What we should do…

Well, what I should do is finish off some work and listen to Sheffield United vs Nottingham Forest in the hope that the Tricky Trees snatch a vital away win.

However, after the implosion of the weekend, one thing is clear, Labour’s going to need a new online strategy. 

So here’s my tuppenceworth on what to do next, and because everyone’s looking over the pond at the moment, I’ve included a few US examples to follow too.

Now, funnily enough, I think Derek D understands much of this, and Labourlist has publicised many of the people below and beneath all the controversy has done some good work, which Derek deserves credit for he’s unlikely to get at the moment.  But I think it’s pretty clear we need a reboot.

So here’s my suggestions:

Let the party machine focus on the really important stuff. What really matters for the election is voter contact in marginal seats. The party machine should be focussed 100% on this, and I think is. For the party all the blogs, websites, media splashes and all the rest is far less important than doing this well. Using the internet to allow people to download leaflets, do calling to target seats from home,  learn how to set up leaflet rounds or organise canvassing sessions, all re-inforced by quality central messaging.

US inspiration: What Obama’s e-campaigns team really did, not what people with consultancy gigs to sell tell us they did.

Brits we should be encouraging: the people in Victoria Street online team trying to build programmes that make it easy for activists to do phone canvassing.

We win on content, not gutter politics. What the left in Britain needs is content rich stuff that can then be popularised and shared. As Alistair Campbell has said (and his media advice today is on the money too, unsurprisingly), the Tories are weakest on policy. We take the fight to them on those grounds and we can win. We get into the gutter, and politics loses, which means we lose.

US  inspiration: See Josh Marshall , The Uptake, Brad DeLong, Paul Krugman

Brits we should be encouraging: Conor Ryan Duncan Wheldon, Don Paskini, Paul Cotterill,  Matthew Taylor, Sunder Katwala, Theo Blackwell

Rebuttal means votes:  The cynics, the anonymous smear merchants, the Swift Boat veterans – they’ll always be there and they have to be confronted otherwise their material  finds its way into the discourse. but the way to deal with them is to bring the smears into the light, not get into the gutter with them. 

 If Labour is concerned by the way innuendo and smears and untrue negative stories spread into the lobby and wants a site to deal with Paul Staines and his ilk – then we should set up a site devoted to cataloguing and exposing the smears, and directing lazy journalists to it, not try to come up with worse smears of our own.

US inspiration:  Media Matters, a US site devoted to to help the truth get its boots on faster. 

Brits we should be encouraging: Common EndeavourBoris Watch

Content doesn’t have to be boring:  Right, I know I’m probably the wrong person to talk about this, because I’m fond of thousand word posts on arcane subjects like the interest rate zero bound, but in the hands of the right person, content is funny, sharp, incisive and effective.  You need people like this to spread ideas, to make stuff more public and to make the important interesting and funny.

US inspiration: Atrios

Brits we should be encouraging: Sadie Smith, Tory Troll,  Kezia Dugdale, Kerry McCarthy and Tom Harris, natch.

Community unleashes great ideas, but it takes work: The great thing about developing online communities is that people come up with brilliant stuff. They find out stories. They do great stunts, they do fantastic analysis. Our supporters are pretty bloody talented and smart.  Sure, they’ll   do stuff the party disagrees with and at times the argument will feel not worth the candle, but engaging with people gives the ability to generate campaigns, content and ideas is so valuable – and so is building support more widely, especially at times when things are awkward or you’re being criticised.

US inspiration: Kos

Brits we should be encouraging: Labour Women, Liberal conspiracy, Blackburn labour, and yes, LabourList, which now it can’t allowitself to be seen as a tool of the high command has a chance of becoming the grassroots e-network it was supposed to be.

(God, this sounds like a job application. I may add a few more elements to this later, especially if people mention other parts of good online strategy I’ve missed. Also I apologise in advance for all the good people and sites I’ve forgotten in my haste, Add ’em in the comments.)

40 Responses to “What we should do…”

  1. Brian Hughes

    Good post – spot on re “election is voter contact in marginal seats” being the thing that anyone really interested in securing a Labour fourth term should be concentrating on.

    The best that blogs, twitter and all the rest of the webby stuff can do is to encourager les autres on one’s side and to wind up the other lot a little.

