A new twist in the way in which the http://freegary.org.uk/campaign is being run has implications for Political Campaigning in the UK and for the first time in this country applies the lessons learned from Obama’s 2008 victory. Political Campaign Managers Take Note: A new type of Interactive Campaigning is coming to a constituency near you.
Some months ago Bunnco decided that inflation was just round the corner. So he bought a house in Norwich to rent out on the basis that it was less likely to devalue as fast as Sterling will. My new tenant moved in last week and, in passing, told me that she’s involved in the campaign to prevent Gary McKinnon’s extradition to the US on charges of computer hacking and espionage. The campaign is about to step up a gear in advance of an Appeal Court hearing and new technology to spread the word is being developed just two streets away. As it was just around the corner, I called by….
There are lots of campaigns about. Some are very local – perhaps a fund raiser for the local children’s hospice or hospital scanner. Others are regional or national, often run by professional campaigning organisations like the larger well-funded charities. Newspapers used to be ‘campaigning’ organisations, championing one issue or another. And Government with the deepest pockets of all gets in on the act too with shady organisations like the ‘Carbon Trust’.
So it's difficult for the one-man band campaign get traction when there are so many other issues competing for attention. But things have changed and since Labour’s victory in 1997, technology has democratised campaigning. No longer are we spoon-fed the lobby correspondent’s view. We can think for ourselves. And we can publish ourselves. Just ask Guido.
It's easy to forget that in the old days running a single-issue grassroots campaign meant getting cold on a wet Saturday afternoon Demo in London waving placards & blowing whistles. But that's all old hat and technologic advances have are bleeding into political campaigning at local level.
In my own backyard back in 2007, South Norfolk Conservatives launched their district Council election campaign on YouTube as part of an integrated technological fight and turned a deficit of 8 seats into a majority of 32 at the Council. It was the Conservative's best showing in that set of elections and at the time it was a first. The technology worked and now everybody’s doing it.
The Interweb has changed much but not everybody is like us, sat hunched in front of the PC reading posts like this or twittering away on myfacespace. It's a start but to go massive, you need a message and SMS. Yes, internet is good but there are more mobile phones than people. And that’s what Obama’s people understood in 2008.
So that’s why I’m interested to follow the way in which the tussle to prevent Gary Mckinnon being extradited to the US is breaking even newer technical ground implementing the text-message technology that Obama used to such great effect. Where it was used it’s reported to have increased votes and turnout resulting in a 10% swing in certain districts. And if you think that sort of thing doesn’t work over here and I’m over-egging this, just ask Simon Cowell and Rage Against the Machine.
People who want to register their support for Gary McKinnon’s Appeal against Extradition need only text 'Gary' to 65000. So far, nothing new. But where this campaign partially innovates in the political sphere is that they’ll receive a text reply, which they can pass onto friends and family.
This has previously been financially out of reach as the reply text message for a mass campaign has previously cost a fortune.
Positive-feedback makes a campaign both viral and interactive. And it can now be done for a couple of hundred quid… Just the sort of thing that makes it viable in a single constituency, which is why I’m following the outcome closely.
In a further development, the total replies for McKinnon will be collated and duplicates removed using the sender’s mobile number as the key [with the first digits then removed to protect privacy and prevent spam]. The total number of unique respondents are thus validated and a daily summary sent to key politicians, including in the this case, the Home Secretary, to keep up campaign momentum.
So, the same technique used by commercial sponsors to generate sales leads from TV Adverts, where funding isn’t a problem, is now breaking into the UK Political & Campaigning scene at prices any candidate can afford.
Forget about Uniform National Swing. If you want to get elected it’s all about campaigning, pledge building & getting out the vote and then polling one more vote than the next man in your seat. In the marginal constituencies where General Elections are decided, this sort of technical edge, especially driving turnout from 6pm on polling day that will deliver results at the margin where a handful of votes is enough. It’s why Obama did it. It’s why the local Tories are putting so much faith in their MyConservatives approach. And why the others are frantically playing catch-up.
I’m not one to join single-issue campaigns. After all, politics is one great big campaign anyway. But I believe that participation in Politics is partly about respect for the ‘little man’ standing-up for people like Gary McKinnon, impaired as he is with Aspergers Syndrome. How can he be characterised in the same way as a Taliban insurgent? It’s insane to suppose that he was maliciously responsible for derailing CIA/FBI computer systems, which should have been better protected anyway. He should be getting a medal, not a life term. For those of us that have interest in technology and its role in Political Campaigning and Betting, McKinnon is a case of There But For The Grace of God Go I. Rant over.
But follow the technical aspects of Gary’s Protest carefully and text Gary 65000. It's Free. Pass it on.
Bunnco - Your Man On The Spot