PM's fight will be won on the web

This weekend Labourhome.org was the medium chosen by Labour grandee John Prescott to quash the tentative plotters conspiring to oust Prime Minister Gordon Brown. Despite being a niche appeal website, Prescott's comments were reported widely in the mainstream media. But, while on this occasion the internet is being used to quench the fires of rebellion, others could equally use new media to stoke those flames.

Clearly, there is no natural successor to Gordon Brown, and a number of talented and ambitious people could make a play for the premiership. And each one of those people has their fan club, people who will go out, machinate, blog and set up Facebook groups on their behalf, officially or otherwise.

This will be a fight for the most powerful office of state and for the opportunity to be the person who saved the Labour Party. If the next election is won for Labour by Gordon Brown or by any other candidate, that will be a historic achievement.

Firstly expect the Facebook groups. There are 125 members of the 'David Miliband for PM' group. This may seem like a distraction, but a serious candidate will want activists and advocates in each of the 600 or so constituencies in England, Scotland and Wales.

Next will come the virals. Humorous or even downright nasty attack ads will start to emerge anonymously on YouTube, and be distributed widely by political bloggers.

But the use of new media will go much further. Web-based contact management software will give supporters around the country the capacity to operate call centres from their living rooms. Campaigns spread widely across the nation will use online project management tools such as Basecamp. Candidates will use Skype to travel around the country "virtually".

The winning candidate will be the man or woman who, in their election campaign, inspires the public to give Labour another chance at a general election. This can only be a candidate who embraces the 21st century.

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