Monday, August 17, 2009

Labour Appoints Twitterer-in-Chief As Web Supremo

Labour has appointed a new internet supremo in the form of arch twitterer Kerry McCarthy MP. I've never met her, but we correspond very amiably via Twitter quite often.

She will be pitting her wits against her Conservative and LibDem equivalents Jeremy Hunt and Lynne Featherstone. Her task is to get the Labour Party's internet operations into shipshape before the next election. Quite a task, you might think, but according to Kerry, Labour's doing very nicely thank you and outgunning the other parties on the internet.

Kerry's first interview has been given to Mark Hanson on LabourList. I agree with some of the points she makes, but the interview makes for an interesting read, if only to confirm how complacent the Labour Party has become about its internet presence. She is incredibly misinformed about her opponents' internet strategy, accusing it of being centrally controlled.
They seem to be doing everything centrally whereas we have people who are just getting on with it.
Er, how exactly is it centrally controlled? She then rather contradicts herself when she is asked: "Do you feel its right that the Tories are characterised at being better at social media than us?" She replies...
I don't agree with that at all. There are two right-wing celebrity bloggers in the form of Iain Dale and Guido Fawkes, who have a fair amount of traffic and a lot of mainstream media profile. This is quite different from the Conservative Party being great on the internet.

Ah, so it's not centrally controlled, after all. Glad that's cleared up. She continues...
I think the word has come down from Tory HQ that their MPs are to stay away from social media at all costs – it’s deliberate non-engagement strategy. Iain Dale, ConservativeHome and a couple of the younger ones are popular but where are the politicians, the people you’re expected to actually vote for? Hardly any are on Twitter and the ones that are there are just ‘lurking’.

So let's get this straight. David Cameron has told MPs not to blog or twitter. Rubbish. In the Tory Party it's left up to individuals to make their own decisions on this. It's true, I wish more of them did blog, but Kerry's obsession with Twitter is very odd. Yes, it can be useful and fun, but to pretend, as she implies, that is is a vital cog in any politician's armoury is stretching it a little.

Rather hilariously she wants to build on what Derek Draper started.
Derek did a lot of the preparatory work of getting some kind of infrastructure together that so many others have been able to utilise. I want to grow that infrastructure, help grow the awareness of best practice amongst my political colleagues and have a mature approach to working with Party members who are active online. I'm much less keen on picking fights in the blogosphere!

Well thank the Lord for that. Normal political banter aside, I wish her well in her position. It's important that all the parties make progress in their internet operations. My only bit of advice to her is that she should avoid what she mistakenly accuses the Conservatives of - and trying to organise things centrally. Parties can be facilitators on the internet, but they cannot control it. It's a lesson the Labour Party ought to have learned through its experience with Derek Draper.

UPDATE: Kerry has tweeted this...

Don't think @iaindale 'gets' Twitter - it's better than blogging because on twitter everyone is equal.

Hmmmm. I don't get Twitter, eh? 5,400 followers say she's wrong. How many has she got? 1,900. It's not better than blogging at all - tens of thousands read my blogposts, while only some of my 5,400 will read my tweets. How on earth she reckons Twitter is more "equal" is beyond me, but it is typical for that to be the yardstick by which a Labour politician judges something, I suppose.


Gordon Brown said...

It doesn't matter whether Labour gets their act together on Facebook, Twitter or Blogs for the next General Election for one simple reason - this Government is dead and buried, and the whole of the British electorate knows it. It's a pity the Labour Party hasn't realised that yet!

The only way that David Cameron could possibly lose is if he announces he is Elvis in disguise. Barring that, Labour might as well throw in the towel now and put themselves out of their misery, rather than putting us all through this cringing, painful spectacle of watching this dying Government squirm and wriggle until it breathes it's last breathe.

Paddy Briggs said...

A courteous and helpful piece Iain - I hope that Ms McCarthy reads it and takes note!

Anonymous said...

