Monday, March 02, 2009

May the Pickles Be With You

I rather agree with Eric Pickles when he urges party activists to return to doorstep campaigning and not to obsess about the internet. He says...

"One or two chums have fallen in love with what Obama did with the internet. That's a bit like saying that Star Wars was all about visual effects - actually it worked rather well on the narrative."

Leaving aside the fact that Star Wars had little discernible story line and was indeed all abut visual effects, I think people have to realise that internet campaigning can rarely replace face to face campaigning but it can definitely complement it. Nothing Obama's campaign did masked the need for intensive person to person and doorstep campaigning, and we shouldn't forget that.

However, Eric Pickles should also recognise the benefits of internet campaigning too, and evangelise its benefits to candidates and associations all over the country. Because at the moment they're not taking full advantages of the benefits it can offer.


Obnoxio The Clown said...

Leaving aside the fact that Star Wars had little discernible story line

Piffle. Star Wars had a majestic story line. Movies that rely solely on visual effects are never successful.

Anonymous said...

perhaps he was talking about the original trilogy, iain.

Trend Shed said...

Star Wars had a classic story line!

The Conservatives clearly need to pay attention to both internet and doorstep campaigning.

...on a different subject - I have changed my mind..... Once the Tories get into government they need to compile and publish the "Doomsday Book" assessment of the state of the country after Labour. The reason is this:

Cameron is going to have to administer a lot of bad tasting medicine (Labour are unwilling to). Cameron can't rely on a Falklands war to come along and rescue his popularity after one term of government.

He will need the Doomsday Book to remind us what he is fixing and why we need to bear the pain.

strapworld said...

A return to candidates addressing public meetings- hecklers allowed-
should be mandatory. Village Halls. Town Halls. Market Halls.
Anywhere- even street meetings- get your face and views known. Show that you want to meet the people, that you want to argue for conservative values, and you never know, they may vote for you.

Knocking on doors, pressing the flesh all excellent ways to meet people. But it is the local foot soldier who does more for the party and they are never really acknowledged or appreciated.

(there speaks a disgruntled former foot soldier!)

Paul Burgin said...

There is more to it than that and it's quite simple. Activists of all parties have got to love what they do and believe that their party has the best to offer. An enthusiastic activist can help work wonders for their party

Anonymous said...

I have to agree that StarWars (Ep.IV) has a good story line. It is in fact that rarity a classic film.

Thereafter though all the episodes were derivative and the prequel trilogy could have been done in one film (and the 'turning to the darkside of Anakin was as about a believable as a Gordon Brown apology).

Otherwise I agree with you and Pickles. All the people energised by Obama on the internet were his voters anyway (ie young thick student / liberal types- you may think I should use words like naive instead of thick but I know what I mean)

BrianSJ said...

Dead right.
'In The Bubble' by John Thackara makes the point that the internet hasn't replaced material things, it has added to them.
People who think that they are alternatives don't get this century at all.

Tony said...

Common-sense suggests that there is a place for both types of contact. The Internet is great for getting a consistent national message across in a 'personal' way if you are using email, Twitter, YouTube, etc. Door-stepping is all about putting faces to names and getting a local edge in any campaign.

Whilst I admire the efforts of Cameron & Co in using the Internet I still don't think that they've grasped the need to make the key message straightaway in as few words as possible. Just looking at the webcameron RSS feed just now reminded me that they nearly all start off 'X (and sometimes Y) speak at....'. Here are a couple of examples;

"In his first speech as Shadow Home Secretary, Chris Grayling outlined new measures to tackle youth crime and anti-social behaviour. "

"David Cameron and Caroline Spelman speak at the launch of a major policy green paper outlining Conservative plans to give power back to local communities. "

Does that encourage me to want to look further? Will it attract non-Tories? Unlikely.

Simon Gardner said...

“I think people have to realise that internet campaigning can rarely replace face to face campaigning...”

Well duh. Ten years ago people were predicting the net was the future of campaigning. (I can remember laboriously hand constructing web sites that nobody wanted to visit.)

To be fair, it has become - since Howard Dean - very important in the US. I just don’t think it will happen here. We have a different politics and a different tradition.

In the US, for instance (and I have worked there in presidential election) did you know you can’t put leaflets in the mail box? It’s illegal. Compare and contrast a Brit by-election!

And I don’t believe the kind of US candidate-centred fund raising will ever happen in the UK. A lot of what Obama did was net fund raising. Though he organised over the net too. That also won’t happen here. We don’t and won’t do citizen campaigns in the way that is common in the States.

Look at the low membership of parties in the UK as compared with the primary party-identification process codified in the US. US campaigns get energised over a candidate more than a party. That never happens in the UK. And it won’t.

Some things have changed here (like the Information Commissioner misinterpreting legislation - and mis-advising - with regard to party political phone calls). But I just don’t see the net and net campaigning ever becoming more than of fringe importance.

The old bruiser Pickles is right.

People in the UK are never that interested in any political campaign and very few will ever bother to look at net political content - even during a general election. Though I guess manifesto perusal will improve with access to net versions. Still, it will be unimportant.

And just how infuriated will the man/woman on the Clapham omnibus become if they start getting political spam at election time? It will have a negative effect.

I also think the supposed importance of the blogosphere to be grossly exaggerated by the ‘inside-the-M25’ political and media classes.

Lord Elvis of Paisley said...

I agree. Wars are ultimately won on the ground, and require in no short order a degree of sweat, commitment, and pain (and maybe a little blood as well - so make sure you wear comfy shoes).

