Labour web campaigners plot path to 'Labour 2.0'

Labour will push ahead with developing a number of new ideas for communicating over the internet following this weekend's new media conference.

Douglas Alexander: Labour general election co-ordinator
Douglas Alexander: Labour general election co-ordinator

The conference, Campaigning for the net generation, included speakers such as Labour's general election co-ordinator Douglas Alexander and Barack Obama's new media director Joe Rospars.

Prominent Labour new media campaigner Derek Draper told PRWeek he would be working closely with Labour Party new media chief Sue Macmillan over the next few weeks to build on various ideas raised at the conference.

Labour will encourage its candidates to send targeted emails to their constituents to engage them in community events and to answer their questions quickly. A key model will be the email sent out by Stella Creasey, Labour's candidate in Walthamstow, whose Working for Walthamstow email goes out to 2,000 people a week.

On the fundraising side, Labour insiders said one idea involved encouraging people to donate to the party by sending out emails offering the chance of dinner with one of its top politicians. The dinner with supporters would then be filmed and footage made available on the web.

‘The Obama team did dinner with Barack and it was a big success,' said a source. ‘A similar initiative - such as dinner with Prescott - is definitely one option on the table for us.'

Draper, editor of the LabourList blog, did not confirm whether any of these particular ideas were being looked at.

But he said: ‘The conference showed me how much enthusiasm there is in Labour for getting our internet work right. I was pleased that there was a recognition that LabourList, in just 50 days, has made a good start and we look forward to developing the site so it's even better. There were some great ideas at the conference that we'll definitely be taking up.'

This weekend's conference was organised by Progress, an independent body linked to the right of the Labour Party.

Alexander kicked off the conference by warning the party that the use of new media was not a substitute for a message that resonates with the public - rather, he said, it is a place to give new impetus to old ideas.

He urged Labour supporters to continue to knock on doors, make phone calls and organise the events that would help spread the Labour message. But he also urged activists to get online and follow Obama's example of communicating community messages through regular email updates to achieve what he described as ‘Labour 2.0'.

Alexander said: ‘New media is going to be central to in the next election campaign. And developing new approaches in new circumstances is not new for us - in many ways it has been the hallmark of new labour over the years.

'That's why people like Alistair Campbell, Philip Gould, and politicians like Gordon Brown and Tony Blair almost twenty years ago went over to the States to learn from the Clinton campaign about new ways of campaigning and they came home with a suitcase full of new tools and techniques that shaped our campaigning for years - the benefits of running a campaign from an open plan war room.'

Alexander highlighted practices such as ‘using soundbites during media interviews, issuing daily lines to take, rapidly rebutting inaccurate stories, and using pagers to get messages out quickly'.

He added: ‘This kind of command and control approach to campaigning was a key part of the campaign organisation that Millbank came to embody in 1997. And to a certain extent we are still victims of our past election success - where too many MPs and candidates have come to rely on the national campaign, led from HQ, to assume the responsibility of securing victory.

‘So one of our key tasks in the months ahead is to build capacity and to create a culture change across our party and the wider progressive Labour movement. We need MPs, candidates and local parties - more than ever - to own and feel responsible for the next campaign. That is surely the essence of Labour 2.0.'

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