Sunday, 5 April 2009

TwoDewis@#plaidconf.cym

Slick, modern, professional, well-organised, fresh.

Those are just a few of the words I had scribbled down in my notepad at Plaid's spring conference yesterday.

There are people across Britain and even here in Wales who view Plaid as a narrow-minded, inward-looking, backward party. Any such perceptions would have been blown way if those same people had been at UWIC yesterday.

Plaid had promised that this conference would be one of the most interactive ever. It's certainly difficult to see how this event could have been any more interactive. There was a compulsive Twitterer - including the father of the blogosphere, Iain Dale - in every corner and each update was pooled into one page using the hashtag (I still don't get this), #plaidconf. As a result anyone wanting to follow events from afar could simply log on to http://www.plaidlive.com/ for a live stream of often humourous updates.

As Adam Price gave his predictably motivational speech, I glanced to my right to find Bethan Jenkins, AM blogging away - offering a live interpretation of the MP's words. In her speech Ms Jenkins confirmed everybody's suspicions, stating quite confidently that Saunders Lewis was never on Twitter or Facebook! But she said this is a party that has never been afraid to try new things and suggested this new interaction between the party and its supporters will encourage transparency and openness.

Everywhere you looked modern technology was being used to excellent effect. Sat at the back close to the team managing the whole operation and led by Plaid's impressive campaigns officer, Morgan Lloyd, Dewi Un and myself were amazed at the organisation and sophistication of the process. There were vision mixers, audio operators and of course an indefatigable Twitterer in amongst them. Jingles were played between items and videos on the big screen introduced speakers.

Dewi Un and I asked a few of the delegates what they thought of this new emphasis on using modern technology and the general consensus was positive for the party. Members told us they recognised the need to embrace these opportunities and saw their advantages, particularly in attracting younger supporters. (Youthful - that's another word I had written down.)

There were a few who still favour the tried and tested formula of knocking on doors mainly because they have no idea about computers. This is something the party will have to be wary of. Plaid can't abandon the old ways and risk losing the support of older members of society. Rather it must look to supplement the old ways with these new exciting opportunties. However as was pointed out (oh, so frequently) yesterday, the web-based formula is also tried and tested. Afterall this is the forumla credited with giving America its first black president.

Peter Hain and Eluned Morgan's infamous Delilah video, was supposed to be Labour's 'Obama moment'. That attempt at using the web was ridiculed at yesterday's conference. And with good reason. If any party has been able to grasp the opportunities offered by the web, it is Plaid and they must be praised for that. Even Iain Dale readily conceded that Plaid Cymru are "streets ahead" in their use of modern technology.

Plaid Cymru may yet look back at this conference as its 'Obama moment' - the moment when perceptions changed and the party was praised for its readiness to change with the times.

Dewi Dau

P.S. Leader of the Plaid group on Cardiff Council, Neil McEvoy also reiterated the party's support to the '.cym' campaign - another example of PC using the web to further their own ambitions.

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14 comments:

Anonymous said...

interesting post, as a former Plaid Cymru member i was suitably impressed with the conference embrace of IT and the sets and backdrops looked great, Plaid are streets ahead of Labour, Tories and Lib Dems in Wales in this area, now if only they could get a better leader (Alex Salmond esq) I may even consider joining again.

Valleys Mam said...

Anon I so agree what's the wise saying about new wine in old wine skins.
Technology is great , but the content has to follow.
Plaid has some excellent people in its membership,with such talent.Lets hope they can maximise on that and this conference for the benefit of all of Wales not just rural Welsh speaking Wales.

dalesman said...

I agree entirely with VM. It is all well and good using IT and holding a "bells & whistles" conference, but the party needs to widen it's general appeal.

Nwdls said...

It's not just 'older members' who value a knock on the door. The knowck on the door is the crucial bit. If Plaid forget that they're screwed.

And Obama's campaign wasn't web-based - it was activist based - but enabled, enhanced and facilitated by use of the Internet. The use of the Internet was in order to get more people knocking doors - not less.

Anonymous said...

Glad to see you've nailed your colours to the wall now, we all knew this was yet another plaid leaning blog.

Ah well, you've obviously been impressed by the sight of a cpl of plasma screens, and plaid's 'groundbreaking use' of new technology.

You are students, so I guess you can be excused but if you think twittering is a replacement for door knocking then you seriously need to fight a cpl of elections.

