“In a clear reference to the prime minister, who has been ridiculed for his appearance on YouTube, the strongly Blairite cabinet minister says such use of ‘new media’ by politicians is far less effective than old-fashioned campaigning. ‘YouTube if you want to,’ she says in an article in today’s Observer. ‘But it is no substitute for knocking on doors or setting up a stall in the town centre.’ “
Hazel Blears savages Gordon Brown over ‘lamentable’ failures – The Guardian
While I agree with the central point Ms Blears is trying to make – that politicians need to reconnect with voters – I do think she is denigrating the use of new technology unnecessarily. As other politicians have shown, it can be a valuable tool in the political process. And it’s one that will only become more so.
Every year thousands of teenagers who don’t really remember a world without social media become eligible to vote. Of course, talking to them is incredibly important. At the same time, given the choice between reading a pamphlet handed out in the street, or watching a video on YouTube, they are nearly always going to choose the latter. The same is true of many older people who make up a significant percentage of users on many networks. A leaflet is easily discarded, if someone has gone to the trouble of clicking a link they are likely view at least a small part of the content the page contains.
To dismiss new methods of campaigning as less effective is very short-sighted; in effect it’s giving up the chance to reach people who would not have accepted a leaflet, or talked on their doorstep. It would negate their chance to make an informed vote by denying them the opportunity to hear a range of opinions. While some might argue that these people should take advantage of more traditional methods, I disagree. If they expect us to make the effort to vote for them, politicians should reach out to us using the mediums of our choice!
To come back to my earlier statement; I can see Ms Blears’ point, but if new media has proved ineffective, it is not because people don’t want to engage with it. It’s because it has been used ineffectively.With the exception of some governmental and political Twitter accounts and the e-petitions site, Labour-style new media has been all about them talking at us, there is little interaction which is contrary to it’s whole ethos. It’s supposed to be a conversation, but I haven’t noticed much dialogue.