    To expect any of it to have much influence on journalists or any influence at all on the vital uncommitted voters in marginal seats is as daft as suggesting that spin was invented in 1997 or that politicians haven’t been seeking fair or foul ways to discredit their opponents for at least three millennia…

  2. Brian Hughes

    Woops – there are either two too many or several too few words in the quote in my comment above.

    I hope my mistake won’t spoil anyone’s enjoyment.

  3. CS Clark

    ‘we should set up a site devoted to cataloguing and exposing the smears, and directing lazy journalists to it’

    Hmm. I’m not sure a partisan site of that type would work that well, at least in reaching the journalists. It sounds too much like rapid rebuttal spin-doctoring. Better to encourage non-partisan NGOs to do that sort of thing, like http://www.factcheck.org/ . Judging by the comments around decrying smear campaigns I’m sure there will be plenty of nominal-Tories willing to donate time and money to help . I suppose a similar, if not quite the same, UK equivalent is NHS Behind the Headlines – http://www.nhs.uk/News/Pages/NewsIndex.aspx – but it doesn’t stop the ‘lazy’ journalists in the first place.

    Also, out of curiousity, is MoveOn.org not referenced for a reason?

  4. hopisen

    CS, I think what media matters does well is create the sense that you can’t get away with spewing untruths.

    A lot of journalists hate it, but it’s really effective- especially as lots of site link to the videos of talking heads talking rubbish, and that in turn influences the way stories are covered. You need to have an agenda, or it gets a bit too worthy.

    No reason why moveon isn’t mentioned. I just forgot them – a good example of mobilising a community with a purpose and doing things the party machine can’t.

  5. SokeBoy


    You can discuss the Labour online meltdown all you like.

    But it won’t alter the fact the New Labour project is both politically and morally bankrupt.

  6. hopisen

    You know, I don’t get it.

    Why even bother making that comment? It’s utterly pointless and not even funny or clever. It’s effectively posting a comment saying “I’m a boring monomaniac”.

  7. CS Clark

    I take your point about needing an agenda, and about shaping the coverage, I just think that at this time it’s impossible for Labour – as opposed to affiliated independents – to run a partisan rebuttal site without it being dismissed as at best the same sort of propaganda (at worst, the rebuttals will be cast as smears). Sure there’s some cases where it’s a black and white case of truth versus lie. But I think there’s more likelihood of it being a matter of putting an opposing case (and in case you hadn’t noticed the last few days, the Internets don’t do subtlety) or opposing innuendo (of the ‘Is Brown autistic’ variety), and that’s the sort of thing where it’s possible to overstate, ignore minor facts etc., in which case the defence itself, despite good intentions, becomes evidence against Labour (cf General Betrayus, Clintons’ attempts at outrage campaigning, articles on CiF that even vaguely suggest Labour != Evil).

    I would, however, appreciate the irony if the way to take on the Guidos of this world was to make sure their works were more widely seen. And actually, that’s not a crazy idea, since I suppose for most normal people their exposure to this sort of stories is through intermediaries that clean this up.

    PS, the answer to your question of 2.42pm is, I think, something to do with this. That said, it’s a bit of an uncomfortable area for me as well so let’s not go there, eh?

  8. SokeBoy


    It appears you, like so many others, are guilty of shooting the messenger.

    But hey- that’s what I’ve come to expect- all spin and no substance. The idea that the party needs to change the way it delivers it’s message rather than substantially change itself still appears to hold sway.

    It’s not my fault Labour has thrown away it’s chance to make a real difference over the past twelve years.

    I understand it is nasty medicine to swallow. But swallow it you must.

  9. Charles Alex

    Soke Boy – the Labour party has a message unlike the empty vessels on the other side and this is why this distraction by people who should know better is so infuriating.
    You know that the only way your team wins is by encouraging the lowest common denominator. Look to the stars, dear boy not in the gutter.
    Lets have a battle about who has the best ideas for the economy rather than a tawdry and truly juvenile version of the ‘Drudge Report’. I know who wins on that one and its not the Cons

  10. SokeBoy

    But now a point on the the use of the Web by the Labour Party…..

    I regularly visit Guido’s blog. Why? Because it is FUNNY- simple as that! Many of his regular posters have made me laugh out loud. And laughter is so often the best antidote- even for frustration with a government.

    Therefore, if Labour want to compete against Guido and his ilk then acquiring a sense of humour would be a good start.