"Normal political banter aside, I wish her well in her position." -- I don't. She supports the liar Brown and the egregious con-man Mandelson.

Why should one wish anyone with those views 'well' ?

Anonymous said...

sounds like she's hit a raw nerve already. excellent.

TrueBlueBlood said...

Kerry is barking mad.

She will at least liven up blogging in the summer season.

Madasafish said...

Control freakery again.

Doomed to fail in my view.. AND she can't get her facts right - which means she is ideal for any Labour Party post!

Anonymous said...

Farcical. And I cringe at the idea that Twitter is better because "everyone is equal".

As if blogs are sexist, hierarchical, imperialist, reactionary instruments of the elite...

Anonymous said...

Don't think @iaindale 'gets' Twitter - it's better than blogging because on twitter everyone is equal.

Could someone explain to me what this actually means? I'm serious. Dale, this is your blog, so maybe you can elucidate a bit.

I'm more interested in how twitter imparts equality (or the reverse: how blogger imparts inequality) rather than in the bit about twitter's superiority to blogger.

Kay Tie said...

I believe Compass have a High Character Commission where they are investigating the case for legislation limiting all blog posts to 140 characters.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to hijack the thread but - well over 200 British soldiers are now dead - 'Defence of the Realm' sadly points to how badly we are performing and the likelyhood of our troops being replaced by the US Marines.

We have never been successfully operating in Afghanistan and our operations now are clearly inadequate. Our government have thrust our armed forces into yet another operation (after post war Basra) where we are overstretched and under resourced.

For all Brown's pious words we are throwing away our soldiers lives with no clear war aim, with no clear plan and with insufficient resources to have a hope of achieving whatever plan we do have.

happyuk said...

Your civil demolishing of the points she tried to raise just confirms that most Labour attempts at internet stuff like blogging end up being turkey shoots.

The Conservatives need a strong opposition. People like her make things too easy.

Kate. said...

Media populism doesn't take the place of real policies, which I think labour is trying to do with this.

Hawkeye said...

Tory MPs don't have blogs eh? She's never heard of John Redwood then?

JuliaM said...

Does one have cogs in one's armoury, Iain? I thought one had, well, weapons... ;)

"How on earth she reckons Twitter is more "equal" is beyond me..."

Me too.

"The only way that David Cameron could possibly lose is if he announces he is Elvis in disguise. "

Are you kidding? That would WIN him votes!

Anonymous said...

The only way that David Cameron could possibly lose is if he announces he is Elvis in disguise.

A bizarre thesis, fyoc, since it's quite clear that a Tory Party led by The King of Rock and Roll would probably take fifty extra seats and end Labour's dominance in northern England.

The only question is which Elvis would be better: 1950s Black-and-White Elvis or Bloated Vegas Elvis. My money's on the latter - and pass the deep-fried peanut butter and jelly sub, plz.

Anonymous said...

twitter is for twats

Lola said...

Socialism is all about centralised control. A grand 'director' that can skillfully operate the planned political economy. So why is it surprising that they their default position on the internet is centralising?

Desperate Gordo said...

Does she want to dumb-down blogs to keep in line with the dumbed down (equal rubbish) Labour educational system?

vervet said...

Iain: I certainly wouldn't waste your time fisking her output point-by-point. It's just the usual new labour mix of spin, half-truths, downright lies and ignorance.

wv = goring ... something labour are to suffer at the GE

Dick the Prick said...

Now now Iain, let's not start off having a barny (there'll be plenty of time later). Ah, good on the gal - she's always been pretty cool about people just repeating in mantra form 'you're wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong' which is all for the better methinks. Sometimes when not spouting crappy policy she can be rather intelligent too.

G said...

Why does she hate Facebook so much as well? Twitter users 10-15 Million globally, Facebook 240-260 million. I think I know which one is more likely to spread a message.

Brown has a lot of deaths to declare at the pearly gates said...

