact state of affairs at parliament would be tricky to gauge, as innovation seems to be happening in different places.

Examples include the recent guide to Twitter, published by Neil Williams, head of corporate digital channels at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), which outlined how the micro-blogging service could be used to share policy information and engage the general public around issues of interest.

The main political parties have shown enthusiasm in adopting social media as well, although this hasn’t necessarily translated across to their respective Parliamentary Members where there is the more familiar range of adoption patterns from early adopters to laggards to complete technophobes. Pretty much every Member of Parliament and election candidate not contesting a safe seat has a web presence of some sort, whether that is through a party backed website, or through extensive social media branding.  Most of these are run through constituency or Westminster offices however, there are few MPs who are leading the way in the digital space.

Amongst the social media front-runners are:

Apart from the lack of uptake of social media tools across the Parliament as a whole, the biggest area where there seems to be a lack of understanding about social media is that it is a conversation. Although Twitter lends itself nicely to sound bites there doesn’t seem to be that much political engagement going on. There also doesn’t seem to be that much awareness about the impact of what they can be talking about. For instance, one MP recently complained about the workload required to deal with constituents.  In another case, an automatic news feed on Peter Hain’s Facebook page prominently displayed an embarrassing piece of coverage.

Peter Hain's Facebook Feed

Despite the high profile digital campaign of Barack Obama, the US generally isn’t anywhere near the level of near universal digital and social media adoption that one would expect. For example only 29.5 per cent of US Congress members and Senators are on Twitter – 123 House members and 35 Senators out of a possible total of 535. .

But the fact is, the next election is going to be a hard fought campaign and this is likely to have a transformative effect on digital politics as a new generation of politicians come through.

So where is the opportunity in digital for parliamentary and public affairs campaigns?

The most obvious use of social media is for campaigning as it is easy to demonstrate support for a cause, through re-tweets or number of members in a Facebook group.  Social media both facilitates and reveals groundswells of popular support. Nixon’s famous silent majority, are no longer silent or invisible to politicians.

For electoral candidates, Obama’s secret was always to tweet asks and Calls-to-Action and this should be harnessed by MPs or PPCs. There is no particular need for an MP to tweet about what they are having for breakfast, although the ‘inane’ tweets do personalise the tweeter so they can be beneficial.

But the key is, actively engage and converse with users online by asking supporters, party members and voters to do something. Come to my rally, get one friend to help deliver leaflets, donate £5 to the party, come knock on doors with me. Tweets like these that actively call for support and include the public are far more likely to help the candidate get elected.

This method of personalised engagement and Calls-to-Action can also be harnessed for out and out public affairs campaigns. It isn’t something that will transfer well to asking for support for a bank’s or defence company’s campaign, because the public will always be wary of sinister motives. But it will transfer brilliantly to campaigns surrounding NGOs, charities, patient groups, green and sustainability projects, local engagement and welfare organisations due to the need to rally support through calls-to-action.

A second and underrated factor is providing content for researchers. Like the rest of the UK, parliamentary researchers will often hit Google as their first point of call when finding out about a new subject and developing a point-of-view for their MP. Providing the freshest, most relevant content around a particular area, particularly if it has an industry rather than a specific corporate slant is one of the best ways to influence from a digital point-of-view.

There has been an increasing level of political social media analysis in the recent months. Tweetminister essentially aggregates tweets by Members of Parliament, as well as blogs on interesting issues surrounding communication and an open Parliament while the Hansard Society has recently published a report into the use of Facebook by MPs.

We would love to hear your views on the matter, so please feel free to leave comments.

Cross posted with Ruder Finn Dot Comms.

British MPs start to communicate

7 Jul
John Prescott's twitter page

John Prescott's twitter page

I was just pointed to a really interesting gallery on The Independent’s website titled Twitter’s speedy move to the centre of politics. The gallery is compiled with the help from the team at Tweetminister, which is a really useful resource that lists all tweeting MPs and Prospective Parliamentary Candidates (PPCs).

What I really find interesting about it and is obviously the point of the gallery, is the evolution of twitter use by Parliamentarians. Initially, when I first joined twitter around 18 months ago, I think there were only one, maybe two MPs tweeting. Now according to the Independent, there are at least 66 MPs tweeting – 10% of the Commons. What’s even more exciting is that the vast majority of those MPs are active tweeters. Sure you have MPs such as @HarrietHarman who hasn’t tweeted since May and there is Shahid Malik (@DewsburyMP) who has never posted, but you also have avid users such as Kerry McCarthy [Lab] – Bristol East with 2623 updates, Jo Swinson [LD] – East Dunbartonshire with 1503 and of course Tom Watson [Lab] – West Bromwich East with 2368. There are apparently also 13 Ministers tweeting away.

Some MPs have even got so involved they have tinted their profiles green in support of the Iranian protestors. This may be a slightly questionable in terms of foreign policy decisions, but the fact is these MPs actively involved in the political social media revolution.

Most surprisingly, possibly in the majority of cases, it is actually them tweeting and not a researcher hidden away in Portcullis house as proven by @JoSwinson who tweets from the Chamber. And they reply if you contact them.

So the moral here is that there is a growing awareness of the power of twitter and social media in Westminster and this is surely going to grow. Twitter, facebook and other tools are becoming more and more legitimate ways to contact and engage with MPs and other key decision makers. I can only guess about what is to come especially in the lead up to the General Election.

Cross posted with Ruder Finn Dot Comms