The county council elections are upon us. Ed Miliband goes on a soapbox, leaflets are pushed through doors, canvassers turn up on doorsteps and people are supposed to rush to polling stations.
How brilliantly nineteenth century when Gladstone and Disraeli drew crowds of thousands or even early twentieth when Churchill (then a Liberal like Clegg) and Balfour campaigned across Manchester.
Politicians seem wedded to the old ways – like our splendid heritage railways – harking back to the glorious age of steam.
But this is the twenty-first century – the age of the internet, Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, and the rise of the blogger. – and the parties still – especially Labour – seem totally oblivious.
Indeed it is said that Tony Blair never communicated by computer – always getting a gopher to do his work – and Gordon Brown tried to – but I gather his mistyping and mispelling are going to provide a field day for commentators when his 5.30 am e-mails are eventually released in 20 odd years time.
I see from my lobby colleague Oliver Wright ( http://ind.pn/11rWoWi) – that Ed Miliband has asked Matthew McGregor, the British savvy computer guy who helped Obama attack dog Mitt Romney to work on a new project for them. But this is but a straw.
Compare this to the massive success of campaigns since 2010 by groups like 38 degrees and the glimmering of fights between Political Scrapbook and Guido Fawkes blog on the net , the rapid rise of hyper local blogs across London from Barnet to Kidbrooke and rural Derbyshire to West Wales. Compare this also to the end of newspaper buying (unless free) by almost anybody under 40, TV losing ratings, and most news being confined to a few sentences on an I phone.
Yet many politicians still behave as though the entire public still engage in debate in the same way as the crowds listening to Gladstone and Disraeli and avidly reading the morning newspapers. Sorry, I do not see people on the Berkhamsted Flyer debating the merits of Matthew Ancona versus Polly Toynbee.
It is time that Britain’s political parties looked at how 38 degrees harnessed public opinion and not only used the net to find out what people want but engaged with their own members.
Otherwise David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband are little more than replicas of Squire Boldwood in Far From the Madding Crowd They are sad political estate owners who give an annual Christmas party ( substitute party conferences) for their labourers who till the land ( the party faithful). Why not use the net for dialogue with their members and bring in the public to debate the issues.
Deference is dead, people want to communicate on an equal basis. They have great freedom to express themselves, from praise to local attack dog, and through the net reach a wider audience than they could possibly dream about a decade ago.
But politicians cling to being patricians, all not only out of touch but out of date. None of them has to live on £50 or even £250 a week. No wonder an old fashioned election campaign is encouraging a party harking back to a Golden Britain, UKIP. Wake up you dozy leaders, get a grip.