How will MEPs use the internet in 2009?

It is of course with interest that we follow developments in the current US Presidential election primaries. We love gun toting YouTube questioners and rejoice at the plethora of blogs, websites and social media that our US friends use to build their databases, motivate supporters and of course harvest small individual donations for campaign coffers. The question we keep asking ourselves is will our MEPs follow suit and adopt some of these tactics in 2009? Signs are looking good, even at this early stage.

It is a matter of some rejoicing (and pride) that one of our FH colleagues and potential UK ALDE (Lib Dem) candidate, Rebecca Taylor, has taken up the digital political challenge and this week launched her own website in her bid for selection on the party’s list for 2009 in the UK’s Yorkshire region. A sentiment shared, amongst others, by Socialist MEP blogger Mary Honeyball who recently praised the internet as a potential campaign tool and calls on the age of the internet election to “roll on”. Some of us who in past lives have leafleted in god-forsaken parts of middle England on rainy summer days would tend to agree.

Interestingly, the use of social media sites such as Facebook is gathering pace here too. The PES are preparing well in advance and have set up an open Facebook group to disseminate campaign material to supporters and exchange best practice. However, unlike Hillary, Obama et al we are yet to find an MEP with an open Facebook profile set up to gather supporters and motivate them to action online. Perhaps it is just a matter of time.

We’d agree with those who argue that the likes of Facebook and MySpace are only one tool in internet election campaigns, where a focus on fund raising and building a great supporters database still plays a key role. However, where European elections are not exactly top of the media agenda and even the most election-hardened local constituency party can be difficult to motivate, we have to believe that such tools could be a cheap and effective method for gathering supporters together, keeping them up to speed on the campaign diary and motivating them to act online and offline.