Any questions during Party Conference?

We have a few podcasts lined up during Party Conference in Blackpool. If you have any questions for – Zac Goldsmith, Caroline Spelman, Francis Maude, John Redwood, Stephen Hammond or Nick Bourne let us know by leaving a comment.

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Get a Guru, Guys…

Iain Dale’s latest Telegraph article is one of his most interesting yet because it is right in my area of
online campaigning and so-called e-politics. He is spot on when he says
that we are years behind the USA in our approach to using the internet
in campaigns and politics and I wanted to touch upon some of the
reasons as to why that might be and offer some ideas for a way forward.

It seems that the fundamental reason why politicians haven’t taken to
the internet in quite the numbers that we would like to see is because
of a good old-fashioned skills shortage combined with the desire by
some politicos to keep a very tight control over their message.

Take
Blogger for example. It’s a free blogging platform
that lets almost anybody start sharing their thoughts and their
campaign message with the world – and guess what – you need virtually
no techie skills to work it. WordPress is a
similar sort of beast, but you do need a touch more skill, but more on
the admin side than the technical side. The beauty of these packages is
that they let the campaigner or politician voice their message without
having to go via a third person – meaning they don’t have to wait,
there’s no need to plan it out, it won’t cost anything and there’s
total control of the message.

The downsides to that is how it leads to some choices in how the
politico or campaigner commissions their own message over the internet.
They like the cost, ease of use and, very importantly, the speed in
which they can set it all up. In politics things change quickly and
sometimes the need to respond or market a message can arise very
quickly. However, where the message can benefit from a longer planning
period a good site can be put together – take the iwantareferendum.com
website for example. The temptation there would have been to create a
website or blog very quickly to extend the period of time that the
message is being delivered to the audience, however a bit of time was
taken to think about it all a little bit and as a result an excellent
site has been born that’s doing a lot to help the campaign. You can bet
your bottom dollar that the work was carried out by a web design firm.
And that brings me nicely to my second point.

The reason the US is so far ahead is because political consultancy is
strong over there. Attached to that is the recognition that bringing in
the best people for the job is a must – and in the USA they have the
money to do it too. Over here, there’s no chance a parliamentary
campaign would be able to afford to bring in a web developer on £35 or
£45k per year. So, what are the options?


Drupal
is one very good system that could really see
us closing the gap. The system is open-source and expandable almost to
the point of infinity. It’s so good that Howard Dean used it for his
2004 Presidential Campaign. Who uses it over here? Nobody. Not a single
campaign organisation (that I’m familiar with) has taken to Drupal
despite the fact it’s an ideal tool. There’s is only one blogger that
is really using it and that is Shane Greer who launched recently. He’s
using it because I built the site for him and explained the benefits it
will have to his long-term career and the features it can offer to his
users. He was sold and agreed to undergo the necessary training to
learn how to administer the site. Now he does it all by himself and
will even be able to expand the site, put it into a campaign mode or do
whatever he likes with it. Most of the developments he’ll be able to do
himself using the administration tools without the need to contact a
third party. Only if he wants some major work will he need to bring me
back in.

Another thing that needs to be done is the establishment of some party
organisation around the internet. The Conservatives, for example, have
Andy Coulson in the communications post, but what does he know about
Blogger, WordPress and even Drupal? What does he know about online
campaigning? Does he know the difference between Faceparty and
Facebook, for example? That remains to be seen, there’s nothing online
that I could find to suggest a background in this area.

The Conservatives recently advertised a post for a Digital Development
Manager, but that post needs to be more like an internet equivalent to
the communications post – it needs to be filled by a guru with a
mixture of entreprenuerial skills, IT know-how and marketing
experience. They need to have a great deal of autonomy and, quite
importantly, they need to oversee the growth of skills within the
constituencies, which can be achieved by hiring a network of trainers
for a period to go around and up-skill activists around the country on
how they can use platforms like Drupal to get the best out of the
internet and how to mould their message to the web. Building
micro-sites and providing CCHQ-based website design services doesn’t
address the skills gap and smacks of centralisation as well as blocking
out the private market.

From the Conservative point of view, they have got to pull their
fingers out fast. The Labour Party have opted for a different approach
to online campaigning – they use a stable of tools instead of blogsites
and the like. When the time comes for an election – and it could be
quite soon – the Labour Party stand a good chance of delivering a very
powerful electronic strike against Conservatives. Being complacent
because of the power of the blogosphere and it’s leaning towards the
Conservatives is not enough.

 

Tory Radio down in the polls…

Tory Radio has slipped in the polls of best right wing blogs from our position just outside the top 10 – at number 11 last year to the position of 17.

It’s great to be in that top 20, and now with our brand spanking new website, our hotline which you can call 24hrs a day on 0845 257 0 427, and our ever increasing number of expert columnists we are aiming to shoot back up the charts! In all honesty though, this site is a labour of love.

For those who don’t like it, that’s fine. As Guido would say – leave your subsciption fee as you close the door behind you. For those of you who do – thanks, and hopefully you’ll keep coming back for more!

