At the weekend Tony Blair called upon "the silent majority to act against animal rights protesters who hinder medical research".
News reaches ConservativeHome today that David Cameron has signed Early Day Motion 2110 which has, according to Compassion in World Farming, "called for the overturning of new powers that would allow diseased poultry flocks to be suffocated by ‘ventilation shutdown’". CIWF explains their campaign:
"An amendment to the national welfare at slaughter law rushed through Parliament over the May Bank Holiday gives the Government power to authorise the culling of poultry in the event of an avian influenza outbreak by closing the air vents in the sheds and shutting off the ventilation system. CIWF has since drawn the major welfare concerns to the attention of Animal Welfare Minister, Ben Bradshaw. In a meeting with the Minister, CIWF ‘s Chief Executive, Philip Lymbery pointed out that ‘ventilation shutdown is likely to be little better than simply burying birds alive and is totally unacceptable on welfare grounds’."
British politics is going to see much more of this ‘micro-campaigning’ over coming years. Small groups of people who, in the eyes of the majority, have a niche concern, are no longer dependent upon the national media for the oxygen of publicity. They are only a good website away from joining up with others who are like-minded in their anger at an animal welfare issue… or at the persecution of the Burmese… or at the unreliability of a railway service.
Letter-writing campaigns to national newspapers and the lobbying of a national charity to take up your cause are no longer going to be the only starting points of a successful campaign. A good blog and a high Google ranking are going to be the more common beginnings of campaign activism.
Political parties will need the capacity to respond to this new phenomenon. The difference between winning and losing a tight General Election might lie in whether a party interacted with the campaigns of the netroots or not.
Winning parties will proactively run micro-campaigns, too. In the mass media age the manifesto of a political party only needed to major on messages of mass appeal. Those macro messages still count most, of course, but narrowcast media mean that micro messages now matter, too.