Labour’s technology nightmare

It is now almost three months since the election and I am pleased to report that my nightmares have ceased. I was the Parliamentary Agent in North Norfolk and generally enjoyed the campaign: we had an excellent candidate and some fine people willing to help in this very difficult seat. My nocturnal anxieties could be entirely attributed to the fact that, in the morning, I would have to input campaign information into the Labour Party’s Contact Creator system.

We were all encouraged to sign up to this system. It allowed the national party to download the electoral register and local parties like ours to input information on voter intention gained from door to door canvassing. While the intention was good the fulfillment was dreadful. The system, which did work at all on Apple computers, was counter-intuitive and over–engineered with a whole range of options that confused and serve to act as a barrier to the more straightforward applications.

In addition the Party offered a series of webinars: presentations broadcast through the Internet. No past webinars were available on the site up till March 23rd – exactly the period when they were most needed. The excuse offered was that they were being updated. One important new webinar was broadcast the week before the election: this covered procedures at the count. We could all hear the presenter speaking but could not see any slides.  After the webinar had finished the presenter said that he saw that there had been a technical problem and was very sorry. Finally a series of downloadable applications were made available for the count; these were so complex as to be virtually unusable.

Overall the support that the constituencies received from the Party’s central technology function was dismal. One of the candidates for Deputy Leadership, Tom Watson, said, in the course of the campaign that he sometimes felt that Labour was like ‘trying to overhaul an Apple Macbook with a spanner’. I have never met Tom Watson and have no idea how well equipped he is to undertake the task. However the fact that he has heard of Apple is itself encouraging.


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