Conservatives.com is about to be relaunched. What would you like to see on it?
I’d offer three overlapping thoughts to guide the relaunch:
- Today’s voters are much more interested in single issues than political parties. If you visit conservatives.com it’s currently hard to find where the party stands on tax or immigration or the environment. The party’s campaigning on four or five big issues should be the front-of-house products.
- The distinctions between newspapers, broadcasters, think tanks, campaigning organisations and political parties are dissolving. Newspapers host video. Think tanks run campaigns. Campaigning organisations run blogsites that are as rich in information as newspapers. Political parties can do almost anything they want. The Tories do, of course, run webcameron but they haven’t yet grasped the possibility of running big campaigns – rivalling Greenpeace, the TaxPayers’ Alliance or a newspaper’s ‘Save our Scottish Regiments’ campaign. We should be running these campaigns NOW and harvesting tens of thousands of emails. We should aim to have THE best online presence for all people interested in three or four hot political topics.
- Third parties should write for conservatives.com. The most difficult thing about running a website is to keep it fresh, with lots of new content. It is also the most important thing. Keeping the website interesting and regularly updated would be a lot easier if third party organisations were regularly invited to contribute. Linking the above two thoughts with this thought:
The Tories should run a website dedicated to MRSA and the general state of NHS hospitals. It should be called MRSAwatch.com or something like that. It should aim to be the best site for covering the scandalous nature of hospital cleaning standards. Individual victims of hospital superbugs, and nursing staff fighting superbugs would be invited to write for the site. People could join a mailing list for the site and donate to campaigns to highlight the problem. MRSAwatch.com would be 80% about MRSA but the fifth column would be a link to the Conservative Party’s other microsites and to further information about Tory health policy and about David Cameron. But the overall aim of the Conservatives’ online presence should be to communicate passion for issues and popular involvement in addressing those issues.
These same principles should apply to local MPs’ websites and the websites of candidates. They shouldn’t be JoeBloggsMP.com but BarchesterNews.com. The sites should all be about local issues with contributions from local vicars, headteachers and charity leaders (who would, of course, promote their contributions to their congregations, parents, volunteers). The name of the candidate would be prominent – perhaps as editor of the site – but the key message would be a passionate concern for local concerns.
In conclusion: If we don’t do these things, Labour will. Because of our current popularity we are best placed to do so. Just because we are sat on excellent opinion poll leads that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be maximising our support base. The party’s internet strategy – and the harvesting of new supporters and donors – is far from what it could be.