GE15 gets a kickstart

We’ve just passed 100-day day on the election countdown, and while once again we’ll find voices calling it as the “social media election” (despite previous elections making the same claims) the thing that’s caught my eye is that it seems to be the crowd funding election.

First it was the Greens, crowd funding a candidate for every constituency in Brum, and now Labour’s PPC for Yardley has a campaign to build a war chest to help her fight against John Hemming.

Micro funding was always held up as being an important part of Obama’s success in the US, but a crowd funding campaign moves that idea to new territory: it heightens the sense of collective action, by rallying folk around the funding target. Crowd funding, so tightly wound into a discourse of innovation and disruption, also chimes with the rhetoric of UKIP earthquakes and Green surges, to the idea that we’re all activists now and everything is up for grabs.

We live in interesting times.

The sad thing about the Compton case: it provides another reason for politicians to fear the Internet

BCU MA Events and Exhibition Management student Sammy Williams is working on a project to encourage Birmingham’s councillors to engage more readily with citizens through social media; the Gareth Compton case is another huge hurdle for her to get over. 

That’s the really sad thing at the heart of this affair: it makes councillors more likely to shy away from what could be a useful tool for civic engagement.

I’d actually suggested to Sammy that she invite Cllr Compton to speak at an event she’s planning to launch her idea. As he’s had problems before with his Twitter persona, I thought he might have some valuable perspective to add to a conversation about social media in local politics. He could have provided a useful dollop of realism in a conversation which all too quickly drifts towards utopian idealism of openness and accountability. 

That ship has probably sailed now: Sammy’s job will be harder but she should still do it, unfortunately with Cllr Compton as a cautionary tale rather than a participant.

The problem with Erdington politics

Politics in Erdington ward is broken, and not wholly for the reason that you might be expecting if you’ve been following the story about Cllr Gareth Compton‘s (Erdington, Cons) back firing attempt at humour. The reason Erdington politics is broken is that there is no real choice, and there is little effective opposition to Gareth and his colleagues.

Among left wing Birmingham Bloggers (that’s most of the people who would identify themselves as “Brum Bloggers” then) Cllr. Compton is something of a cause célèbre due to a number of funny turns he’s had where he’s had a good old fashioned blow out at the liberal bloggers he’s apparently dubbed “The Smugeratti” (see comments here). His latest outburst really does take things to 11 compared to previous incidents, and there’s some indication he may face legal censure over the comment. All that being the case, I expect a few further apologies and this will go gently into the night. Hopefully somewhere along the line Cllr. Compton will learn from what he must surely see was a mistake, and grow. I’d be genuinely pleased to see him use Twitter in a positive way to engage with citizens (note to self: I’ll need to unblock him first). In terms of his work as my councillor, I have very few complaints but there’s no way, partisanship aside*, that I could vote for him in his current Gareth v 1.0 persona. 

In May 2011 Cllr. Compton comes to the end of his term. If he seeks re-election, I expect he will win because there is no effective alternative to vote for. That means I’m either staying home or voting none of the above.  And that’s at the heart of the real problem we have here in Erdington.