As mentioned in the post below, poltiical blogger Iain Dale, has penned an article about how MPs and political parties should be turning to blogs to help win the next election. In fact, Iain goes so far as to say that the party that 'gets' new media is likely to win the next general election.
My own personal view (which I was ready to air on 5 Live last week - planners take note!) is that political parties are (like so many others) jumping on the blog bandwagon.
Iain is right to urge politicians to blog, but there is more to social media than just blogging. The impact that social networking and social media is having on the nature and culture of communication and social evolution goes well beyond the confines of the blogosphere (does that word seem already out-dated to anyone else?).
Ideas such as holding awards for the best party political blogger (Lib Dems), giving special treats to an 'official' conference blogger (Labour) or holding blogging workshops (Tories) are great but miss the fundamental ways in which the internet is changing political herarchies and structures.
The best and most straight-to-the-point description of what RSS and social media tools are doing to politics comes from new media don, Jeff Jarvis.
Writing in The Guardian in early 2006, Jeff asserted:
The internet is only doing to politics what it has done to other industries: it disaggregates elements and then enables these free atoms to reaggregate into new molecules; it fragments the old and unifies the new. So in the end, the internet gives us the opportunity to make more nuanced expressions of our political worldview, which makes obsolete old orthodoxies and old definitions of left and right.
This is what I'm talking about! All political parties - just like traditional media - in the UK are suffering from apathy and a striking disinterest both in terms of active members and wider public support.
Some political bloggers seem to think that blogging will be the answer to re-engaging with a lost electorate, the youth vote or core supporters.
But the real solution to this problem requires a sea-change in current political thinking rather than simply courting or encouraging supportive blogs - which in my opinion simply shoe-horns new technology into the existing political malaise.
Where blogs will come into their own is in helping to build open and transparent networks for political engagement and policy development. More at eDemocracy Update)
In order to become relevant and attractive to the disillusioned, apathetic electorate, politicians and political parties must become more honest, up-front and 'personalised' - that is, not hide behind a facade of lofty political establishments.
Blogs and other social media will help bring about this sea-change in attitude as well as provide the platforms to help achieve the goal.
UPDATED: Antony Mayfield has posted about this too.