Watch out for a flurry of internal online campaigning

We could be about to see a flurry of imaginative and energetic online campaigning from party candidates – at least those who are serious about wanting to be a candidate in next year’s London Mayor and the 2009 European elections. (Our candidates for the London Assembly have already been selected.)

The selection rules for these contests have been simplified and relaxed and now permit a very wide range of internet and other electronic campaigning with – amongst other things – both SMS campaigning and using a campaign blog now possible.

In another innovation, both selections will see the party running online hustings for the first time, overcoming the geographic barriers which often mean real-world hustings are restricted to a relatively small part of the party’s members.

The e-hustings will be run using an online discussion forum format and hosted on the party’s members only website – login.libdems.org.uk  The e-hustings will start around 28th August for the European Selection and around 10th September for the Mayor.

To take part in the hustings you will need to be a party members with a Liberal Democrats Account – that’s the combination of username and password which work across a range of different party sites. If you haven’t yet got one, you can get ready for the online hustings by registering now to get a Liberal Democrats Account.

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This entry was posted in Online politics and Selection news.
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13 Comments

  • There is a Facebook group for at least one of the Mayoral candidates even though I’m not sure I’m allowed to cast the link here!

  • Jonathan Davies 14th Aug '07 - 11:51am

    Just to avoid confusion, I would note that the e-campaigning rules have been relaxed for the selection of European Parliamentary candidates and the Mayor of London. The rules for Westminster selections are unchanged.

  • Congrats to whoever agreed to this change. I can happily state that I will not be a candidate for any of these positions and so there is no self-interest(!), but I think that this is a real move in the right direction. The idea that it’s fair to allow telephone canvassing (which can be hugely expensive), but unfair to allow websites (which can be dirt cheap) is silly.

  • Jonathan Davies 16th Aug '07 - 12:03am

    > Congrats to whoever agreed to this change

    It was that much maligned English Council

  • Well, hearty congratulations to the English Council!

  • Nice try – the rules and clarifications that have been issueed actually make any innovative ideas and e-campaigning almost impossible!

  • Hywel Morgan 21st Aug '07 - 12:53pm

    Jonathan’s statement above seems at odds with this message from one MEP candidate I received this morning. It might be helpful if the position were clarified!

    ——–

    I would like to thank everyone who has joined this facebook group, I have been humbled by how many people have joined and want to support me.

    Although it appeared that facebook campaigning was to be allowed further clarification and guidance has been issued that prohibits groups like this. As a result I am closing this group as of today.

    Facebook has a role in political campaigning, especially for us as a party it enables us to engage with young people and the issues that effect them. Please look out for ways it can be used and join any groups that you may come across that can further our cause.

    Once again I would like to thank you and everyone else please do however keep in contact with me through facebook and email by ******

    However a sitting MEP has (paper) mailed members with a consultation on Trade & Climate change.

  • Anonymous – not so. There’s loads of internet stuff that is allowed within the rules, and far more than last time. Of course, if someone doesn’t really know how to do effective campaigning and hasn’t got much in the way of innovative ideas, blaming the rules is an easy cop out 🙂

    Hywel – I’ll ask draw Jonathan’s attention to this and ask him to respond, but bear in mind that Facebook (or indeeed other social networking sites) isn’t exactly the limit of what you can do on the internet…

  • Jonathan Davies 21st Aug '07 - 2:13pm

    The Camapaign Selection Period runs from 28th August (i.e after this coming weekend) until the Poll closes on 7th November. Mailings during that period are strictly restricted. Mailings before then which represent the member’s normal activities in the Party or in public office are permissible, provided they do not amount to explicit campaigning for support in the selections. General profile raising is perfectly permissible. MEPs were allowed to issue annual reports to members where thay have a record of having done so, so the report represents their “normal activities”. In some instances MEPs have an established pattern of issuing annual reports around the time of the Autumn Conference. The MEPs were told that would not be allowed, because it is in the middle of the Selection Campaign Period, so some have brought their reports forward.

    Regarding Facebook etc, as Mark said in the posting at the beginning of this thread, much more e-campaigning is allowed in these selections than ever before – but e-campaigning is subject to the same rules as all other campaigning. In particular, there is a no endorsements rule which applies to all material candidates issue whatever the medium. The rationale of the no endorsements rule is that candidates should stand before the selectorate based on their merits, not how many or which big names they can entice to support them. The English Candidates Committee which makes the rules (and reviewed the Euro selection rules in the light of the experience of the London Assembly Selections earlier in the year) believes that without the no endorsements rule well established candidates who could easily get big name endorsements would be given an unfair advantage.

    Facebook is not prohibited, but candidates have been reminded that to use it to get friends to join to show their support would infringe the no endorsements rule

    Jonathan Davies
    Senior Returning Officer

    (Applicability: England only. Similar rules apply to the London Mayoral selection. Rules for selections in Scotland and Wales are made by those State Parties)

  • Hywel Morgan 21st Aug '07 - 2:47pm

    “Facebook is not prohibited, but candidates have been reminded that to use it to get friends to join to show their support would infringe the no endorsements rule”

    Joining a Facebook group doesn’t imply endorsement of either a candidate or the objectives of that group though. I’m a member of some I don’t agree with specifically for that reason!

  • Hywel Morgan 21st Aug '07 - 6:00pm

    Regarding endorsements – I’ve now seen a copy of the leaflet distributed by one MEP yesterday (by post). It includes two photographs of him with other MEPs.

    I’ll take a deep breath and disagree with Jonathan on a point on constitutional interpretation 🙂

    He said, “Mailings before then which represent the member’s normal activities in the Party or in public office are permissible, provided they do not amount to explicit campaigning for support in the selections.”

    The rules state, “members may continue thier normal business with in the party provided their activities are not calculated to have an influence on the selection process and are no more than reasonably necessary for the purpose or functions in question”.

    This provision would seem to apply through the whole process – ie not just the “campaign period”.

    I would suggest that this goes much wider than just prohibiting explicit campaigning. Something can be done which is calculated to have an effect on the selection without it being explicit campaigning (by analogy the old PPC/Candidate split in public elections)

    There is therefore I would argue a question over whether activities different from those in previous years (eg over volume, frequency, timing etc) could bring a candidate into breach.

    It is also advised in the rules that candidates in doubt should seek advice from the Returning Officer – though what happens if the RO decision is perverse or unreasonable might be an interesting point!

  • Jonathan Davies 21st Aug '07 - 10:40pm

    Hywel – if you have a complaint about a particular leaflet, please send it to the Returning Officer for the relevant Region to consider.

    The Rules do contain an appeal mechanism if others disagree with a Returning Officer’s ruling

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