The news that Labour has appointed a 'Twitter tsar' (in the shape of Kerry McCarthy, prolific blogger, tweeter and MP for Bristol East) was announced this week. After LabourList broke the news on Sunday, the mainstream media have been catching up over the last couple of days, with reports appearing in the Guardian, the Times, the Telegraph and BBC News. As new media campaign spokesperson, to give her proper title, Kerry will be talking about the work that the party is doing in this area and speaking to other MPs and PPCs about local new media campaigning.
It's shame that someone couldn't resist the pull of the obvious 'tsar' moniker as it makes it all sound rather silly. This is just a week after Twitter in particular proved its reach with a phenomenal number of tweets, my own included, appearing under the #welovethenhs hashtag. This attracted contributions from way beyond the usual left-leaning twitterati (to coin another rather silly term).
There are many legitimate points made about the limits of Facebook, blogs and the like, but as Kerry herself points out, new media is not being advocated as a replacement for traditional campaigning. Rather, new media is among the many tools that we have at our disposal to communicate with party supporters and the wider electorate. No one is suggesting that all political debate is contained in the blogosphere or conducted on Twitter, but these outlets exist to be harnessed.
MPs, MEPs, councillors and activists sharing information about new media best practice can only be encouraged, which is why Progress held a well attended Web 2.0 conference earlier this year. From publicising canvass sessions to airing the latest contributions to the primaries debate, new media has its place and help should be available to those who wish to use it. I wish Kerry all the best in her new role.