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
The inspiration of course is American. The whole concept of
technologically streamlined political campaigning was born during the
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
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