    But maybe I’m being a boring monomaniac by saying so.

  11. hopisen

    Sokeboy, repeatedly posting “My opinion is a fact” doesn’t make it any more persuasive.

    You’re welcome to post here, but uless you actually have something interesting to say, you’ll just be like the bloke at the back of CLP meetings who is constantly mumbling about how Harold Wilson is to blame for the fact that the last party newsletter wasn’t good enough and, just like that guy, will be totally ignored.

  12. SokeBoy

    Charles Alex,

    So what IS the Labour Party’s message, please?

    And you also assume I am a Conservative. For your information I am not. I am now a floating voter but come from a Labour family. I was once a member, but I did not leave Labour- Labour left me. I fully understand why so many feel disenchanted by Labour. Furthermore, as I have previously said, I understand why so many people find Guido’s blog such a a laugh. It is a wonderful antidote, not just to Labour spin and BS, but the spin and BS of all major parties.

  13. SokeBoy


    I hope my two previous posts may be more to your liking.

    Love and Peace,


  14. SokeBoy


    Glad you liked my previous postings.

    Anyway, Harold Wilson isn’t to blame for the state of the last party newsletter.

    I blame Wedgie Benn myself!

    Love and Peace,


  15. Charles Alex

    Soke Boy – at the risk of categorising you further, if you haven’t realised that there are real dividing lines between the parties – I presume because of your credentials you see some value in public service and investment in the public sphere (after listening to Obama talking today about investment in roads, infrastructure, public works) I think progressive politics has developed a new strand that crosses the Atlantic (and the Channel too). Tell we what alternative is posed by the official opposition??
    Maybe you think the Labour party has left you but I suggest you have a look back (without the anger) and look between the crosshairs of an increasingly dull post-political battle posed by Guido and his ilk.
    Hazel Blears was spot on using the word ‘nihilistic’ in the same sentence as Guido ‘the Rave’. Lowest common denominator and Hopi – don’t encourage the lowest common denominator – you know better.

  16. SokeBoy


    Perhaps you would be kind enough to answer my question before asking questions of me.

    So what is the Labour Party’s message, please?

    We are going O/T here, and I would not wish to annoy Hopi, but I think it is a bit late for a ‘progressive’ agenda after twelve years in power.

    Perhaps if one had been in existence sooner I may not have the problem I have with Labour now.

    Peace and Love,


  17. ben

    Policy, naturally, is the most important thing in government, but equally important in campaging is emotion and connecting with the voter, we need a coherent and passionate voice. Gordon cares but he hasnt the fire and passion of an Obama or a Blair. In the situation we are in economically it is hard for us to inspire, churchilleanism only works if the man is popular, which Brown singularly isnt…I struggle to see how we can effectively connect with and motivate the voter enough to win, feet on the ground are devastatingly important, but people dont vote because a local party volunteer convinced them that governemnt policy is not going to result in the country sinking beneath the waves; people vote because theyv been made to give a damn. And the party’s voices are proving to be decidedly uninspirational….

  18. roger alexander

    ‘“election is voter contact in marginal seats”

    Is this gallows humour?

    After the revelations of the activities of Brown’s hand picked senior aides this weekend who exactly is going to vote for this scum?

    Not to mention the ruined economy,record debt,record taxes and MP’s finding every conceivable way to take taxpayers money,even down to an 88p plug and for hubbies porno films.

    Really quite a toxic mix for electors to digest,private pensions trashed,interest on savings non existent and share prices collapsed.
    You could start by testing the water in the Euro elections with a discussion on why Labour lied about it’s referendum promise or perhaps the council elections about the doubling of the council tax?

    I guess you could focus on the 20% public sector employees to try and maintain some sort of core vote strategy,however,many of them seemed to be pissed off at the waste that they see first hand in their unreformed public sector jobs, not to mention the avalanche of bureacrats which nobody can yet figure out what so many of them do.Your core vote of course used to be the working class,but as they have seen their standards of living undercut by Labour’s massed immigration strategy,I somehow don’t think that will be very fertile groung for you.

    Yes,please make voter contact but don’t be surpried by the level of abuse you receive.

    Hopi clearly thinks a ‘reboot’ will do the job,but in the real world the sleeze,filth and economic record of this government makes John Majors dying government in 97 look competent and wholesome.

