This week’s blog column from Bel Tel…

5 05 2010

This week’s round up of the blogging week (and my gigantic cranium) can be found on the Bel Tel website here. Have also pasted it up below too…

You’re in for it now – Cameron wants me to join his government

It’s now the last full week of campaigning by political parties. This, for me, was the first election where the Northern Ireland candidates really got to grips with the potential offered by social media.

For example, Hand of History has tracked down 35 twitter accounts and Keith Belfast has done a good job crowd-sourcing candidates’ social media information on his blog.

More than ever, candidates have been fine-tuning their communications to deliver ever-more personal engagement with the voter. So we’ve had dozens of new twitter streams and twitpics, facebook and blog pages springing up to provide direct discourse. Overall this is a good thing, but sometimes it can go over the top.

Earlier this week I got an email with the excessively familiar subject header: ‘A contract between the Conservative Party and Geoff McGimpsey’.

Eh? But I don’t want to be indentured to the Tory Party. I’ve got more than enough contracts to manage as it is. I found it just a bit intense and creepy.

(However, the email – signed by David Cameron – then invited me ‘to join the government of Britain’. It’s a very generous offer. I’m thinking it over.)

I understood the purpose of the email but it failed to hit the mark. And it highlighted to me the possible dangers of campaigns which rely on tools like social media. A tweet, an email or a status update can be misread – it can never properly replace actual, real-world engagement. I just wonder if (excessively familiar) social media is contriving to create campaigning by remote?

Is there any substitute for going to a hustings and seeing a candidate talking in the flesh?

Alan in Belfast thinks not. He highlights an initiative from CARE which has been encouraging local churches to stage public meetings for candidates. But alas:

“Of the eighteen NI constituencies, only Belfast East and North Antrim went ahead with hustings under CARE’s scheme,” he said.

“Am I the only person who has been disappointed by the lack of hustings in local constituencies?”

No. It’s not just you Alan.

Now that we’re getting close to polling day, questions are being raised about postal / proxy votes. It seems there’s a fair degree of suspicion out there that the system does not work properly.

Mairtin O’Muilleoir at From the Balcony is disappointed that the numbers of people taking up the postal vote has halved.

“To Sean and Sinéad Citizen, that means almost half of those who applied last time round were potential vote-stealers. Rubbish,” he says. Mairtin claims this amounts to denial of the franchise to people. And he’s not the only one.

According to journalist @EamonMallie: “Rodney Connor is concerned about postal votes. It is not the first time postal votes were an issue in Fermanagh South Tyrone.”

Mr Ulster’s complaint about the system is more mundane. “No detail about when you are allowed to return it or when it needs to be received by,” he says. No doubt the Electoral Office could clarify – perhaps they could drop Mr Ulster a line?

Elsewhere Digital Circle published a short blog on the 10 most common social media mistakes committed by businesses. It’s a good list, but I was drawn to the one that said “publishing first, thinking later”.

Alas, had the TUV taken such advice. Mark Devenport’s blog spotted the latest crime in what has been dubbed the ‘spellelection’.

I should explain that the three Unionist parties have gone beyond testing each other on policy, and they’re now testing one another’s spelling. First the DUP found out that UCUNF couldn’t spell ‘Northen Ireland’ (sic), then UCUNF found out that the DUP wanted to “reign in” (sic) spending. Now Mark has revealed that the TUV are promising “A New Deal At Stomont” (sic). Oh dear.

Why not just have done with it and replace the hustings with a compulsory ‘Spelling Bee’? Now that I’ve been tracked down by David Cameron and personally invited to join the government of Britain, you can expect to see that exciting new policy in the very near future.

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