picture-9A post at the Fabians’ Next Left blog caught my eye, flagging up a new Labour Party website initiative called Labourspace.com. Next Left compares the site to Change.org in the USA. But there’s a vital difference: branding and design. While the Labour site is all red and yellow and very visibly something from a political party (with a Labour logo on it), Change.org is absolutely not – there’s not even a mention of the Democrats on the site’s about page.

With that in mind, is anyone except a party hack going to use the tools that Labourspace.com offers? Sadly I think that the answer to that is a no.

picture-10Let’s take an example from Change.org – Make The Grid Green in 10 Years. Would an indiviual who cared about this have any incentive to use the Labour tools? Probably not. Because anyone that does not identify directly with the party would immediately suspect something that’s on a Labour site. Someone who cared about something like that could establish their own campaign site (as we chose to do for Atheist Bus) or join an established organisation with more coherency in a sector than the Labour Party has.

Labour has to decisively think about the results that it wants, not the logo on the site on the way to achieving those results. It was the same with Better With Labour that I posted about some 9 months ago. It’s not that the tools are wrong, it’s just that I think Labour’s communications record over the last decade means that the party’s brand is so tarnished that any site prominently displaying the logo is going to face an uphill task to be successful.

7 Comments

  1. Giacomo D.

    Tangent Labs are scaring me…. see this:
    http://www.tangentlabs.co.uk/#contact_us

    how can they be trusted as communication experts?

    Anyway I think the idea of a down-top policy development web tool is a good one, it has been a long time since I started looking/working for it here in Italy, unfortunately some initiatives which went very near to the target finally missed it on both the technological and the social level, for many different reasons.

  2. “I really don’t think Labour is learning as much from that as it should.”

    New Labour are not alone on that. I don’t think the Tories or Lib Dems have it right or are learning as much as they should either.

  3. Seem to have managed to not see your post from last spring… Oops.

    Do you not think that influential people in Labour, like Ed Miliband, only listen to Tangent Labs when it comes to internet strategy? Tangent say, listen, Ed, we can build you tools like Obama’s and put them on the Labour website. It will cost you 20% of what it cost Obama (because the tech is easy enough, it’s making the thing work that’s hard) and people will be able to run online campaigns. Go for it!

    There is an enormous amount of analysis from all kinds of people about how to run political campaigns online, much of it also with a UK focus. I really don’t think Labour is learning as much from that as it should.

  4. PS: I could be wrong, but I don’t think there’s an explicit connection between the Democratic party / Team Obama and change.org. Indeed, this press release announcing the ‘Ideas’ thing talks explicitly in ‘us and them’ terms.

    http://money.cnn.com/news/newsfeeds/articles/marketwire/0463664.htm

    Just because it’s the same buzzword (‘change’), and the same font (Gotham), doesn’t necessarily mean it’s officially connected. You could argue that’s a significant branding failure.

  5. … except that it’s not a new initiative, not by any means. I first blogged about Labourspace back in March 08, and I think the site dated back even further than that. So we aren’t judging it for its potential… we can judge it by its specific impact.

    How great an impact? Click on ‘View campaigns’ in the top right, then choose ‘supporters’ – where you’ll see the number of site participants who endorsed the various ideas floated. A total of… eight.

    Hang on, it might be a technical glitch. So let’s look at the top-rated campaign (4 votes): ‘proud of the NHS at 60’. According to its ‘minifeed’, it’s actually a whopping 14 people (by the time you remove the duplicates) who have backed the campaign since September.

    OK, OK, lies, damned lies and statistics, and all that. Has the site had an impact in the last year? Were any campaigns ‘bought (sic) to the attention of senior Labour politicians’? I’m clicking on ‘LabourSpace winners’… and seeing ‘put your campaign here’. I’ll take that as a ‘no’.

    Maybe, as referenced in Sunder Katwala’s post, Ed Miliband has something planned for the middle of the week. If so, in the wake of the last few days, it had better be r-e-a-l-l-y good.

  6. Exactly… I think you’ve managed to say the same sort of thing I wanted to get across, only using a lot less words than I did!

  7. I think Next Left got it wrong comparing it to Change.org, which is why you ended up judging it by the wrong criteria.

    The site itself says “I hope it becomes the place where those of us who share Labour’s values come to discuss how we want to make Britain a better place to live.”

    Based on that statement, it’s limiting itself – in a way Change.org doesn’t – to Labour supporters, and not trying to ‘reach out’ to those outside Labour. If it tried, it’d probably fail – once you’ve lost people’s trust, a snazzy web2.0 site won’t bring it back. They’d need a different strategy.

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