General Election online campaigning hots up with Lord Ashcroft’s purchase of ConservativeHome

Labour's Mark Hanson makes two astute observations about this week's purchase of ConservativeHome by Tory non-dom and arch-funder, Lord Ashcroftover at his Independent (newspaper) blog .

Firstly, he observes that while the big debate has been about the purchase and subsequent predicted editorial direction of ConservativeHome, Ashcroft has also bought access to the remains of online political TV channel, 18 Doughty Street. Mark suggests that will give Ashcroft and the Conservatives a fully-fledged capacity to develop and deliver high-quality multi-media content in the run-up to and during and election – free from Ofcom's and the Electoral Commission's restraints of course.

Marks puts it more directly, suggesting the Conservatives will have "basically everything you need to make the kind of attack ads the Americans are famous for and that Tim Montgomerie et al have already dabbled with."

Secondly, just as Google paid $1.85bn for YouTube's community of users, Mark argues that Ashcroft has also paid a huge sum (£1.3m) for ConservativeHome to access its userbase – a community of right-leaning individuals active online. Invaluable for swaying undecided voters, some might argue.

Both arguments remain unconfirmed or unproven. But it certainly adds more excitement and intrigue to the way the general election will play out online.

You can also read ConservativeHome editor, Tim Montgomerie's, own take on the sale here

Tags: ConservativeHome, Lord Ashcroft, Mark Hanson

LabourList Review Part 3

LabourList: Conclusions

To round-off the LabList review it's worth returning to what Draper writes in his memo about LabourList aspiring to become “an independent site that aims, in time, to be our version of Conservative home”.

I think given time, this may happen. It won’t be easy with Labour being the party in Government. This adds a different dynamic in two areas. Firstly, in terms of what insiders can say on the site regardless of its independence. And secondly in terms of allowing the site to grow organically. This works best if both content and the ideas behind content can develop organically. We know that both ConservativeHome and LabourList (and Tory/Labour blogs in general) tend to eschew ideas generally in opposition to the mainstream party. When the mainstream party happens to be in government I think this will create tensions.

But remember. LabourList is still in beta and has a lot of bedding in to do. More importantly desipte my observations above I would clarify that if there was one avenue to resolve any intra-party tensions or overcome a desire to limit debate and move political communications and campaigning forward then sites like LabourList, ConservativeHome and LiberalVoice represent it. I'm told that at least one of the people behind LabList feel that MSM have focussed too much on the site’s launch rather than the symbolic change in Labour’s approach to the Internet. It’s early days yet, but I suspect he’s right about that.

Conservative party set to launch Torypedia

ConservativeHome, the grassroots Conservative website is set to launch a Tory version of Wikipedia.

According to an article on the site, the people behind ConservativeHome are using MediaWiki to

"produce our own online encyclopedia for the Conservative Party and
the wider conservative movement in Britain.  It will cover people and
events that Wikipedia wouldn’t deem ‘notable’, and by harnessing the
wisdom of the ConservativeHome crowd we hope that any pages that do
overlap will be better.

I think this is a great idea that will offer the party’s grassroots and its future wannabe MPs an invaluable resource to get up to speed with and contribute the party’s collective knowledge. The wiki plans to have specific sections covering off:

  • Conservative history – e.g. timeline of Cameron’s leadership, defining events in Tory history
  • Resources – e.g. key Tory party figures, How to become a Tory MP
  • Policy – existing Tory policy, debates on key issues

I don’t know how exactly the wiki will function, but one challenge I can foresee is how to ensure the site avoids being vandalised or used for political point scoring a la David Miliband’s Environmental Contract wiki which was hijacked by Guido and the right a couple of years back.

Great idea, though, really great idea reinforcing the Tories keeping one step ahead of the competition.

Technorati tags: Conservative Party, ConservativeHome, Wiki