Gordon MacMillan,  UK Politics

Tory bloggers come up short

If you wanted an example of how negative digital campaigning can fail then look no further than the #Kerryout campaign that is seeking to oust Labour’s new media spokeswoman Kerry McCarthy MP.

Some Tory bloggers have already distanced themselves from it and one has warned it is childish and will backfire. After all the publicity and many blog posts mostly orchestrated by Tory Bear the campaign has managed to raise a grand total of £1,7000. So little. So much effort.

As personal attacks go it has created only negative buzz around the Conservative candidate Adeela Shafi. You have to feel sorry for her saddled with such witless enthusiasts as those behind the Kerryout campaign. Bristol247.com described it as “embarrassing”.

All it has done is spurred others to engage in tit for tat campaigning and help raise money and sympathy for Labour (okay I am biased but I don’t think that is in dispute). It is all lamentable.

It has led to the story in the Daily Mirror claiming that “Tory star Adeela Shafi has £325,000 CCJ ‘debt”. I don’t have anything to say about that and I don’t know if it is true or not. It is besides the point. What is almost certainly true is that story is a direct result of the efforts of that many of Tory bloggers (Iain Dale among them) who have backed this campaign. Nice job boys (they are all boys).

What is true is that Adeela Shafi is like the poster girl for the next generation of David Cameron’s new generation of Tory MPs, but she is not helped at all by any of this. She has failed to distance herself from this campaign and to disown it. You have to wonder why that is and what that says about Conservative Party, its message and its politics.

What’s most disappointing is that the emergence of digital communications in political campaigning has largely been positive. That’s one of the things that came out of Barrack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign.

It showed the great power that digital has for positive change. It showed its strength in helping to organise and to unite people around common ideas. It showed how you can put the message in the hands of supporters as it brought people with common ideas together both digitally and in the real world. It created a huge groundswell via Twitter, Facebook, blogs, YouTube and Flickr.

I like Labour’s campaign — Change we see — I think that is a good example of harnessing positive digital campaigning.

Elsewhere and so written about has been the use of social media in Iran. We saw that again in Iran and in other protests movements where people have organised for change using social media sites. The downside appearing to be being state security services also use it to crack down on protest. The discussion around that is another post in itself and the debate between Evgeny Morozov (“Why the internet is failing Iran’s activists”) and Clay Shirky (“The Twitter Revolution: more than just a slogan”) is worth checking out on Prospect.

Those are the benefits, but low and dirty childish campaigns like the #Kerryout campaign have none of those positive qualities. That’s why after months you’ve ended up with such a paltry response. That’s a fail then.

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