Today I did some old-fashioned political stuff, namely the distribution of a newsletter to local residents keeping them up to date with local developments. There was variable rain at just the wrong levels at the wrong times, and a range of interruptions from other commitments, so I didn’t get as many out there as I’d like. As with any such job, I’ll never know how many of those I delivered that were effective, in the sense of being read a little on the way to the bin. The recipients are defined by their geography, not their level of interest.
While I was doing this, I also popped back into the 21st century to call a Councillor who was ready to tell the world he would be running for Police and Crime Commissioner. This site was duly updated and the tweet and automated email updates went out in about the time it takes to deliver a handful of newsletters. Then the message began to be passed on, and within 5 hours, as far as I can track, it had got to at least 32,700 people who were defined by their interest in politics, policing, or both. There was no bending down to low letterboxes, no dogs, no wet leaflets, no-one heading to the bin, and no trees had to die.
Douglas Carswell MP, one of the fathers of the PCC idea, chose today to say that “politics could increasingly be done without political parties“. On the other side of the political spectrum, Lord Prescott, the highest profile PCC candidate, who also has the longest grounding in the old politics says “I’m also going to be using social media a lot. The audience reach is amazing and it doesn’t cost a thing. The days of printing leaflets and posters are a thing of the past.“
With these Police and Crime Commissioner elections we face a peculiar set of pressures. A lot of the candidates may not be well known, especially in their massive constituencies, local elections in May will have drained the resources of local parties, both in terms of cash and shoe leather, and November will be likely to be just a lot darker and more inhospitable than May. It may not be possible for candidates to run these elections the old way. They may have to do it a new way.
Is this the perfect storm that changes how we do politics in this country?