Tech and the 2015 general election: one year to go

It might seem like mere days ago that David Cameron and Nick Clegg were taking their vows in the  Downing Street rose garden.

But four years have passed, and in exactly one year Brits will once again be voting in a general election.

All the political parties are getting their campaign machines ready, and digital tools are likely to play an even bigger part than in did in the disappointingly analogue 2010 election.

Key hires for the Tories…

Both the Labour and Conservative parties have brought in key figures from President Obama’s US electoral successes.

Jm_Messina_in_May_2009Conservative hire Jim Messina is widely credited with implementing many of the data gathering and digital targeting techniques so effectively used by the Obama campaign.

The Conservatives upgraded their website and now also have a Tumblr site which they use to put out press releases and transcripts of key speeches – it makes their press office output more social, and separates it from the far more campaign-focussed main website.

It will be interesting to see how the Tumblr site develops over the coming months.

…for Labour…

David_AxelrodMeanwhile, it’s thought Messina’s  former colleague and Labour signing David Axelrod will sharpen much of the message that it will be put out digitally.

Labour have been working closely with digital agency Blue State Digital, particularly in improving there email output to clear actions and data out of all their communications. Indeed, they have also hired Matthew McGregor from the company as a core part of their digital campaign team.

Labour blogger Emma Burnell tells me that “Labour have really invested in their formal digital offer, and are also working hard to create a space for bloggers like myself to support the election effort in every way we can.”

She says that this “matches well with Labour’s strong move towards devolving power within the party and beyond through community campaigning.”

…and for the Lib Dems


The Lib Dems are making huge strides in the digital campaigning arena too.

They recently launched a new campaign friendly website built on the Nationbuilder platform.

The platform was also used by the Obama team, and greatly improves the party’s fundraising and targeting ability, building an online community not just churning out the party line.

Many local parties also use an in-depth campaign database to maintain offline contact with potential voters.

Lessons from 2010 – will we ever catch up with the US?

There is no doubt that despite much preceding hype, the 2010 election was a pretty damp squib from a digital perspective.

The main highlight was an explosion of online discussion on Twitter during the Prime Minister debates, and the Conservatives buying the entire UK frontpage of YouTube on polling day.

Twitter’s user base has obviously grown enormously in the last four years. All the parties are getting better at using it to put out shareable content to make their point, and for rapid rebuttal.

This is only likely to increase as we hurtle towards the election. Parties are also putting out far more video content, with political broadcasts appearing on YouTube before they hit television screens.

That said, talking to people in Westminster and beyond it always seems to me like British politicos still don’t take online tools as seriously as they might.

At a time when huge numbers of people feel turned off by politics, engaging with people online has never been more important.

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