Re Afganistan death toll comment

I think it is not unpatriotic to question whether our troops have been fighting for years under-resourced when Gordon Brown was in charge of the purse-strings.

If you stand back and compare the rhetoric we are seeing a re-run of the Vietnam war.

Unsworth said...

@ JuliaM

"Does one have cogs in one's armoury, Iain? I thought one had, well, weapons... ;)"

You've not heard of the Killer Cogs? Horrendously dangerous...

Lord Elvis of Paisley said...

I would just like to make it clear that I am not David Cameron.

Thank you.

Stuart Bruce said...

Knowing you both I think you both 'get' Twitter, but your example of why you do is unfortunate. Your 'number' of followers isn't an indicator of influence, but it's a mistake that I often see marketing people make. Who the followers are and their level of engagement is far more important.

Anonymous said...

Oh well, another toy for her to play with huh? The Twits don't realise that it's the economy stupid, always is.

Iain Dale said...

Stuart, I don't disagree with you, and I will leave you to trawl through Kerry's and my followers and you can form your own judgement as to whose are the most influential.

It's silly if this develops into willy waving. But she seems to thinK Twitter is the be all and end all It's not. It's part of an online strategy, not THE online strategy.

Hawkeye said...

Iain - stop trying to show her the error of her ways. Let her get on with it. You can best serve the conservative cause by letting her blunder elephant-like through the internet jungle.

With a bit of luck she will have the same level of success as Draper - what a gift that man was.....

golden_balls said...

big bad iain shame on you for picking on kerry

well i think she has a point that conservatives don't get twitter just look at DC TW*T comment.

Twitter is far more accessible than an online blog. the world is much more mobile and who wants to check comments which could be over a 1000 letters long. I know people who check twitter accounts every hour i doubt that can be said for people reading your blog.

Labour needs to counter the right wing bias amongst the blogs and i welcome kerry to the fight. Stick it up em !

Pogo said...

@Unsworth You've not heard of the Killer Cogs? Horrendously dangerous...

"Cry Havoc! and let slip the cogs of war..."?

JuliaM said...

"Twitter is far more accessible than an online blog. the world is much more mobile and who wants to check comments which could be over a 1000 letters long. "

Or, in other words: 'Spoonfeed me, nanny, the world is too big and frightening...'

The only people who don't want to read comment 'that could be over a 1000 letters long' are the peole who aren't looking to have their assumptions challenged.

"I know people who check twitter accounts every hour..."

I know OCD sufferers too... ;)

"...i welcome kerry to the fight. Stick it up em !"

She's not really equipped to do that, is she?

Martin Bain said...

From the BBC - A short-term study of Twitter has found that 40% of the messages sent via it are "pointless babble."

Still compares favourably with the pronouncements of Labour MPs though.

Anonymous said...

Twitter is far more accessible than an online blog.

A bizarre hypothesis unsupported by fact.

the world is much more mobile

More mobile than what?

and who wants to check comments which could be over a 1000 letters long.

You forgot the question mark. Judging from your literacy skills (or lack thereof), I can understand why Teh Bigg Wurdz are scaring you.

I know people who check twitter accounts every hour i doubt that can be said for people reading your blog.

You forgot the full stop between "hour" and "i". I won't even comment on the capitalisation issue. Apart from that, you're treating your "doubt" as objective evidence: you *doubt* something, therefore it cannot be true. Those of us who are not mentally retarded generally try to differentiate between our opinions and objective reality. You should try it some time. Please.

Gordon Brown said...

@Julia, Elvis & Others! : Apologies for the badly worded hypothesis. What I really meant was the only way that Cameron could lose now is if he made some huge strategical error! Obviously announcing he was Elvis might encourage some people to vote for him which had not occurred to me.....

Anonymous said...

Iain, why are you now handing out free advice to our misguided and hopelessly out of touch opposition?

Anonymous said...

