There are two new reports from the Hansard Society on the hot topic of the Internet and politics. The first is a modest three page “digital paper” entitled “Politicians get their clicks” by Dr Andy Williamson which challenges the assumption that the Internet will make a similar difference in the UK elections, as it was claimed occurred in the U.S. The second, at 64 pages, is named “Behind the digital campaign“, and largely supports this, with the tag line that in the UK “parties are digital followers not leaders.”
These rather contrast with a separate study from Sitemorse and Alterian which aligns political party web sites with their claims about the Internet. In fact it’s more a review of the party web sites and government web sites, as assessed by Sitemorse. I suppose it does analyze and attempt to compare the amount of effort that the mainstream political groups have put into their sites. In contrast, the Hansard Society reports recognize that the web sites may probably be less important than the energy they employ in maintaining sophisticated back office systems of supporters and potentials voters.
Sitemorse’s distraction with government web sites may assume that politicians have some control over Whitehall web sites, but personally I remain sceptical. The main recent, and continuing, drive has been a cull of the excessive number of them, as identified in the operational efficiency programme, which does seem to be working and, as the report flags up, brings direct.gov to the top.
Can I suggest a random survey in the street asking how many citizens actually look at a political party or politicians web site? Politicians may be relevant in community and local politics, but less so in distant Parliament. I also probably share concerns about digital exclusion and remain confident that pushing leaflets through letter boxes and generally door-stepping will occupy the parties most.
With the exception of a few the majority of MPs and their staff don’t get IT.
I don’t think they know enough about the internet to use it as the valuable tool it could be in this election. You only have to watch the televised debates on the digital economy bill and look at the result to know what a pack of dinosaurs they are.
Another Hansard Society publication might answer your call for a random street poll… the latest Audit of Political engagement asks some of these questions and shows that 4% of the general electorate follow a politician on Facebook and 2% on Twitter.