The IT revolution is transforming politics and opening up a new dimension of inequality. The Labour party can be as technologically savvy as it likes, argues David Runciman, but it cannot become a vote-winning machine again until it sets out a role for the state in the political economy of the digital age.
On the day Labour launched its manifesto, I went to the party’s website with the hope of reading it. But before I could get to the text, I had to navigate my way past a portal that offered me the chance to ‘create my own manifesto’. What this meant in practice was that anyone could input the issues they cared about most, and the manifesto would then be reconfigured to flag up the policies that spoke to those concerns.
It’s hard to think of anything that better sums up what was wrong with the Labour campaign. It looked responsive, technologically savvy and consumer-friendly: politics as a menu of options for an increasingly distracted and diversified electorate. But in reality it was patronising, gimmicky and a monumental distraction.
It simply confirmed the impression that the Labour strategy had reduced politics to a series of transactional offers that could be moved around at will to create an ersatz political philosophy. Labour hoped to harness the transformative power of the internet to further progressive politics. It ended up trivialising both.
Read more: Digital Politics: Why Progressives Need To Shape The Digital Economy