On Thursday there’s an event on at the US Embassy where a panel will present their thoughts on the influence of the web on the US election and, laterally, what it all might mean for the UK.
This will be the first of a flurry of online campaigning analysis as minds begin to focus on a general election at some point in the next two years.
Online campaigning is interesting for lots of different reasons: for academics it means data, the media see a rich source of scoops, and the parties see massive PR potential, if not a direct route to voters. No prizes for guessing what new media consultants see. For the electorate, online campaigning should mean having access to a sufficient amount of information on which to base informed decisions.
While all are agreed on the desirability of electioneering online, there is no agreement on what is feasible and what is worth doing. Online campaigning is still a ‘grey area’, which makes it a nightmare for the regulators – and probably the electorate – but while everything is up for grabs it also means that online campaigning is a rich source of innovation in a otherwise pretty mundane area of politics.
The event is invitation only but the FT is streaming it and has asked for questions to pose to the panelists. I’ve got a few:
- What proportion of election resources will the winning party put into its campaign?
- Can the parties genuinely strike a balance between presentation and functionality online – that is, can the parties truly offer something of value to the voter or is it all about appearances?
- In the age of the permanent campaign and the social web, does online campaigning have to stop when the polls close?
- The last time the Electoral Commission looked at regulation of campaigning online was 2003, and it concluded that there was nothing to be specifically concerned about online. Is this still the case?
I’ve formed views on these questions from research and discussions with ‘stakeholders’ of online campaigning. But what are yours?