ID: What can the internet bring to your campaigning over the next 18 months?More from the interview over the next few days.
DC: We ought to be doing a lot more and a lot better. Let’s look at the positive side. The Conservative website is now good. Webcameron was at least a start and ahead of what some other parties have done. We use quite a lot of internet devices to launch policies, but we still have a long way to go before we are up with the best. It’s boring and trite to say it, but what Obama achieved with bringing together campaigning, advertising and fundraising all in the same place was fantastic. So often in politics people think these things are all separate. We’d really like to do more of that.
ID: That’s not happening on the Conservative website, is it?
DC: No, but we are working on it. Could we do more in terms of people who want to help through internet contact – ring these ten numbers, organise a house meeting? Clearly, yes. Can we really go to a small, individual fundraising model? Well, we can try, and we should try, but actually when you look at Obama, he still raised quite a lot of big money from other sources.
ID: But if you want to impose a £50,000 donation cap, you’ve got to make up the shortfall somewhere and the internet is the only way you can do it.
DC: It is. There is no enthusiasm for state funding. I would like to have the cap at £50,000 and I have always argued that if you can deliver that, then there might be some legitimisation of some limited state funding, but at a time of straightened public finances it’s about the last thing you want to spend any money on. So I absolutely recognise we will need to do better on small donations. Could that be accompanied by some sort of tax relief on donations to encourage giving? Maybe that’s one answer. What we want is parties that have, as a matter of course, to engage massively with people in order to win support and win donations at the same time. Any reform has got to be focused on that. Yes, we do still take some very big donations because we have to compete with the Labour Party who can literally pick up the phone to three unions and get the money, but we have massively broadened the number of people giving £50,000.
ID: Do you think the reason politicians don’t embrace the internet is that they fear it? They see the threats rather than the opportunities?
DC: Yes. That’s true. It’s a problem. I am of a generation that didn’t grow up with the internet. My first job did not have a PC on the desk but I am now completely computer literate. I spend a long time on the internet – shopping. I buy holidays and presents on the internet. A lot of the family shopping is done on the internet. I enjoy the political blogosphere. I think it has enlivened things. There’s an awful lot of crap and gossip…
ID: That’s enough about my blog…
DC: [laughs] No, no… I think if you look at some of the stories you have broken, or Guido, it has enlivened politics and debate and democracy. It’s great. So then the politician thinks, well, how do we make sure we avoid the danger of getting left out of the picture unless we use all tools of communication. We’ve got to work out how we do it. You do have to be a bit careful because politicians do have to be responsible for the words which come out of their mouths. Being a politician is not the same as being a journalist.
ID: Would you encourage candidates and MPs to have blogs, recognising the risks that there are?
DC: Yes I would, but I would encourage them to be responsible. The one person they can be absolutely sure is reading their blog is Derek Draper and his team of henchmen.
ID: Are you ever tempted to comment, even anonymously, if you see a particular vicious attack on you?
DC: No. You get frustrated when someone misses the point, particularly in a complicated argument. In politics you’ve got to have a feel for what’s going on but you mustn’t allow yourself to get obsessed by any one thing. The BBC site is good, I look at Guido, your blog, and I think the Spectator Coffee House is bloody good. I also love Willem Buiter’s blog on the FT site. I tend to look at them on the Blackberry in the back of a car.
Sunday, February 15, 2009
David Cameron on State Funding & the Internet
In the March issue of Total Politics I've got a lengthy interview with David Cameron. Here's what he had to say about state funding of political parties (hurrah, it ain't gonna happen), campaigning on the internet, and his own website viewing habits....