Editorial: Brave new world of electioneering

So the carnival of campaigning cranks into action once again. Already the communications divisions of the main political parties are looking to boost their press and media facilities - with the exception of the Tory party which seems content with the status quo following last summer’s major overhaul.

So the carnival of campaigning cranks into action once again.

Already the communications divisions of the main political parties are

looking to boost their press and media facilities - with the exception

of the Tory party which seems content with the status quo following last

summer’s major overhaul.



Labour is promoting its broadcasting officer Steve Bates to the role of

chief press officer, while also recruiting further public relations

talent to concentrate on the regions. The Lib Dems are also now looking

to boost their press team with two new officers. But what is already

clear is that this round of campaigning may differ substantially from

that of 1997 - the differentiating factor being the media itself.



There is already every indication that information technologies will

play a crucial role in forthcoming campaigning. From its humble

beginnings in the Department of Health to the development of the

state-of-the-art Knowledge Network Project, Joe MacRea’s use of IT has

upped the ante.



And no matter how much Downing Street may protest that such rebuttal

systems have no party political purpose - the principle and the

methodologies have now become part of the political currency. Even

lobbying is becoming more hi-tech. The launch of the new election

monitoring system by PPS, bears many similarities to MacRea’s own system

and will lead to a more informed lobbying community throughout the

election process.



The inspiration of course is American. The whole concept of

technologically streamlined political campaigning was born during the

Clinton campaign.



But there is still a long way to go before UK political parties catch up

with their US counterparts. It remains to be seen whether campaigning

over the internet will reach the levels of sophistication already set by

candidates in the current primaries, but what is certain is that

politics and technology will have to work hand in hand in the next UK

election.



We are entering a new age of political communication. The past three

years have been marked by New Labour’s attempts to circumvent the lobby

in order to gain undiluted access to the electorate, most recently

through an attempt to harness the undeniable influence of TV soaps.



These are lessons that will undoubtedly inform Labour’s party political

campaigning. But neither Labour, nor the opposition have, as yet,

demonstrated real flair with regard to the use of the most direct

access, and least regulated, media of them all - the internet. When it

comes to recruitment, all parties may have to consider opening their

doors to a new generation of imaginative internet-literate

communicators.



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