Engaging the progressive grass-roots in the UK

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The UK Labour Party have been widely decried as being on their last legs, out of ideas, dead ducks, etc. However, behind the scenes, a growing movement of vibrant progressives is building and organising. Much of it is being supported and encouraged by the Labour Party.

This rise of progressive online political action also coincides with the decline of the Tories polling – with Gordon Brown and Labour now in with a chance to win the election.

While I could talk about 38 Degrees (the UK version of Get Up! and Move On), the example that I really want to highlight is MyDavidCameron.com.

This is an example of Labour engaging with progressive grass-roots activists without trying to seize control. It challenges the traditional monopoly that the Tories have had on internet campaigning in the UK. MyDavidCameron taps into activists who aren’t necessarily pro-Labour, but who are deeply skeptical about David Cameron and the Tories, and do not want them elected.

CLARIFICATION (15/04/10): The MyDavidCameron website is independent of Labour, and was set up “by a left-leaning graphic designer… the Labour party quickly adopted its template.”

The point of my highlighting this is to show what can happen when a political party lets go control of their online space. They have successfully engaged with a group of online activists, who are now spreading the anti-Tory message. It’s a particularly simple, yet effective method, by asking progressive activists to come up with their own slogans to replace Tory propaganda.

This site shows that with political courage and risks comes great rewards. Remember – it could have all gone wrong. So kudos to the Labour strategists who had the foresight to allow this website to go ahead.

For a more detailed analysis, there’s a good article by WeAreSocial – a social media strategy company in the UK – who’ve written about MyDavidCameron.com.

Postscript: This blog post on MyDavidCameron.com shows the natural limit for this campaign, and also why it is probably most powerful during the 30 day campaign than necessarily the hard slog of continuous campaigning.

Go on. Go on. Go  on.Oh, those naughty Tories. Stealing our ideas about co-ops (and messing them up in the process) was bad enough. But stealing our ideas about spoof posters (and messing them up in the process) is simply unpardonable.

Shortly after we spoofed the first Tory election poster, I acknowledged that this project had a limited shelf-life. And so the fact that the Tories are now trying to get in on the joke can only suggest one thing: we’ve reached our sell-by date.

There is a lot of talk in the online community on this site that most of the spoof posters have a shelf-life of 1-2 weeks at most. This seems to me to underline why this kind of campaign sight is most effective during the actual campaign period. It is during campaigns that most people become politically engaged, and there is also a large amount of Tory (or Liberal Party) material to spoof.

Despite this, the site was by all measures, a massive success. There are scores of spoofed posters, it received lots of mainstream media coverage, as well as coverage in blogs, Twitter and Facebook, and the website itself received over 250,000 unique visitors.