Labour party set to launch "digital discovery" team as part of digital push

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In a YouTube video, deputy Labour leader Tom Watson says the Labour party will make a conscious turn to technology by canvassing members with a "digital discovery" team.

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The Labour party is set to launch a “digital discovery team” to canvas members and supporters about how the party can better use technology, ComputerworldUK understands, as part of a wider digital push.

The review is due to be kicked off today and will last for about three months, during which time the party says it will "talk to as many people as possible to understand their needs and to identify where there are problems we need to solve".

In a video uploaded to YouTube by the official Labour Party account, deputy leader Tom Watson outlines the purpose of the team.

Watson says: “A lot of people fear the disruptive force of the internet – probably rightly so, it’s upturning every institution in our country. One thing I do know is any political party that fails to harness the power of digital does not have a long term future.

“That’s why Jeremy and I have set up a digital discovery team within our wider digital team at headquarters. We’ve asked them to talk to all our stakeholders, all our members, all our MPs and councillors who have an idea about how we can do things better in the digital space.”

“Now that Jeremy is leader and I’m deputy leader we’re very keen to make sure the Labour party is a digitally enabled political party,” Watson says.

“I think there’s four things we need to learn. Firstly, how do we communicate with each other as members? Secondly, how do we organise and engage our communities? Thirdly, how do we use digital to give greater support to our MPs councillors, MSPs, AMs and activists? And fourthly, how do we just communicate in the digital space better in itself?

“If you can help the discovery team with that we want to hear from you. We want to change the way we do politics.

“And the digital people tell me it starts with the user needs. For us that’s member requirements: what do you need to make your experience of being involved in the Labour party or engaging the Labour party better in the digital space. If you can help we’d love to hear from you.”

A landing page found at digital.labour.org.uk reads: “Labour Digital coming soon... This site is just being made right now. You have found it too early. Watch this space.”

The author is James Darling – developer, web expert, Corbyn leadership campaign volunteer and ‘Open Labour’ advocate, who has previously blogged on the role of digital in campaigning. 

A blog post setting out Labour's digital plans is due to be posted to the landing page today.

It will say Watson had a “very clear message” from Labour members that they “expect the party to change” – and that by the next general election, members “expect us to use technology differently in our campaigns, in the way we make policy and how we organise our communities.”

The initiative coincides with the launch of a book by political strategist Lynton Crosby, campaign director for the Conservatives in the run-up to the 2015 general election. In an excerpt published on the Guardian, Crosby outlines how the Conservative party was well-placed to campaign with digital – and that this was crucial to the party’s success.

Leader of the Opposition Jeremy Corbyn, meanwhile, has embraced digital since the race for leadership of the Labour Party – with grassroots supporters posting memes, organising using Facebook, and rallying support with the #JezWeCan hashtag on Twitter.

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