“Newspapers / the media / leafletting / canvassing [delete as applicable] are surely the least of his problems!”
Can you really imagine a UK political activist saying any of those four possible phrases about the campaign for someone running for mayor of a London borough, and not leaving themselves open to ridicule for the comment? Yet put ‘website’ in there at the start and that’s precisely the sort of reaction I’ve received (mostly on Facebook) to my earlier post that Helal Abbas, Labour candidate for mayor of Tower Hamlets, had no website.
It wasn’t any better in reaction to my post about Jon Cruddas making no reference to the internet in his vision of the future of Labour politics. “The people he’s appealing to are not online” was the reply and, by implication, the net is in no important way altering society or politics.
Seriously, get a grip.
6 in 10 of the British population is online daily, 7 in 10 online once a week. 28 million Brits are on Facebook – something approaching half of all of those eligible to vote in the UK. Stats from checkfacebook.com and European Commission.
“But these are not the people on the housing estates Labour needs to reach” will come the reply. Are you saying that every single one of the millions of people Labour needs to reach are in the 30% of the population not using the net?
There are two demographic trends that correlate with net usage, in simple terms. Young people use the net more than the old. The rich use it more than the poor.
On the first more young people vote left than old people do, so that speaks in favour of Labour making good use of the net; on the second it’s not in Labour’s favour. But there’s no definitive case for saying Labour’s people are not net people.
Don’t get me wrong – those people who are not online need to be reached, integrated, catered for, campaigned for. They might be the people that read the East London Advertiser. But I don’t. I use Google instead. So how about catering for people like me, and thousands like me, too? And there are sure more potential voters online in Tower Hamlets than read the local rag. Further, unlike the Advertiser you can frame your message whichever way you want to on your own site.
I’m not saying use the net to the exclusion of everything else. I am not saying campaign in a web-only echo-chamber – that’s probably why we don’t talk about cyberspace any more, for the net is increasingly resembling our lives, and vice versa.
From the Sichuan earthquake to MyDavidCameron.com, from Barack Obama’s election to the atheist bus campaign the net has already irrevocably altered our politics, worldwide.
Are Labour and its activists the last ones to have realised this?