Shadow culture secretary Jeremy Hunt told a PRWeek conference last week there had recently been 'a massive growth in the mistrust of politicians and a massive growth in the use of the internet'. He added: 'The two are linked.'
At the PR on the Edge event, Hunt said the internet gave people a fresh platform from which to voice their concerns about politicians, adding that politicians had to adapt to the new media environment. 'We've got to embrace the change or we'll be swept out of business,' he said.
Hunt also admitted that Tory leader David Cameron was some way off emulating US President Barack Obama, whose internet strategy in the run-up to his election last year was widely praised. 'I don't think any party has cracked it in the way Obama did in America,' he said.
Other speakers at the event also lauded Obama's comms abilities. Ketchum CEO David Gallagher said: 'Obama is an oratorical master. No-one delivers a speech like he does.'
Procter & Gamble head of external relations Damon Jones said: 'Instead of reading to the audience, Obama read the words of the target audience verbatim. It was a mixture of tone and words and stories that enabled Americans to get the message.'
Jones, who headed press relations at the US Democratic National Convention, also said the Obama campaign had encouraged supporters to use web-based resources such as phone banks: 'On the Obama campaign, we allowed people to connect with like-minded people. We gave them the tools and the encouragement.'
Alex Hilton, founder of the Labour Home blog, said Labour's best asset on the web was John Prescott's Go4th website, which he assists. 'It's ridiculously underfunded, but it's the only attack happening,' he said.