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A social Budget: Part One

Rory Cellan-Jones | 12:43 UK time, Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Is this the first social media Budget with analysis and reaction delivered instantly online? I'm keeping watch today to work out how the parties and the voters are using their new media tools to dissect, promote, attack and generally crawl all over Alistair Darling's Budget.

0930:The first argument of the day seems to be about the Budget Twitter "hashtag" to be used to identify what could be thousands of tweets later today - and separate them out from, say, someone in Tuscaloosa musing on their household budget. The conclusion seems to be #budget2010 - but some dissidents are still holding out for #budget.

1030: A quick chat with the Conservatives about their plans to "crowdsource" their response to the budget at this site They say they've only got a small team to comb through a document that has been prepared by hundreds of Treasury officials - and by posting that document online and seeking responses, they hope anyone from business organisations to keen economics students can help spot the devil in the detail. But they are not going to publish the responses, no doubt mindful of previous experiments which have ended up with "off-message" comments.

1100: An hour or so before Alistair Darling stands up for what is pretty likely to be his last Budget, I'm looking at a website which aims to promote the claims of a man who is currently 16-1 with Ladbrokes to be his successor. The site is called InVinceCable, and is billed as the HQ of a campaign to get the Liberal Democrat the job of chancellor.

The site says this: "We're not linked to or supported in any way by Vince himself, the Liberal Democrats or, indeed, any political organisation."

It turns out to have been put together by a bunch of marketing types, one of whom is Mark Pinsent: "Down the pub one night, we started talking about whether social media would have any impact on the election," he explained.

They all agreed that Vince would make the best chancellor - and decided to have a go. Their only weapon is the social networks - so can they make Vince go viral?

1130: A Google search for "stamp duty" brings up a sponsored link to the site's tax and benefits guide. So it looks as though that search term has been bought by the government. Mind you, I've just Googled "Alistair Darling", and up has popped, alongside his Wikipedia entry, a link to a YouTube video in which David Cameron explains why you should vote Tory. Google's ad sales team must be rubbing their hands...

1200: As PMQs get under way, I'm seeing the number of Tweets with a #budget hashtag rise to around 20 per minute. One of the Tweets says "this really is the social budget." Meanwhile on Facebook's new UK election page, things still seem a little quiet. There are just short of 1,000 fans on the site and on a debate about the Budget there are so far 12 contributions. By contrast, a Facebook group campaigning for a "Robin Hood tax" has well over 100,000 fans. Perhaps Facebookers are more keen to gather around single issues rather than be corralled into an all-purpose political page.

I will be back with more after the Budget.


  • Comment number 1.

    Genius. InVinceCable.

  • Comment number 2.

    Awesome! If only we could have had info in real time years ago with the telly and radio!

    Oh wait.

  • Comment number 3.

    The problem is how easy the numbers can be fudged by having supporters or opponents log-on many different times or figure out a reasonable number to make the case. Having an active social network is different than having a majority of voters. If you watch any political confrontation both sides claim to be representing the majority and will often say so. This poll or that poll and how questions are devised and who responds slant many of these. We do have more information, just not sure it is any better. Everybody seems to be everywhere so maybe that is why the economy is not moving, everyone is tweeting rather than working, or on blogs.

  • Comment number 4.

    "A Google search for "stamp duty" brings up a sponsored link to the site's tax and benefits guide. So it looks as though that search term has been bought by the government."

    And this from a government who have promised to make efficiency savings?

    Why on earth do the government need to pay to advertise stamp duty? It's not as if you have any choice about whether to pay it or not.

    What a ridiculous waste of money.


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