The internet should be viewed as just another method of getting the message out there, but it cannot replace actually getting out and doing the ground work.

Letters From A Tory said...

Obama used the internet to help organise his troops on the ground - the two can indeed complement each other perfectly.

This whole web 2.0-facebook-online networking-youtube rubbish is all just a distraction. Obama used emails more than anything else to get donations and get people interested in what he was doing.

Jon said...

Eric is not wrong.

But the internet, or rather, blogs like yours and Guido's, is already doing a spiffing job in campaigning against this shower of imbeciles. And what does Labour offer by way of rebuttal (sic)?

Unknown said...

Eric, as usual, is bang on the money.

The internet has its place in campaigning but it cannot replace a knock on the door.

I cannot remember how many times I have been told by a householder that they didn't usually bother to vote but would vote conservative at the next election because I had taken the trouble to come to see them.

Colin said...

To continue Lord Elvis of Paisley's theme:

In the Army they have a couple of interesting sayings

1. "Sweat saves blood".

2. "Brains save sweat and blood".

My point is, knocking on doors is and still should be the bread and butter of election campaigning, but the internet, used wisely is a potent force multiplier. Used wrongly, it can become a suicide weapon of mass destruction - as evidenced by draperlist.

And, finally to completely kick the arse out of the military analogy...

The Mission:

To close with the new labour regime and destroy it.

To close with the new labour regime and destroy it.

If you're wondering why it was repeated, well, if you don't know, you don't know...

Kate. said...

I agree the internet should be a compliment rather than a replacement for face to face calling.

Lola said...

Need to do all of it, doorstep, TV, internet etc etc - all of it.

Newmania said...

"Leaving aside the fact that Star Wars had little discernible story line and was indeed all abut visual effects,"

That is simply not true.Blogs just taklk to eachother but E mails are a very powerful marketing tool. Its amistake to lump them in with viral marketing and other nonsense. Obamah used emails primarily and we , as a company , use them and they work.

Unknown said...

"Leaving aside the fact that Star Wars had little discernible story line and was indeed all abut visual effects"

You'd better be either joking or referring to the prequels. Star Wars (latterly known as Episode 4 - A New Hope) is a masterpiece of modern myth telling. Lucas was hugely influenced by Joseph Campbell's seminal work "The Hero with a Thousand Faces" and dissing Star Wars is to effectively put the boot in to millenia of myth telling.

Conand said...

The celebrated artist Eric Pickles once told me in confidence that he's actually my father and then offered me a share in Galactic rule. Stupidly I turned down his offer. Hopefully we'll be reconciled in Episode VI 'The Return of the Tori'.

John Pickworth said...

Letters From A Tory said...

"Obama used the internet to help organise his troops on the ground - the two can indeed complement each other perfectly."

Nailed it.

Jim Baxter said...

Star Wars: A New Hope is, as others have said, based on one of the key recurring stories throughout history. Fatherless young man (Telemachus?) seeks a wise father figure to help him fight evil. Father figure dies before he can pass on all his wisdom. Young man is on his own to fight the battle and learn anew for himself. Then, in The Empire Strikes Back, still fatherless young man finds father who 'disppoints'. See also about a million other films with the same theme. Even The Excorcist has that in its story line.

Sorry, this was really supposed to be about something else wasn't it?

Damon From Birmingham said...

Both the original trilogy of Star Wars and the prequels had great stories. The prequels however suffered from the fact that their story line involved the erosion of civil liberties and the start of a war on false pretences by Emperor Blair, ...sorry Palpatine.

Clearly the prequels story line is preposterous and nothing like that could happen in real life...

The Grim Reaper said...

I think he highlights a legitimate problem. The Tories are brilliant at online campaigning and not so good at door-to-door stuff. Meantime, Labour are... well, crap on both fronts.

But when you consider that Labour's main online tool is LabourList, stuffed full of articles written by Peter Mandelson's press officer, moderated by jumped-up monkeys who press buttons at random, and managed by that thoroughly unpleasant viper Draper, it's no wonder Labour have a problem!

Either way, the point remains - if the Tories cannot beat this shower of... well, you work it out, then they don't deserve to be the main opposition party.

Bardirect said...

The Conservative's presence on the doorstep always been pathetic.

Candidates should be nursing their constituencies now instead of being parachuted in as "editor" of "In Touch" as soon as the campaign starts, they should be on the doorsteps, in the high streets.

In 17 years at my current address in a Tory ward of a Jowell held seat I have never been canvassed about my vote, yet get harrassed at the polling station about my registration number. Plainly they do not now know why this used to be done - to get the vote out.

However much use is made of the internet, candidates need to come across as real people who can be expected to serve their electorate.

Iain Dale said...

BarDirect, yes, and I suppose you have never offered to deliver a leaflet or do anything to help the party in a seat they don't hold?

Anonymous said...

Eric Pickles slightly misses the point...Obama used the internet as a tool for community organising. Thereby getting the best of both worlds - he used the internet to achieve optimum results.

Letitia said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Letitia said...

Interesting. There is clearly merits in both online and doorstep campaigning. What is important is that the elected officials engage with their electorate, and any way to increase particpation in politics has to be a good thing.

The recent Hansard report about online MPs talks about this further. See here connecting with constituents

Tim said...

"Leaving aside the fact that Star Wars had little discernible story line and was indeed all abut visual effects..."

I'm sure this Sci-Fi classic will be more to your liking, Iain.

It's got more sparkling lights than the Sarah Palin bandwagon. Oh, and plate-glass windows. In space.

Colin said...

This is what happens when you put scotsmen in charge of spaceships...