How can we use the principle of crowd sourcing in politics? The last couple of weeks have seen Labour and the Conservatives attempt to get their supporters involved in the campaign with strikingly different results.
Last Wednesday we launched “Your Budget Response“, a project that put the collective wisdom of the British public to work on helping to unpick the small print in this year’s Red Book.
As an opposition party, there’s an obvious asymmetry of resources between us and the Government – who have a huge number of civil servants at their disposal. A project like this is an attempt to level the playing field by encouraging anyone with access to a computer to join our team, pore over the figures and find the “devil in the detail”.
The submissions (over 1000 of them) were sent direct to our Treasury team for further analysis. And we got some great stuff which, now that the Budget debate is over, we’ll be publishing on Conservatives.com over the coming days.
This exercise proves that George Osborne’s “army of armchair auditors” is definitely out there, ready and willing to go through the figures and hold the Government to account – uncovering the truth behind any manipulated stats or misleading economics.
The idea for the site was itself sourced from the crowd. The blogger Dizzy Thinks (his fantastic blog also an example of what can happen when politics and technology collide) pointed out that Gordon Brown’s “10p tax con” (the unraveling of which was the defining moment of the 2008 budget) was first spotted by bloggers and that the Conservatives should take this as an indication of the level of expertise that could potentially be tapped into.
In contrast, Labour have invited their supporters to submit ideas or designs for their next poster, which will be displayed on 10 digital ad sites in London and Manchester over Easter weekend.
They’re displaying the shortlist over on the Labour website just now, and while I don’t really want to get into the aesthetics, it’s really striking how negative and personal the majority of the adverts are.
I guess time will tell whether Labour’s foray into crowd sourcing pays off for them, but I can’t help but wonder if they’re tapping into “the wisdom of crowds” or just the hostility of the hardcore activist.
Craig Elder (@craigelder)
Online Communities Editor, The Conservative Party