I think a good deal too much fuss is made about the reach of Twitter & Facebook, even blogs. I read several blogs every day, but the former two just aren't a form of communication that interests me.

Computers are my living and the nature of my work means that while I wouldn't dream of looking at files or email, I very often can't help but be aware of what their owners are doing on the internet. This can pose a severe moral dilemma sometimes... Dammit, should I tell the parents what their little angels are doing on the internet? Nah, ain't my business and I wouldn't want to be responsible for a heart attack!

My point is, that of the hundreds of computers I take a look at, I haven't come across a single one that accesses Twitter. Facebook is pretty ubiquitous among the young but I never see it on computers belonging exclusively to older people (ie it is the young people in a family that are using Facebook), and I have never seen a single blog or newsgroup, or the site of a political party. Blogs such as yours, Iain, may attract tens of thousands of readers, but that is only a fraction of the millions of voters. What I see is pretty representative of 'the general public'.

I wish it were otherwise. With a blog/newsgroup you can engage in discussions and learn a lot more, or at least a lot in addition to, what we are fed by the MSM. You might end up casting a genuinely informed vote because you've had varying opinions to sift through and seen some facts, and learned how to recognise lies and agendas.

There is certainly a subset of voters that does this but whether it is enough to affect the outcome of an election is very debatable. You would have to assume that such a subset forms a large block of the electorate likely to vote - does anyone know if this is the case? There is also, of course, a large part of the electorate that has no internet access anyway, something like 25% I believe, and those are largely pensioners, who are very likely to vote.

I am not being condescending here, I'm officially a pensioner myself (ha!) but I live on a housing development specifically for the retired, there are no families, no children, just older people and their pets to squabble about (I hate your cat, it eats my birds, I hate your dog, it scares my cat!). Of thirty houses, apart from my own, precisely six have a computer, used exclusively for looking at BBC website/iPlayer and emailing the grandchildren.

I despair sometimes... you have the internet at your fingertips, we have an amazingly good broadband connection here living almost on top of an exchange, we have an encyclopaedia available at a click, infinite learning & knowlege, there is SO much out there that's more interesting than the MSM.

They don't want to know. I guess they voted for Tony Blair.

Rob said...

Tory MP's don't blog? I suggest she read Douglas Carswell or even better John Redwood's blog. She might learn something while she's there too.

I do wish more MP's would blog, it's as close to direct democracy as the general public can get. You can communicate and even debate through comments with the MP's and it probably gives them a much better idea what the british public is thinking. And it's always fun to correct Tom Harris! At least he generally takes it in good humour. I want Skinner to blog, that'd be good for an argument.

Anonymous said...

@ 'brown has a lot of deaths' ---- Only time will tell if Afghanistan ends up like Vietnam. What everybody forgets is that Nixon won the Vietnam War. There was a peace treaty signed in Paris and all US soldiers left - leaving behind a democratic South Vietnam.

However the Democrats passed a law banning any further US involvement, including - crucially - bombing. Thus reassured the North Vietnamese launched a full scale invasion, quite illegally but the UN did not seem to care, and annexed the country. They then proceeded to murder all of their former allies, the VietCong, that they could find along with many senior South officials. Half a million?

The Left stayed silent.

If the South had had US guarantees of air support then the North would probably have failed.

I feel the situation is analogous to WW1 where we stumbled inadvertently into a new type of war, where a step change in military capability produced problems which took years to solve. The only difference is that in the current case we are being far slower to recognise the advances we need to make.

Auntie Flo' said...

Today's Independent Poll

"Who is Britain's smuggest person?"

clearly recognises the power of blogs over Twitter.

But tell me, Independent, why are the only politicians we can vote for on your biased and manipulative 'smug list':

David Cameron
George Galloway
Tony Blair
Peter Mandelson?

