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New Year, David Cameron and the next election

January 4, 2010

I can’t keep up.

One day back at work and all hell breaks loose.

I’m focussed on a few lines of website code whilst everyone in the office is talking about the forthcoming general election.

Little wonder. BBC Political Editor blokey Nick Robinson is blogging about David Cameron and his pre-election campaign launch thing which unsurprisingly “coiincides” with a roadside poster campaign from David Cameron. All of which makes it quite clear that election fever has gripped the nation – or at least this country’s community of hungry journalists back from their holidays.

There’s little talk of Christmas and New Year in the kitchen. This is a relief. I’m painfully aware that if anyone actually asks me what my holidays were like I will take them to one side and actually tell them. I know they wouldn’t want to hear.

The buzz about the office seems instead to be about whether or not social media – and more specifically Twitter – will be crucial in the Election campaign.

I contribute to the discussion by saying that if Stephen Fry has announced his temporary separation from the social networking platform then surely Twitter (in this country at least) is in decline. I’m suddenly aware of the massive hole emerging beneath my feet and the searing pain in my wrist. This must surely mean I must make an appointment with the GP to get it sorted out. Or if I can’t do that, then at least I should make a point of not expressing my opinion quite so readily in the future.

I frequently feel embarrassed by my lack of journalistic credentials, none more so than today. There’s no room for flippancy on the day touted by many in the media as the unofficial (oh come on, it’s official – just look at the date) beginning of the 2010 General Election. Short of anything but flippancy to fall back on, it’s no surprise I advise a colleague during a meeting today, “I’m treading water” when discussion finishes up yet again on the subject of the forthcoming bun fight.

The jury (in our department) is still out on whether or not Twitter will feature heavily in the 2010 campaign. I confess to feeling mildly amused by the possibility of witnessing the ongoing debate about it.

But what did strike me as I proudly cycled back home protected against the sub-zero temperature was how today is the day to join the election bus.

To some the prospect of another election will no doubt strike the fear of God in them.

It would normally do the same to me. I have little knowledge of politics. I don’t understand the nuances of the subject. I’ll happily confess to being a part-time follower, demonstrating my interest by tuning into the all-night results programme like I was seven years-old and allowed to stay up and watch Children in Need.

However, given my obvious interest in similar long-term questionable races for glory combined with my insatiable pursuit of bloggable material, I’m finding the 2010 General Election already an irresistible proposition.

There’s a simple explanation for this. Bear with me. It won’t take that much longer to get to the point.

On my way home this evening, I’m standing bolt upright on a packed train from London Bridge thinking about David Cameron, his poster campaign and what’s been going on in the news today. I wince at not being able to turn to the person beside me and explain to him/her (should him/her have asked) everything I know.

What do I do? I log on to the interweb using my “mobile device”. I go to the BBC and browse for a blog. I know I don’t want to look at at Twitter – the ongoing pain in my wrist reminds me I need to lay off Twitter for a while (save pushing out a link from time to time) – so I figure I’ll go to the first place I can think of to find out what the hell has been going on today. All I can recall is the image of some correspondent talking on BBC News about David Cameron’s announcement on the plasma screen in the office today.

Nick Robinson’s blog helps. It doesn’t necessarily explain what the hell is going on or provide background information to someone oblivious to the details of the economy (let alone public services). It’s not just the facts. Robinson’s blog provides me with some context. I appreciate that. That’s what I wanted. That’s what I need. I’m not going to sit and watch the news on TV anymore. I listen to the radio in a different way at work too. I need time away from my desk to consume what’s going on. I need to process it at my own speed. That’s me.

This is not a Nick Robinson promo. The last thing I’d want to do is sully my own already dubious reputation by promoting my employer’s output. After all, my employer doesn’t need it.

However, what I’m impressed by is the things I know now about this particular election campaign. I’ve listed them for you – assuming you’re still reading and interested.

1. I’m strangely engaged in this particular election in a way I’ve never been before – not even as a student. OK, so it’s only day one, but I’m rising to the challenge already.

2. The idea of finding out (and blogging about) what’s going on in the campaign (when it officially starts) is as fascinating now as following last (and previous year’s) Eurovision.

3. Twitter will only be of use in this campaign if there’s something short and juicy worth debating. Anything else will be nothing more than self-regarding nonsense (not unlike this blog post). If you want to exploit Twitter you’d better have a convincing viral otherwise I’m not interested. I know this from bitter experience.

4. Far from this being a Twitter-based campaign, I reckon political parties will (or certainly should) see this as an opportunity to engage with the voting population by relying on that most retro of publishing platforms – the blog.

When mainstream audiences embrace the blog – and by mainstream I’m thinking those who currently devour the freesheets in the morning – then political parties will have secured a captive audience. When that happens we’ll all be considerably more informed and a considerable number of journalists will feel jobs even more in danger.

Mind you, that’s just my ill-informed, somewhat naive opinion. What do I know?

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One Comment
  1. Chris permalink

    I’m looking forward to this election campaign, and I’m glad you are too. For one thing, I don’t at this stage know who I’m going to vote for. That’s always exciting. I will make my mind up from the manifestos (manifesti?) and my personal judgment as to how the leaders and key players can be trusted. I have a key issue in my heart and will almost certainly vote for the party that deals with that issue most effectively. I’ll also consider the worthiness of the candidates standing in my new constituency. I now live in Northampton South.

    I used to live in Buckingham. And before that Aylesbury. When I lived in the Aylesbury constituency the MP was (is) David Lidington. My wife’s brief meetings with him confirmed him in the category of “Not worthy of vote”. Then when we lived in Buckingham constituency our MP was (is) John Bercow. A brief exchange of letters between us confirmed him in the category of “Worthy of vote”. Now our MP is Brian Bingley, who I have heard on local radio and who does not fill me with confidence. It will all be very interesting.

    I do think social networking sites will play a part, but I am sure the party with the largest number of votes will be the Conservative party. The country always ends up voting for the party supported by the Sun newspaper.

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