  19. Sunny

    As you know Hopi, I agree with all of this (though I’m not too hot on some of your recommendations but that’s a minor quibble).

    There are a few issues though. First, resources. Media Matters, TPM and others have money to do media tracking and making videos etc. We don’t have any funders… yet. We need a Stephen Shakespeare type.

    Secondly, I think Labour candidates themselves need to engage more, and not enough of this goes on. That would give them credibility and make sure that people aren’t seen as just sitting in their ivory towers and not engaging in the national conversation.

    That would also bring in more people who feel that they’re actually having an impact on politicians through discussion.

    Thirdly, we do need more active debate and discussion from the party about their ideas, policies and more. Otherwise its just all mostly a waste of time.

    And lastly (for now), we need the party to put more info out there about its internal workings. We don’t get enough of this, and its all carefully choreographed through the national media, without actually being discussed amongst party members. News is what will drive blog numbers.

  20. newmania

    The only good contributors to Liberal Conspiracy do not like New Labour . If as it would appear that little brown nose Hundal is using it as a vechile for his parasitic attempt to get his snout into the New Labour media slush fund then I feel it should be renamed

  21. Mike

    I’m not sure how the increasingly juvenile Kerry McCarthy blog can be held up as a beacon of decency! It reads like a teenager wrote it and she makes comments about the voices of opposition MPs as if that’s grown up and responsible for an MP to be doing on a blog?!
    Maybe if Labour actually concentrated on the real world instead of the one that exists in the ‘second life’ world of nerdy, self interested, boozed up Westminster babble… just a thought..

  22. Hopi Sen

    Roger, do get over youself. Your fervid imagination is misleading you. You don’t speak for britain. Even if you were the messiah leaving anti-labour rants on labour blogs would be a waste of your time.

    Sunny, good points – on resources, I agree with you but don’t have an answer. On the inner workings of the labour party I think you’re being a bit unfair. It’s easy enough to know what’s happening at npfs, nec’s and the like if you know where to look (ann black, luke akehurst forex) it’s a bit nerdy, but I like nerdy.

    On debate and candidates, again I agree with you, though with the proviso that if I’m fighting a marginal seat t’internet wouldn’t be my first priority. I would say though that labourlist did a lot of good stuff here which is likely to be ignored. Personally I think one reason LL has had trouble was that it chose to attracting readers through a blog war with people who hate labour rather than a conversation with people who are sceptical but broadly sympathetic. This meant the good community building stuff got drowned out by dale/staines stuff. I suspect this happened because of a confusion of objectives.

  23. hopisen

    Newmania – I don’t censor here, but your comments about Sunny are both rude and wrong- I reckon you’re allowed one but not both. Wind it in a bit please.

    Soke- I don’t mind comments going OT, I welcome it. One of my fondest dreams is to have to introduce threading and community moderation because ofthe volume of comments!

    Mike- I like Kerry’s blog, not least because it’s human – and it is often serious, just not always written like an IPPR policy document.

    Ben – some interesting point, but i think you overestimate the importance of rhetoric and connection vs ideas… it;s an important debate though

  24. Mike

    Face it, we as a party are sunk at the next election big time. New Labour populated itself with careerists and drones who they employed to work for MPs and the party machine and we are now reaping that whirlwind. If you staff and run an organisation with politics students and careerists then this is what you get.

    New Labour has left an empty shell as countless people who once saw us as their natural home have gone to the BNP or will stay at home.
    No amount of obsessing about blogs which the vast majority of people in the real world could care less about is going to remedy that situation.

    Kerry McCarthy is an example of such New Labour clones and a reason why many people in Bristol Labour cant stand her.

  25. SokeBoy


    Your concerns are very much like my own. Labour has totally knackered itself because it has taken its core vote- the traditional working class (people like myself and my parents) for granted.

    I would not advocate voting BNP in any circumstances, but this party is gaining support because, whether Labour like it or not, they are seen as addressing traditional working class concerns.

    Of course, it is easy to call the BNP ‘fascist’, which they undoubtedly are, but fascism can come in many different forms. It doesn’t have to wear a military uniform. It can wear a suit whilst removing our traditional freedoms in the cause of ‘fighting terrorism’.

    As for the army of bureaucrats we all forced to pay for- well, don’t get me started, purleeze! I am sick of these non-job creation schemes which only squeeze the real wealth-creating sector of the economy even further. It is worth remembering we need those who are real wealth creators to prosper first, before we create these pointless non-jobs. But Labour ignores this issue, thinking the private sector can continue to be plundered for tax revenue.

