14 March 2009

Why haven't the Lib Dems learnt from Obama’s use of the internet?

The importance of the internet, and especially YouTube, in Barack Obama’s successful campaign in coming from nowhere to the presidency has been widely recognized (e.g. see here, or just type 'Obama's use of the internet' into Google).

Shortly after the foundation of the Liberal Democrats 21 years ago, they too were pretty much nowhere - it doesn't get much worse than 4% in the polls and 4th, after the Green Party in the Euro elections.

Then, as now, it was always difficult for the third party to get anything like parity in media coverage with the other two parties. But then there was no internet, whereas now there is.

Yet here we are, a whole week since the Liberal Democrat Spring Conference in Harrogate came to an end, and not a single speech from the leader, or anyone else at the conference, has appeared on YouTube. All there is to be seen of it is an amateurish looking video, complete with some awful background library music, that was apparently ‘shown … to introduce party leader Nick Clegg’s keynote speech’ (see here).

But you can't actually watch his keynote speech on YouTube, nor the speech by Vince Cable or anyone else who spoke at the conference.

Having worked with Paddy Ashdown in the early days of trying to get the new party off the ground, I know that we’d have given our eye teeth to have had access to something like YouTube back in 1988 (especially as there were hardly enough funds to pay for the first party political broadcast).

In December last year, there were press announcements that the LibDems had appointed a new ‘Director of Policy & Communications’ - which raises the questions of what he and his colleagues have been doing since then, and why they haven’t learnt the most obvious, simplest and cheapest lesson from the Obama campaign - i.e. about how to make the most of the internet.

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