No Clegg! And why can't we vote for the smuggest of the smuggest:

Gordon Brown?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, me, at August 17, 2009 11:52 AM

I quite forgot to say that the other ubiquitous internet access I come across is Skype. Lovely, people accessing their families in Australia or wherever, complete with webcam & audio, seeing/talking to their so distant grandchildren. I really enjoy being asked to help set that up, and watching the faces light up as they see it can really happen! I depart in a haze of warm feeling and never charge enough!

But it won't get votes!

Hedwig said...

No surprise! Kerry prefers Twitter because a proper debate is not possible via that medium. This contrasts with blogs, where her fallacious assertions generally get the thorough rubbishing they deserve.

Display Name said...

It seems to me a very "New Labour" approach to prefer Twitter - after all they were kings of the sound bite.

If Tony Blair were alive today, Twitter is probably one technology he would adore.

Anonymous said...

What everybody forgets is that Nixon won the Vietnam War.

The power of delusion. Nixon lost the war. The US lost the war. The US pulled out of Vietnam because its forces could achieve no meaningful strategic victory. In point of fact, the US had no idea what a strategic victory in Vietnam would look like.

The US pulled out leaving behind a corrupt military junta, largely made up of people who had made their careers collaborating with the French colonial regime and the Japanese occupation. The South Vietnamese military, riven by internal divisions and with no real popular support, was overrun in short order.

If a unified Communist Vietnam that provided naval and air bases to the Soviet Union is your idea of an American victory, sure, Nixon won. Meanwhile, back in the real world, those of us who don't suffer from psychiatric problems will deal with reality.

Chris said...

5400 followers vs 1900 ldoesn't look that brilliant when you consider how long you've been on the political scene (and blogging for that matter), and the fact I've never even heard of Kerry before now.

And twitter is more equal, she's very right. You can't delete unwanted comments on twitter, so you can't censor the debate if the responses aren't quite what you'd like.

Siberian Tory said...

Twitter will never make the news in the way the blogs have. And before anyone mentions Iran I think it's safe to say those were exceptional circumstances.

The focus on twitter has nothing to do with equality it's because they can stage manage a sound bite. Also, it keeps people divided I know the opinions of very many of the people on here and it has the sense of a community (albeit a dysfunctional and mad one).

DianaClaridge said...

This really is quite tragic to traduce social media to a 'who is better Twitter or Blogs' totally misses just about every point of web communications strategy.

These are all just communications channels which have their different uses but it is the content that matters after all that is what gains readership. It does not matter how many 'friends', 'followers' someone has if the content is not interesting then the reader will not be engaged.

The right social media channel should then allow for a dialogue directly with the principal which engages the reader further.

So the channel should be chosen either to reflect where the conversation is happening or to instigate one with the relevant target audience but to be really successful they should be used in an interconnected way. Basic comms strategy - how do they choose these people to do these jobs???

golden_balls said...

Anonymous said blah blah blah so i'll ignore most of it but

Twitter is far more accessible than an online blog.

A bizarre hypothesis unsupported by fact.

Not everyone uses a computer at work or has access to there own laptop during the day.

How many people view this blog and and leave comments via a phone ? I've tried and the experience wasn't a pleasent one.

contrast that with twitter where it can be used on a bus train anywhere you care to think of.

Look at the way twitter is being used in Iran.

so yes i do stand by the fact that twitter is more accesible than an online blog.

Osama the Nazarene said...

WHat's happened to the last three tweets at the top of your blog? They seem to have disappeared in the last few days.

Anonymous said...

I've been watching this post of Iain's today because it particularly interested me. I even contributed a couple of times, but zilch. Neither a response from the originator or fellow contributors. And this passes for political blog discourse??? Had I posted either of my responses on a political/technical newsgroup, since both aspects were covered, I'd have had a storm of responses by now and a real debate would be furiously progressing!

Pah! You people know nothing about debate, all you do is post your own cast-in-stone opinion. Would you be willing to change a position because you listened to/argued with someone wiser than you are? I've done that occasionally. Have you ever managed to persuade someone to your own point of view because your arguments were the more cogent? I've done that too, occasionally.