A Blueprint for a Bluetongue

In a week dominated by more foot and mouth and an unprecedented outbreak of Bluetongue on Britain’s farms, Gordon Brown fired the first shot in the warm-up to the General Election. It was his personal blueprint, setting out his values and his moral compass. A blueprint for a Prime Minister who appeared to have caught Bluetongue. Set against a deep blue screen, the Prime Minister came out of the closet and revealed himself to be a Tory to his bones. Gordon was trying to convince Middle England, straight-faced, that front is back, left is right, and red is blue. Perhaps some of them were persuaded by vacant statements like “Aspiration for the many and not the few” that they had been born yesterday. Surely most of them were left wondering, “Where’s the beef?”

Election fever seems to be the new political Superbug. Gordon Brown has been helping to spread it by getting his hands as mucky as possible in recent weeks, pinching Quentin Davies, Conservative ideas, and cadging considerable ground. But yesterday, he was scrubbing them furiously. Not of election fever, but of the last decade. Desperate to cleanse himself of the germs festering from the Blair years. Wringing his hands of the Northern Rock crisis, pledging to toughen his own failed laws on cannabis, binge drinking and gambling. Barely a flicker on the EU Constitution. Hardly a single mention of Iraq. “Don’t blame me!” he was shouting, “I wasn’t there!” But he was, of course.

It was awfully depressing. It was the first time that, as a voter, you might credibly feel that choice had finally diminished, that red had merged with blue to become the colour of Gordon’s chosen tie. He spoke of “British jobs for British people”, limits on immigration, “British values”, tough prison sentences for knife possession. “You’re safe with Gordon!” he was telling the Daily Mail readers. If you closed your eyes, you could almost forget who you were listening to. Surely that is the strategy – to confuse the British people. To covince them that you’re not the Gordon Brown of Big Government and stealth tax. That you’re not the Chancellor who spent all their money and plundered their pension funds. The one who held the purse strings and plotted his way to Downing Street during 10 years of wasted opportunity. No, this is a different Gordon entirely. It’s the new and very British Gordon Brown, with aspiration, opportunity and social responsibility seeping out of every pore.

What the new, improved, Gordon Brown has done as Prime Minister so far is to mirror the way Chelsea played football under Jose Mourinho, going 1-0 ahead and then stifling the opposition by playing dull defensive football, squeezing the life out of the game. The polls suggest the electorate appreciate this contrast with Tony Blair’s presidential, informal style. But yesterday he went further – by cloaking himself in blue, the speech was the political equivalent of scoring the first goal, bursting the ball, and chucking it into a lake. The Prime Minister appeared to be saying “There is no choice”. That is what he represents. So far he is getting away with it. Those who worry about rising disenchantment with politics and permanent cynicism about politicians could do worse than to start with yesterday’s speech. David Cameron’s challenge next week is no longer to show that Brown represents no change – that plainly has not worked. His challenge is rather, to demonstrate that the Conservative leader himself offers a real choice, one that is attractive, stark, and unmistakable.

Editor's welcome

The new site is finally up and running! Please have a look round and let me know what you think. You can always get in touch by emailing editor@toryradio.com, and of course there is our hotline – 0845 257 0 427 where you can record a message after the tone which could appear in a Tory Radio podcast.

Hopefully you will find the site much more interactive and easier to navigate to. We now have the facility to give you the reader, the opportunity to become a Tory Radio columnist. If you are ineterested and want to know more, just get in touch on the email above.

Finally a big thank you to the guys at message space creative for making this new site possible!

When will the General Election be?

I’m going to risk making myself look like an idiot in my first Tory Radio column (A view which I’ll probably come to confirm in later weeks), but I at the time of writing (the evening of the 24th), my gut instincts are telling me that we won’t be getting an autumn election, and May 2009 will be the date. Apart from my gut instinct, I also draw that conclusion from my reading of the betting markets.

Political Betting is a pretty small fish in the overall gambling pool, but thanks to sites like www.politicalbetting.com (it does what it says on the tin), there is an increasing interest in this type of betting genre and liquidity is slowly building up.

The most influential market is the Betfair date of the General Election market. It is split in 6 month timeframes for the date of the general election. The biggest price movement in this market has been for a date between Jul-Dec 07. We all know why that is!, but as a daily reader of market moves on Betfair, the money doesn’t look like it’s coming from people in the know, just punters following the news agenda and believing the hype. One of my main reasoning’s for this not being inside money is the lack of movement in the Jan-Jun 08 and 09 markets. If this Autumn election was a cert, the prices of these would be lengthening, but there has been no significant movement at all, indeed the 6 months of 2009 remains a resolute favourite. And why is that?

Well it’s simple. In my very humble opinion, Brown’s favoured date is the spring of 2009. He will try and fight the County Council elections and the General Election on the one ticket. This is due to my belief that the proposal to destroy the mainly Tory District Councils will resurface next year as Gordon Brown Stalinist tendencies take over. The Autumn election idea is a wind up to the Tories and a stick to keep his party and the unions on message during his first 100 days. This has snowballed out of control which could rebound on him massively if it doesn’t happen.

Anyway May 7th 2009 is the election date I would be betting on. I just hope I’m not wrong!!

Blackpool here we come!

Well the CD’s have been burned, labelled and packed – all 2000 of
them. The hotel has been booked. The diary is getting very full. We are
all ready for party conference – though still no pass. Probably nothing
to worry about……

The good news is that we have interviews lined up with Francis Maude, Caroline Spelman, John Redowood, Nick Bourne, and Stephen Hammond already and hopefully will have time to conduct a few more.