Mark Hanson's new PR/Media blog breaks the news that the Brian Paddick Mayoral campaign has appointed an American political consulting company to run its web operations. I think I am right in saying this is the first time a US consulting firm has been used in this manner in the UK, but I stand to be corrected. The company concerned is run by Democrat blogger Jerome Armstrong who is behind the MyDD blog (there's a joke there somewhere). He rose to fame, according to Mark Hanson, by playing a big part in the Howard Dean campaign in 2004. I spoke to Mark Pack, the LibDems Head of Innovations and he was duly fizzing with excitement about the appointment. If I were him, I would be too. However ... and you knew this was coming, didn't you?
I hadn't visited Brian Paddick's website until today and was rather underwhelmed with what I found. Go see for yourself. Paddick is a strong, potentially charismatic candidate. But his website is grey, weak and impersonal. It does nothing to promote Paddick as a unique personality. Ok, so you might argue, they have realised this and done something about it. True. But isn't it too late? There are only five weeks to go before polling day. Remember what Lynton Crosby once memorably said - you can't fatten a pig on market day.
But what does this development say about the future of internet campaigning? Well firstly it exposes the lack of any British political consulting firms specialising in internet politics. Yes, there are a few web design companies, but no one who will grab a campaign by the scruff of a keyboard. This is not surprising. We don't have either the number of campaigns or the budgets of American politics to finance expensive consultants. If you look at the website of US internet campaign consultants you can see literally dozens of campaigns they have worked on. That just couldn't happen here.
I think the appointment of Jerome Armstrong may be a little bit too late to have a huge impact on the Paddick campaign, but I suspect it will lead to many more such arrangements between UK political parties and US political internet consulting firms.