So we’re all now back from our “technology not policy, will win the 2010 election” debate in Parliament last night – which by all accounts went down very well. First off a quick apology for anyone who couldn’t get into the debate – unfortunately the event was a complete sell-out, and the Policeman on duty wouldn’t let any more people in the debating chamber!
Also, a quick thank you for everyone involved in the debate – for Henry Jackson and Message Space for partnering once again, Danny Alexander MP for be the perfect host as ever, and to our illustrious panel of speakers Rory Cellan-Jones (BBC), Bruce Anderson (Independent), Rishi Saha (Conservatives), Kerry McCarthy MP (Labour) and Julie Meyer (entrepreneur and Dragon’s Den).
The debate itself was kicked off with some great insight from Rory Cellan-Jones whose opening lines were that “technology would be hugely important and completely irrelevant at the same time”. Rory was also the first person to mention the tension between social media and mainstream media – i.e. TV – and especially how Twitter should play an important role in the televised debates, amplifying the messages (and gaffes) in real time. Rory summed up his piece by saying that he thinks the internet will have a big impact from a reporting perspective, but perhaps not such a great impact on the result of the election.
Kerry McCarthy then weighed in with a Labour perspective – initially summing up her position by stating that it will be policy that matters in the election, not technology – technology is simply the medium for communicating policies. Kerry also brought up the importance of using social media for building and mobilising communities around issues – citing the government’s recent Copenhagen Climate Change campaign amongst others.
Julie Meyer gave a contrasting view on the debate to the other more politically orientated arguments, focusing on the importance of the bottom up principles of social media – which contrast with the traditional heavy “top-down” way politics works. Julie also focused on the role of the entrepreneur in politics and elections in particular, pointing out the fact that much of the UK’s economy is driven by the entrepreneur and therefore their voice is an important one to be heard – something that social media could play a big role in.
Bruce Anderson was up next. Bruce is a formidable old-school politico – with a career reaching back to speech-writing for Margaret Thatcher. Bruce’s opening line was to diss all election campaigning, pointing out that (in his opinion) the only election to be properly affected by a campaign was the 1992 election. He then went out to point out that even Obama’s campaign – as heralded as it is – arguably had little effect, given his 6 point victory – which was fairly predictable from the outset.
To wrap things up, Rishi Saha weighed in with a Conservative Party perspective. Rishi kicked off with an observation that technology has already had a big impact on politics, with parties producing 10 to 15 pieces of party content a day, rather than previous eras of 10 to 15 pieces of campaign material a year. Rishi then focused on what he saw as the most important aspect of social media, which is its use to energise and mobilise the existing party faithful, using technology to amplify advocates. Providing a pretty realistic analysis of technology’s role in election campaigning, Rishi finished his piece with a reference to the relationship between old media and new media, pointing out the that $100’s million raised online by Obama’s team was then spent on old school TV adverts.
To view the introductory remarks of the debate, check out the video below. You can also view our Flickr stream from the debate here.
For an alternative view of the debate, check out a blog post by ToryBear .