David Blackburn

Are Labour still in “send” mode?

Are Labour still in “send” mode?
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Perhaps it was the barnstorming success of #welovethenhs, or the opportunity to create another Tsar, but Douglas Alexander has appointed Kerry McCarthy MP as ‘Labour’s Twitter Tsar’ ahead of the next election.

In an interview with Labour List, McCarthy says she wants to emphasise that, “Rather than being something completely new, campaigning using new media is simply doing what we’ve always done in a new setting.” I’m intrigued to see how the government distils its ‘raft of measures’ into a tweet of 140 characters.

McCarthy’s interview also suggests that Labour may have confused “sending” with “receiving”. As Robert Colvile said in a paper to the CPS, the internet is all about receiving:

‘The web could also re-empower MPs, by linking them far more directly to the concerns of their constituents. Most have, so far, failed to grasp this opportunity. The parties could reverse this by altering their mindset from “send” to “receive”, by learning the lessons of unofficial organisations such as bloggers, activists and campaign groups which have exploited the potential of the internet.’

But McCarthy is stuck in “send” mode. Her emphasis is on MPs talking to the people, putting their human side forward, rather than engaging with the public:

“You can connect with people. It's like when MPs are in their constituencies, people always go away with a much better impression when they've met someone face-to-face and realise that not all politicians are the way we are characterised in some parts of the media”

Labour might yet make a success of the new media, but what are the chances in the short term? For all the engaging blogging of Tom Harris and Tom Watson, it seems Brown would rather use the internet to issue his latest diktat from the bunker – complete with comic facial expressions and gesticulations redolent of Hammer Horror.