Blogs don't allow for that kind of exchange and for that very reason will never influence voting intentions.

Iain Dale said...

Perhaps if you had a name people might wish to interact with you.

Reece Hewitt said...

Why Gordon is collecting a bunch of Tsars is a mystery to me

Anonymous said...

You got a 'related link' on the Beeb article about this:

Watt Tighler's Revenge said...

Well Kerry McCarthy's appointment is as specious as 'Buryems' 'Strictly come Dancing' reject appointment as Dance Tsar.

Check out Kerry's Twitter page. This is a women who seeks advice on which 'pretty boys' band (has to be good music - as if anyone knows what her definition of good music is) would be good to ween her 13 year old niece of the Jonas Bros.

Will she start a campaign 'Pretty Boys for Labour' per chance?

She also calls her fellow twits 'twitizens'.

I agree with Anon above:

Twitter is for Twats!

Anonymous now Pat! said...

>> Iain Dale said...

Perhaps if you had a name people might wish to interact with you.<<

Okaaay... I appreciate a very moderate response to a somewhat cross post!

Cross Anonymous is hereafter Pat, short for Patricia, which does happen to be my real name. You can't have my surname because I have a web presence elsewhere with all my contact details and am not about to sacrifice clients on the altar of my political views! Is that raw capitalism??

However it doesn't really negate my point. Originally I always posted here with a name, albeit not my own name, I even went along with having to have a Google account to post here, when you did that. There was never any noticeable interaction so I reverted to Anonymous as just the quickest way to post.

There is no facility on your blog to respond to a specific post, unlike Con Home, for instance. That DOES occasionally result in some entertaining interaction. Any chance you could do that?
My point about old-fashioned newsgroups is that you have that facility automatically, and any poster you don't care for you can automatically block. I rarely do that, happy to take on all comers, just don't like posters who use foul language directed personally and hide behind their keyboards to say stuff they would never say to a human being in person.

Please don't think I'm criticising your blog per se. I occasionally think you go a bit over the top, don't we all, but mostly I love the common sense of your posts. I just get frustrated. Trolls we should all ignore, and you do have a few of those! But I would love to discuss some of the points your readers make and it really isn't easy when each post is individual, not a specific response to a specific post and thread thereafter.

Just my two cents. You don't have to take any notice. We live in a semi-free country, temporarily, until they take away even the semi. :)

Iain Dale said...

Pat, I do try to interact where possible, but there are only so many hours in a day and I do have to work for a living, contrary to popular rumour.

With regard to the format of blog comments, I can't copy ConHome because Blogger doesn't offer that facility.

I also cannot block people.

However, I may decide to move my blog later in the year and will certainly add these two facilities.


The Grim Reaper said...

This woman's stupidity and arrogance knows no bounds, whilst there truly is no beginning to her talents.

How long until she calls you an apologist for racism, Iain?

Pat said...

Iain, I wasn't talking about your own interaction with your readers, I think you do pretty well with that all things considered. I was talking about your readers being able to interact with each other via their posts on your blog.

But I have waffled quite enough today. Goodnight :)

Martin S said...

Iain, they'll cock it up. They'll spam Twitter users and Facebook users and it will all go horribly wrong.

Obnoxio The Clown said...

"They seem to be doing everything centrally whereas we have people who are just getting on with blocking people who ask them difficult questions."

I think that's what you meant to say. It's almost funny to think that Labour apparatchiks think that twatting a load of propaganda and ignoring people who have a different perspective constitutes some form of "engagement".

I think Kerry's been reading her own press releases and has come to believe that they are true.

Robert Brown said...

Was it not the Lib Dem blogs she was reffering to when she talks about centralised. They have the aggregater and whilst i dont read many of them they seem to say similar things.

Neil Durham said...

Will Twitter win Labour the election?