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Labour party unveils Tweeter-in-chief

McCarthy to whip MPs into Web 2.0

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The Labour Party has appointed a 'Twitter tsar' to spearhead its social media efforts to win the next election.

But Kerry McCarthy has her work cut out for her, given the kicking Gordon Brown got for his YouTube appearances, and the fact that Labour HQ can't be bothered keeping its own blogs up to date.

McCarthy is Labour MP for Bristol East, was made a junior whip in June and is now the party's new media campaign spokesperson. Apparently she was named most influential MP on Twitter just last month, and reportedly tweets as many as ten times an hour.

While she declared for all forms of social media in an interview with LabourList, she admits "Twitter is the one I’ve taken to most".

"It’s the one with the lowest barriers to taking part and that makes it a perfect way to meet people and swap ideas without having to be so techie!"

Fair enough, but as even some (suspect) research last week showed, it is also awash in pointless babble and rubbish. Still, while this means politicos might struggle to be heard, but at the same time will not sound out of place.

Asked what she was going to do, McCarthy told LabourList: "By all helping each other we can grow our traffic, sharing ideas and best practice. This is in all our interests."

"I think the key point for my colleagues to take away is that this is the first election where people don’t have to wait for politicians to come to them – to knock on the door, to deliver a leaflet or to do an interview."

As for the opposition, she accuses the Tories of being over-centralised in their Web 2.0 efforts, saying: "To be quite honest I think the word has come down from Tory HQ that their MPs are to stay away from social media at all costs – it’s deliberate non-engagement strategy."

Even worse: "Hardly any are on Twitter and the ones that are there are just ‘lurking’."

Actually, Labour Central could do with a bit of self-examination. Its Labour: Central blogs din't appear to have been updated since last December. Perhaps they only want to blog about good news.

Ultimately though, politics should be about messages, not the medium, and McCarthy has the gumption to admit this: "Rather than being something completely new, campaigning using new media is simply doing what we’ve always done in a new setting – and rather than replacing traditional ways of doing things, it is about making traditional campaigning methods even more effective."

Labour's worry now is whether it will have anything the electorate will want to hear over the coming months. ®

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