Remember the last election? I don’t. Not the foggiest. I’ve never been doorstepped. We saw Tory campaigners for the first time ever in Burslem last May, I think they had come by mistake, but we nevertheless welcomed them and their furry bugs and pens. Politics was a pretty lacklustre affair for the ordinary voter in a safe seat four (/five?) years ago, unless you were deep in the thick of it in one way or another.
2010 is likely to be the year when it all changes. Not only is this a year when the outcome might be properly nailbiting, the run-up is proving pretty thrilling. Inspired by the example of Barack Obama, politicians are vying to be more social, more fun and more sharing. Apart from the odd awkward pitfall, parties have people working for them who actually know what they’re doing and even the politicians themselves have had some practice at Youtube. The mainstream media, with obvious exceptions, is over its confusion over whether new media is something to be Ignored, Feared or Attacked, so there is a healthy interchange between growing numbers of political blogs, the Twittersphere and the morning papers. Indeed, it might be the sweeping transformation of communication brought about by Twitter, which didn’t even exist in those foggy days of 2005 (or 6), that has led the Daily Telegraph to call this the “first digital election” (*cough*).
For the hyperlocal blogger, there are more tools than ever to help you make local democracy exciting again. Here are a few you can try – please add any more you think are useful in the comments:
– Democracy Club breaks down the business of elections into bite-sized pieces. This volunteer-powered work feeds into more great resources: Your NextMP, The Straight Choice and TheyWorkForYou. And it’s not just dusty old research, at the moment you an win a duck house!
– Yoosk lets you ask questions of current MPs and local figures.
– You’ll be able to follow MP candidates from all over the UK that use Twitter on this list by Tweetminster.
– You don’t have to try and cover it all yourself: use a link-tracking tool like delicious to quickly bookmark links and then add them onto your site. Here’s a guide and video to help you to add RSS from delicious or many of the other sites above onto a WordPress site.
– News organisations and betting companies are developing election widgets (Swingometers and the like) that some sites might want to add (they won’t all work on free WordPress sites).
Keep it simple and manageable – just using your blog to write about local candidates or uploading videos of them talking does a great service to local democracy. You’re not under the same obligation to give equal coverage to every candidate as the broadcast media, but it will still help your reputation if you can be even-handed and offer everyone a voice as far as you can. This might be a good time to insist that people can’t comment anonymously and enlist friends, ideally from a range of political views, who can help with moderation.