I am truly bemused as to the behaviour of some of our local Tory Councillors in respect to the two local Tory MP's currently involved in a massive battle to retain their parliamentary seats. In years gone by, the Tories would have thrown the kitchen sink at the job, but they just don't seem to be bothered. At time (noon Sunday) of writing a quick trawl of twitter reveals the following
Leader of the Council Richard Cornelius
No Tweets at all about the general election campaign
Deputy Leader of the Council Daniel Thomas
No tweets for Mike Freer or Matthew Offord this month
Senior Councillor David Longstaffe
2 retweets this month mentioning Mike Freer
New Hampstead Garden Suburb Councillor Gabriel Rozenberg
One retweet of a Boris video supporting Matthew Offord and one tweet promoting Andrew Dismore?? as best as I can tell
Mayor of Barnet Hugh Rayner
No tweets on election. May be due to ceremonial role of Mayor?
It seems that the Barnet Tories have no interest at all in social media. Is it because they don't understand it or are just scared to death of saying stupid things? I find it massively disheartening that the local Conservatives are completely shunning the opportunity to engage with the electorate in this manner. If I were running their campaign I'd insist that all councillors had twitter accounts and as a very minimum retweeted key points of interest to their friends and followers.
In my street (Millway, NW7), in the 1970's and 1980's elections we'd see dozens of boards at the top end of the road (where the richer people live) with the "It's Gorst of Course" message on promoting the local, well liked ex MP John Gorst. We'd get knocked up at least 3 or 4 times and there would be a Tory stall every week on Mill Hill Broadway.
What we now see is a largely geriatric party, which has no desire to get out and engage with younger voters or develop new channels to get their message across. The only semi active Tory COuncillor who blogs is Cllr Dan Thomas - http://truebluedanthomas.blogspot.co.uk/ - who hasn't bothered to post a blog since January. Does he feel that the Tory MP's are so toxic that he doesn't want to associate with them.
In the whole of Barnet, the only active Tory blogger is maverick ex Councillor Daniel Hope, who writes the Barnet Bugle blog. Hope fell out with the local party when he was deselected in Brunswick Park in 2006. Given hs history with Freer and Offord it is unsurprising that he is less than enthusiastic about their campaigns. Hope turned up at the FSB business breakfast at Cafe Buzz with his video camera, but no footage of Mike Freer has made it onto his blog. One has to wonder whether this was because he thought it would be unhelpful to Freer to list him talking about cheese liberalisation and that he thought the UK would vote to stay in the EU? Only Dan can tell us and he's keeping his counsel (unusually).
On a more general note, it is interesting to see that the majority of tweets expressing a genuine interest in Freer are from the LBGT community - https://twitter.com/search?f=realtime&q=freer4fgg&src=typd - which Mike has done an excellent job in representing. It is telling that nearly all pictures etc of Freer are shown with the same rather small band of supporters.
Matthew Offords general twitter coverage has been slightly more interesting - https://twitter.com/search?f=realtime&q=offord4hendon&src=typd - with a few decent pictures in pubs pulling pints etc and his dog seems to be a real winner in the engagement stakes.
One has to wonder just what is going on at a national level with the Conservative Campaign. This is being overseen by alleged election guru Lynton Crosby. Given that both Hendon and Finchley changed hands at the last election, one would assume that they should be considered marginals. The Conservative party is a well funded organisation and I know that whenever I've run a campaign there are certain basics that you observe. One of these is to ensure that you use whatever tools you have at your disposal. Getting your local councillors (who get a minimum bung of £10K from the taxpayer, purley because they wear your rosette) to support the campaign is surely a complete no brainer.
The fact of the matter is that the Tories should be continually tweeting that they are canvassing in certain roads, getting pictures of smiling members of the public, quotes saying how marvellous they've been, smiling councillors with the MPs etc. Social media is free, so it is exempt from campaign rules. Clever messages can go viral and can reach place in ten minutes that a week of door knocking won't achieve.
If the local Tories wake up in May to an electoral route, they have only themselves to blame. Both Matthew Offord and Mike Freer have been busier blocking people such as me on Twitter than they have in promoting their message. Their stance is idiotic, as probably at least 40% of people who follow my twitter account and blog locally are Conservatives. They often don't agree with what I have to say, but they value the fact that I raise local issues. By refusing to engage with me (and even the Tory leaning Barnet Bugle) they are missing a huge opportunity to get people involved in their campaign.
When I look at the current Conservative election campaign, it reminds me of a conversation I had with an IBM mainframe computer salesman in 1984. He told me that IBM would always be the worlds largest computer company because corporations always consider the FUD factor when buying. I was bemused. "What was FUD?" I asked. He replied "Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt". He explained that in corporate computing anything except IBM was a risk.
What he didn't realise was that the world of computing was evolving. Now when we talk about IT we talk about Google and Microsoft as the big players. IBM still make mainframes for corporations, but the world of IT has long since passed them by and they are bit part niche players. I suspect that with the Tories head in the sand attitude, they will have to evolve or face the same fate.