    Of course, some will accuse me of having a traditional conservative view on this issue. I just think it is a balanced and realistic view.

    Hopi, you may choose to disagree with Roger and insult him, but his views are not so different from my own. Some of us live and work in the real world and have a good idea of what has annoyed and frustrated people with this government.

    Love and Peace,


  26. hopisen

    Sokeboy, amazing as it may sound, I too live in the real world, Tooting not yet being confirmed to be an ethereal projection.

    In regard to you point, Roger is free to rant as much as he likes, I just don’t want him to labour under the misapprehension that doing so will cause those of us to support the Labour party to renounce the government and fall in a heap at the revelations he offers us…

  27. SokeBoy


    Good to hear Roger is free to ‘rant’, as you put it. I had to defend him because I totally understand his feelings. In the end, Labour ignores such anger at its peril.

    As for Tooting, well I’ve heard it occupies a totally different point in the space-time continuum from the rest of us, but I may be confusing it with Brixton.

    Love and Peace,


  28. SokeBoy

    And just to clarify further, Hopi….

    Many people who work, or who have worked for Labour since 1997, can be seen- rightly or wrongly- as living in the ‘Westminster Bubble’, helping to formulate policies which make very little, if any, difference to the Great British Public. This is was I meant by my comment re: the Real World.

    I am sure living in Tooting keeps you suitably grounded!

    Love and Peace,


  29. CS Clark

    ‘One of my fondest dreams is to have to introduce threading and community moderation because of the volume of comments!’

    If you’re serious about wanting a large volume of comments, I recommend reading this about moderating. Especially rules 1, 6, 7 and 10. Double-especially rule 10.

    PS – Franken wins, Coleman to appeal

  30. hopisen

    CS Clark – anyone who reads Making Light is welcome here!

    Though I confess as I’ve had to spend more time here and on other UK politics blogs my more heterodox blog reading has faded commensurately. It’s a shame.

  31. roger alexander


    ‘Roger, do get over youself. Your fervid imagination is misleading you. You don’t speak for britain. Even if you were the messiah leaving anti-labour rants on labour blogs would be a waste of your time.’

    Apologies for offending the New Labour Aristocracy,snouts in the trough,heads in the sand and hands in other peoples pockets is what most people in Britain think of your party.

    If you need any proof just wait a couple of months for some real voters in real elections.

  32. SokeBoy

    Roger’s comments certainly aren’t boring as far as I’m concerned!

  33. donpaskini

    Aww, thank you :)

    I felt so encouraged by this post that I’ve just written something on the new Tory housing policy, an area which illustrates perfectly the point that the Tories are weakest on policy.

    On a different note, if you haven’t already, you should def get a copy of 1960: ‘LBJ vs JFK vs Nixon’ by David Pietrusza, it is like the perfect read for anyone interested in American political history.

  34. Charles Alex

    Well at least your getting posts here – I love your posts Soke boy – just what part of the space time continuum – the 1970’s and Roger is very amusing because i’m sure he has wound himself up to such an extent that what he ponticates make sense.
    As for achievements – what about a national minimum wage? (which i’m sure you will say is not enough). As for your introduction of the BNP into ‘our collective conversation’ – now there is an example of empty rhetoric appealing to the lowest common denominator.
    As somebody who regularly campaigns and talks to real people – I think you misunderstand how sceptical they are about an opposition that has nothing to say on the big issues.
    In my patch we are at 36% Labour in a marginal seat in the middle of a recession.
    Both way off line but love your rants chaps.
    As for Hopi – you are spot on with most of your comments about re-connection, Soke Boy and Roger seem to be obsessed with opinion and my experience people want to hear what you are going to do to help children, create jobs, safeguard jobs etc etc.

  35. roger alexander

    Charles Alex

    ‘As for achievements – what about a national minimum wage? ‘

    The purpose of this policy was to be a floor,but with the mass immigration free for all of the last 12 years has become a wages cieling.

    ‘In my patch we are at 36% Labour in a marginal seat in the middle of a recession.’

    According to which polling company?

  36. SokeBoy


    It is reassuring to know you talk to ‘real people’ on a regular basis.

    Love and Peace,



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