Labour and Tories plot to dominate the blogosphere

Labour considers rapid rebuttal unit while Conservatives try to charm key bloggers.

The UK's two main parties are frantically developing fresh blog strategies in a battle to dominate the political agenda.

PRWeek can reveal that the Labour Party is exploring plans for an online rapid rebuttal unit, designed to kill off damaging stories circulating in the blogosphere.

Former lobbyist Derek Draper will oversee the initiative, having recently been called in by Labour's general secretary to advise on how the party can communicate its message.

Labour strategists are keen to respond to the growing influence of right-wing blogs. The eventual system could resemble a modern-day version of Labour's famous Excalibur unit, which was successfully used to kill negative stories by Tory-supporting newspapers in the run-up to the 1997 general election.

Draper will meet sympathetic bloggers and web-savvy political campaigners over the next few months to thrash out the details.

'I want to get together an informal group of people to talk about online rebuttal,' he told a fringe event at the Labour Party conference. 'We'll sit round a table and say: what is it we need to do and how can we do it in a practical way?'

Meanwhile, it emerges the Conservative Party is trialling a local blogger charm offensive at its annual conference in Birmingham next week.

Head of new media Rishi Saha has worked with regional organisation Screen West Midlands to identify ten influential bloggers in the area, who have been given free VIP passes to the conference.

Caroline Spelman, Conservative Party chairman, told PRWeek: 'As a West Midlands MP I am delighted to be engaging with leading voices in Birmingham's new media.'

If the initiative is successful the party plans to repeat it at future Tory events.

- Editor's opinion, p20.

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