Monday, 18 January 2010

Will 2010 be the year of 'The Internet Election'?

The current edition of PR week predicts that the looming General Election could be the first in UK history to be fought and won not out on the streets, atop soap boxes and in hustings meetings but in cyberspace, via tweets, 'blogs -and 'viral' e-mail messages.

It seems the big guns of political PR  have been so impressed by Barrack Obama's success in the 2008 US election with a great slogan  and personal e-mails to almost everyone on the planet (despite his failure to achieve just about any of his pledges in the year that's passed since he took office) that they are preparing to play the same sort of political game here in the UK. Dave Cameron has been holding policy discussions with about 40,000 voters via Google 'Moderator' chat (apparently) - and it's almost impossible finding a wannabe-MP without a personal 'blog these days.

Of course the thing about the Internet is it's as genuinely 'free' as the traditional media - newspaper and TV ads, poster billboards and so on - are inaccessible.

That means that, while it's certainly a powerful tool - it's a dangerous one.

Internet politics is playing with fire in the original sense.

Firstly, it levels the playing field between candidates (even I've a 'blog, in case you hadn't noticed, and a 'twitter feed' (@KemptownBen) - and it hasn't cost me a penny - I'm sure the two Simons  could - and will - outspend me on traditional adverts when the time comes.

But perhaps even more importantly political messaging can be subverted easily: the picture above (based on the original, right) has already received about 10,000 views, according to the PR Week article. I'm not sure what this is likely to mean for the election result, but it seems clear that the Tories' bulging war-chest (apparently they've already got £18m set aside to try to buy the election with) won't make as much of a difference as it has in previous elections.

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