[First published in the News Letter on Friday April 09.]
As promised, I’m looking this week at the UCUNF online campaign and how their candidates are embracing social media.
Things are falling together pretty well. Gordon Brown called the election on Tuesday and within 24 hours the New Force had gone live with their campaign twitter stream (@vote4changeni) and campaign blog (www.voteforchangeni.com). Both of these are neatly branded and full of links, lists and information sources – all very useful and user friendly.
But haven’t we seen that blog URL before? VoteForChange.com popped up as a campaign site for Barack Obama in 2008 – UCUNF will hope similarities with the wildly successful Obama campaign don’t end there.
On to the candidates, and the major difference between the DUP and UCUNF is the latter’s enthusiasm for blogging. While DUP candidates seem to prefer the brevity and simplicity of facebook, the UCUNF people prefer the greater freedom for expression and dynamic tools of the blogsite to get their personalities and personal campaigns across. People like Rodney McCune, Daphne Trimble, Ian Parsley and Mike Nesbitt are exploiting the medium well and adding a good deal of colour to central campaign messages.
So what’s the big message from the doorsteps? According to Daphne Trimble: ‘People are fed up with local politicians who don’t deliver for the people, fed up with waiting for John Lewis to get planning permission, fed up with no national stadium at the Maze, fed up with a dysfunctional executive, fed up with attempts to destroy our education service.’ Sounds like people are pretty fed up then. So vote for change, eh Daphne?
Rodney McCune is raising micro issues (like Islandmagee primary schools) but he’s also using his blog to focus on emerging developments, so to speak. ‘The relationship between political parties, planning and developers in Northern Ireland… is fast becoming our very own expenses scandal,’ he says.
Doing his bit for transparency, Ian Parsley used his blog to publish a list of his financial interests and a pledge to withdraw from everything but unpaid positions. I wonder if other candidates and parties might want to follow suit?
For me, the UCUNF post of the week comes from Mike Nesbitt who’s having mixed success with his posters. According to Mike: ‘One moment I was up the ladder, the next the ladder was gone, leaving me in the sort of intimate pose with a lamp post I believe is more usually associated with professional pole dancers.’ Well, that’s a vote-winning image and no mistake.
Elsewhere, it was a blogger who got first confirmation that Sir Reg is to run in South Antrim. Ivor Whitten at Hand Of History revealed that Reg will go forward after being ‘fully endorsed by the members present’.
But here’s hoping Reg’s script improves… check out the UUP leader’s message from the Party website on the need for ‘real change’. ‘The Ulster Unionist Party wants Stormont to work, and we will put our shoulders to the wheel – make no mistake on that score.’ A fresh, exciting new alliance? Maybe. Described in tired, flat old clichés? Definitely.
Managing an election campaign and managing a household makes for a hectic schedule as Mid-Ulser candidate @sandrago can testify. After midnight on Wednesday, she tweeted: ‘Is everyone asleep? I’m pressing clothes! Then some bedtime reading!’ Time for a holiday come May 7th, Sandra.
Finally, attack line of the week comes from East Londonderry candidate @lesleymacaulay. Reacting to the news that the TUV will run Willie Ross, she tweeted: ‘TUV bringing back old MP Willie Ross from the last century to stand in E LDerry is like the BBC bringing back William Hartnell as Dr Who!’ That might alarm Lesley, but it would certainly upset Matt Smith.
Next week, I’ll take a look at some TUV candidates.