PublicTechnology.net is reporting that the Conservative Party has launched a new web-based campaigning system called 'Conservatives Direct'. This is part of the party's relaunch including a radically re-designed site. Personally I find their new logo rather eerily disembodied but the new site seems to 'do' much more than the previous one.
A tiny amount of guesswork unearthed this link to a Conservatives Direct login page. The branding really does smack of being only a short way from catalogue shopping. Their strapline of “Winning the Field Campaign” is rather militaristic. But that's just fluff… what's behind the login? The Tory press release sheds little light on the matter, but is buzz-word compliant. The Telegraph tells us that campaign information, polling data and canvassing tips will be part of the offering. Nothing earth-shattering there then. But what is interesting is that Conservatives Direct will allow people to join the party at a national level without any local party affiliation. This is very interesting… many argue that all politics is local and certainly most MPs win or lose their seats on the local issues. But this is even more interesting because in many ways the Conservative Party doesn't really exist. Well it didn't, I don't know exactly how they are set up today but I know that for a long time it was merely an association of the local parties who pooled money together to pay for the centralised activities. Is Conservatives Direct the sign of a deeper structural change to where financial power lies in the party?
Party chairman Dr Liam Fox suggested to BBC News Online that “People are used to online shopping, online banking, why not online politics? … They do not want to sit through committees or be involved in fundraising. We want to be as open as possible and able to attract people from a wide spectrum.” This kind of attitude ties in very much with the debates I reported on at the Labour Fringe meetings.
It looks like the Tories are trying to follow in Dean's steps. But I think they may end up with a hollowed-out party if they go online at the expense of their local grassroots which form the core of all parties.
Kudos must be given to the Tories for having the sharpest looking site of the big three.
For more on Internet use in local parties see “Click Here for Participation” [PDF].