Friday, December 19, 2008

No one cares. Figure that out and you might get better

This post isn't just directed at this morning's meeting at Labour HQ, it's directed at UK political parties in general. They're all obsessed with harnessing the power of the Internet; they're all convinced that America holds the answer, be it Ron Paul or the Obama campaign.

Reality check time. We are not America and what works there won't work here because the political system and rules are so massively different. Take the last Presidential election as an example. It's an individual beauty show for a start, and this time it has lasted for almost two years. The UK political system cannot compare to that. True, we did have the "permanent campaign" strategy that appears under Messrs Campbell et al, but even that is now becoming weary and tired.

You know what the biggest problem they're missing is though? The vast majority of people couldn't give a rat's arse about politics. Try this little parlour game in a pub, go around and ask people if they care about politics and see how few say they do. I can recall sitting in St Stephen's Tavern once (that's the pub next door to Portcullis House and within spittig distant of Parliament if you didn't know). I was with Devil's Kitchen at one of the early embryonic gathering of the Libertarian Party.

DK decided to play the game himself and wandered off around the pub. If I recall correctly he asked 20 people if they cared about politics. Less than a quarter said they did, and this was in the nearest pub to Parliament, one frequented by SpAds, researchers etc. It wasn't late, it was about 6.30pm on a Friday. So you tell me this, how does Derek Draper or whoever think that they're going to have a sucessful online campaign exactly?

What will happen, and this I guarantee, is what is already evidenced today, particularly in the Labour online world. It will become an echo chamber. Activist talking to other activists and very few new people beocming involved. They could of course get themselves a "Left Wing Iain Dale" as we've all been hearing about, the problem is that unlike Iain they're going to start off from a base of "this blogger is manufactured" which will turn so many off.

The reason that the Right is successful - or is at least perceived to be because of sheer traffic figures - is because they are individualist sites for the most part which do not consider themselves bound to remaining "on message". At the same time they also don't just do politics. This idea from Labour that their needs to be a centralised strategy to counter it all misses that point.

The reason the Right has been successful is because it has grown organically and its members have been willing to write in a manner that made them distinct and accessible. This has resulted in inevitable snobbery and sneering at what are considered anti-intellectual tabloid blogs. The trick they all miss is that the majority of ordinary people are not intellectuals and guess what, they like reading tabloids.

The bottom line it seems to me is this. Until the Labour side start to realise (a) that America and Britain are not comparable, (b) that most people don't care about politics, and (c) that having a grand centralised strategy will not trump letting its activist base organically grow, they'll get nowhere. Of course the last assumes a desire to let individual freedom flourish, something which many of them instinctively cannot do.

Reference: Previous post on why America and Britain won't mix.


Elby the Beserk said...

Disinterest in politics widespread; especially after 10 years of easy times.

However, ask people at random what they think of Brown, and most will have an opinion, and most of those will be venomous.

Problem with all Labour blogs is they are full of humourless stiffs. Who wants to go there? Except other humourless stiffs.

Dungeekin said...

They haven't got anyone with the talent to be a left-wing 'Iain Dale' - nor to match pretty much any of the Conservative/right-of-centre bloggers.

As you say, Labour would never allow their bloggers the intellectual and editorial freedom to do the job. So they just end up with the usual mash of spin and dissembling, rather than cogent and coherent points.

But if they would like to try - let 'em. I'm sure we could all do with some more lefties to debate with.


Anonymous said...

"grand centralised strategy" ... oh so labour, oh so Brown paradigm.

Bob said...


You are right, but miss the biggest reason why the "right" has been successful.

That being that none on the right are figures with internal power, nor are they seeking to get across a message, that is "on message".

Lets take a look at them...

You - gobby, techy, libertaran, with a penchant for hansard and computers.

Small level of success with a few strings to your bow overall.

Dale - gobby, long time political operator, ambitious entreprenuer who has been involved with many web based projects, mates with lots of MPs.

Success around some breaking stuff, and normally a good source for tittle tattle.

