Hey Cameron! It’s called a computer!

In this age of technological advances, when some people check their social media more frequently than they breathe, why are political parties still spending large chunks of their budgets on leaflets? Do they just like filling litter bins? Or are they hoping to push the world’s total for unread junk mail past the eight billion tonne mark?

By Louise Randall

The greatest threat to modern politics. (Photo: Daily Mail/Mikael Buck)

As a member of a local political party (which shall remain anonymous to avoid hurting its feelings), I have done my fair share of leafleting. Running up and down rows of houses that look identical, either nearly succumbing to heat stroke or praying the rain won’t dissolve anymore of my leaflets, gingerly sliding them through letter boxes while praying the large Rottweiler I can hear barking won’t bite my hand off. You name it, I’ve delivered it, all on the improbable possibility that someone somewhere might read it and feel even the tiniest bit less hostile to our candidate. And to be honest, I had never really questioned it, merely assuming this was how the political system worked.

Until last night.

Last night, at an executive meeting, I listened for over two hours as the rest of my esteemed colleagues argued over whether our next batch of “unsolicited material” should be A4 or A5. Two hours of my life. Gone! Not only that, but we then cordoned off a considerable percentage of our budget, which is already worth less than a Liberal Democrat election promise, to pay for them. Now, older readers will have to forgive me as I am only young and not yet wise in the delicate complexities of modern politics, but this seemed absolutely bleeding ridiculous.

When ordering a leaflet, parties have to decide on (which means quarrel endlessly about) size, colour, material, whether they want it double sided or not, whether they need envelopes too, if it should be freepost, etc. etc. These costs add up, and if you want to end up with a decent quality piece of political propaganda, then it can use up the majority of your campaign budget. Whereas setting up a profile on any of the leading social media networks is free, and a good campaign can reach quadruple the number a crumpled leaflet in your constituency can. It seems obvious which is more economically viable and potentially more rewarding, unless you’re over forty apparently.
How to win an election in
140 characters of less.
(Source: Social Media
Strategies Summit)

Take for example, the FUKP’s (Al Murray’s party) campaign method. A 4 minute video, with no expensive special effects and posted for free on YouTube, has reached over 12,000 people. And yet our local party considers it a success when one single person replies to a leaflet (a very expensive leaflet I might add). It is astonishing to me that more local parties do not wake up, take their heads out of their posteriors, and take advantage of social media. Barack Obama has been called the” social media president” due to his understanding and use of all the internet can provide. And while I’m not saying the $47 million he spent on digital campaigning won him the election, it certainly didn’t hinder it. We’ve taken so many crap ideas from across the pond like waterboarding, junk food and morbid obesity; why not take a good idea for once?

Now you may be saying “But what about the computer illiterate? Or those who don’t use the internet?” (or maybe you got bored and wandered off, but I’ll take the risk), and I completely understand. Still, wouldn’t it would make more sense to use free social media campaigns for the 83% of the UK population who has internet, and spend money on leaflets and letters only for those who don’t? By relying on leaflets as your main method of campaigning, you end up alienating young people. Teenagers who don’t have their own houses so only see the leaflet if their parents haven’t thrown it out; teenagers who would rather be putting their brain to work than delivering leaflets; teenagers whose technological talents are being wasted by parties who simply don’t know how to use it.

Therefore, while I do understand the reluctance of some political parties to exclude the computer illiterate, by staunchly refusing to bring their campaign plans into the 21st century they are excluding  many young people. And as disillusionment with the government is at an all time high, and voter turnout to the 2014 European Elections was at an all time low, something has to change.

Let’s just hope it happens before I die of boredom at another executive committee meeting…