I'm sure you are already members of cymru x or whatever plaid call their eugenics wing so maybe you can lend a hand next time.

You are right that Plaid are streets ahead in terms of their online presence and use of technology, you are wrong if you think this really will have much impact on the doorstep.

Tim said...

Sorry guys, but your take on this is extremely wide of the mark. The 'tried and tested' approach to door knocking is central to any victory in any election - as Obama, who put it front and centre of his campaign in the States. For all of the - admittedly well executed - technological flash, bang and wallop of Plaid's conference, the simple fact remains that only a tiny proportion of voters will have engaged with it online.

I guess you've inadvertently highlighted the difference between students of politics (your good selves) and political activists (I am one). Any activist worth their salt will tell you that online stuff is more important than ever, but a long, long way behind personal contact.

Penddu said...

While I agree that Plaid should not over rely on high tech internet campaiging, I disagree that knocking on doors makes much of an impact. Most people have made up their mind on which way to vote long before election time, and this is primarily driven by the news reports on TV and newspapers.

But this is where e-media can make a difference - newspaper reporters need stories to fill their pages and the internet is a very rich source of stories, with a recent example being Eluned's Delilah fiasco.

Che Grav-ara said...

What is most concerning is that people on this thread seem to think that Plaid have neglected knocking doors and traditional campaigning. The fact is that core campaign strategy is as strong as ever in plaid only they are also adding more feathers to their bows. It is not an either or method. Something labour clearly fail to appreciate

Tim said...

Che - not the case from my POV. I was disagreeing with the assertion in the post that door knocking had had its day. I was not suggesting that Plaid as a Party believe this.

I would also contend that as a UK Party - which the Labour Party is - we have taken steps to harness the web in a positive way, with Labourhome and Labourlist. We still have a long way to go against sites like Conhome, but a start as been made. I'd be the first to agree that in Wales, it's a differemt matter all together.....

Anonymous said...

Comparing a Plaid campaign to Obama's victory is ridiculous. Obama did NOT argue for the break up ofthe US and the central theme of his campaign was to reach out to the broadest base of people he could reach. Compare and contrast to all Nationalist Parties. Stick to what you do best Plaid being the Labour party's bunk up in the Assembly because by the look of things that's as far as you will ever get...

Politics Cymru said...

Thank you all for your interesting comments. Could I just say I never meant to suggest 'old school' electioneering was dead:

"Rather [Plaid] must look to supplement the old ways with these new exciting opportunties."

It is of course vital for any politician to interact face to face with the electorate on the door step - that is a cornerstone of our democracy.

I accept Nwdls' point however that Obama used the web to mobilise support and to get people out knocking on doors, as well as to attract votes.

And to Anoynymous, I fail to see how we are supposed to have "nailed our colours to the mast" with this post. This post offers a fair and accurate reflection of a political party conference for those who weren't able to attend the event. Is that not what you'd expect from three neutral journalists?

Let's see what the other parties can offer at their events. The challenge has been set!

Thank you again for all your comments.

Diolch yn fawr.

Dewi Dau

Politics Cymru said...

Could I also point out that across this blog you will find material that both praises and criticises all three of the parties, we strive to be impartial at all times.

When someone does something well in your opinion you have to say it as it is, thats exactly what every political journalist across the land does.

Im currently abroad with (very!) limited internet access but trying to upload my blog regarding the speech of Ieuan Wyn Jones which had flaws and contradictions.

We take our impartiality very seriously here on Politics Cymru.

Dewi Un

Penddu said...

Further to my earlier comment about bloggers helping to set the news agenda, take a look at this example:

http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/2009/04/08/a-knowledge-of-wales-or-devolution-is-not-essential-for-tory-job-91466-23337644/

I doff my cap to Welsh Rambling

snowy_ajw said...

Comparing a poxy little Plaid Gymru conference to anything to do with Obama is laughable.

The party cannot be taken seriously because their ultimate aim is to cut Wales off from the riches and power of the United Kingdom and plunge the principality into a downward spiral that would see any commerce rapidly evacuate.

They only represent the fantasies of those in deepest Welsh hovels who are clearly immune to the economics of the rest of Britain.

And if they sourced a leader as outspoken as Alex Salmond then thier cause would not be better advertised, just their fallacies futher exposed.