The Tech Challenge: Why UK Political Parties Are Struggling

I had the privilege of hearing Harper Reed speak on his recent visit to London. Reed was President Obama's Chief Technology Officer at the last election and together with a number of others revolutionised the ways that politicians work with technology to campaign. Their results were spectacular and the fresh thinking they brought to campaigning showed the value in recruiting from non-political backgrounds.

However, whilst our parties like to think that they learn the lessons from the US, the General Election in 2015 will not mark a sea change in the way that our parties campaign.

There a number of reasons why this is the case.

Money - our parties have less finance to invest in the infrastructure needed to run an effective technology-based campaign. Ask any company about lessons learned in building IT infrastructure and they will explain about the faults, the failures and the cost. The Obama campaign team were able to robustly test their systems to ensure they did not fail but they still needed the mo

Campaign finance - one reason why the Obama campaign was so effective was that it had a very clear need to raise finance. They refused to take money for lobbyists so they absolutely needed to know and understand what made people donate, how to increase rates of donation and how to expand the donation base. The limits on campaign finance here mean that those imperative are not so clear and are, in many ways, curtailed. The Obama campaign had no choice.

Lack of leadership - it was clear from Reed's comments, as well as the level of investment, that technology was taken seriously by Obama himself and the team around him. That is not the case here. There may be some occasional comment but to the outside world, our political leaders do not get technology. They know it is important but the need to show real commitment to its place in campaigning.

Privacy - we are obsessed by the right to privacy and...

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