Guido - leading edge agitator, who hates everything and almost everyone. Proven troublemaker, who is teh go to guy to grass people up to.

Lots of success, takes no orders from anyone, other the judges and his mrs.

Now tell me how you recreate that....... Recess Monkey is a labourite pet, who is too partisan.

dizzy said...

"gobby, techy, libertaran, with a penchant for hansard and computers."

I am sooo using that in the quotes box

Letters From A Tory said...

Hearing about some of Obama's tactics and trying to apply them over here is hilarious.

One of his big uses of technology was to walk around towns with a horde of keen helpers behind him, all of whom were carrying credit card machines that could take instant donations of any passers-by that Obama spoke to.

Can you imagine how people in this country would react if Gordon Brown was surrounded by spotty Labour volunteers carrying chip-and-pin gadgets that could take your money off you then and there?!?! Boy, would I love to see them try.

Anonymous said...

Simple solution for Draper. Just link to the telephone directory. It's a more gripping read than his master's tractor statistics

Anonymous said...

Some years ago now the Guardian printed a piece (can't recall who wrote it) entitled 'Why the Right can't act and the Left can't write' (it may have been the other way around). The point is this is nothing new. The Left has always been short of people who can communicate in plain, accessible language, instead of jargon-ridden gobbledygook. Of course there have been exceptions, but unless the Left find themselves another Orwell or Priestley, they are always going to be out-argued by right-wingers, in the blogosphere as everywhere else. The fact that they're just plain wrong most of the time won't help them either, of course.

Anonymous said...

What on earth makes you think you would have got a different reaction in an American pub? 99% or so of Americans aren't political obsessives any more than are 99% of Brits, but Obama apparently overcame this.

T England. Raised from the dead. said...

Sorry Dizzy, need a rant, not feeling well :o(, caught your man cold coming here ;o)

I'm going to come from a different angle! ooeerrr!

I met alot of different people in my work, from Frenchmen who laugh at the way we follow EU rules to the letter, or to older gentlemen who now live in Spain & used to have businesses in England, of course I meet many British people with various businesses & views.
My point!
Out of every ten people I meet only the odd person now & then says that they go onto the net for polictical reasons, but the majority have a polictical view & I'm happy to say, with the majority it's mainly along my lines :o).
I have been shocked now & then! For example, a lady the other day who looked like butter wouldn't melt in her mouth said that if she had her way she'd blow up the channel tunnel, I admit I was taken back, even I wouldn't go that far.
One old boy who I was telling about blogging & having a go at Labour people patted me on the shoulder & said "you keep it up, do it for us who dont know about computers", I said I would.

Let me tell you somethig about me!
I'm quite into computer security & spend alot of time studying it, a side line I'm into is Particle physics (just for fun), blogging is something I do when I need a rant, like now!

If Labour wont an online war PLEASE bring it on, I'll happily spend more time digging for dirt & putting across points that are better written & not ranted instead of the other things I do because I think that would be time well spent, not just for me but the people I meet.

That's just it isn't it!
I wonder how many more Tory surporters are like me?
I wonder how many people who don't "know computers" would love to have a say but can't?
I know their views & so I'll do my bit to put them across.

So! This online war, under starters orders are we?

Phew! needed that :o)

PS! That tramp, junkie like look that Draper has! That's a popular lefty look isn't it?

Have a nice weekend all ;o)

Harry Cole said...

Half the story - you should write the definitive guide to right wing blogging..

do me do me!

Tory Bear

Anonymous said...

Dizzy, the reason why your site, Guido's and DK's are so popular is that commenters are allowed to say exactly what's on their mind. If that's to slag you off for making a silly point, or slagging the government of because they are cunts you at least let us have our tuppence worth.

Can't see that happening over at Dolly's, can you?

@LFAT, I'd like to see Gordon walk down a British high street without getting his head kicked in.

Anonymous said...

"The reason the Right has been successful is because it has grown organically "

Pretty much a metaphor for self-organisation as opposed to top-down dictatorship, really.

And explains the current (and recurrent) failure of all Labour Governments.