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Page last updated at 13:25 GMT, Tuesday, 5 May 2009 14:25 UK

Blogging to victory?

Dickon Hooper
The Politics Show
BBC West

Are bloggers changing the way elections are fought, and won? The Politics Show West investigates.

Blogging website

Video: Blogging

President Obama would almost certainly say yes, he harnessed the power of the web after all, and he won his election.

Politicians on this side of the pond preparing for the Euro, local or even the next General Election should pay close attention - the campaigning battleground seems to be shifting online.

This, in large part, is down to demographics, and reaching certain people in a way that traditional hustings or leafleting never could.

"I do think MPs should be doing something [online]," said Kerry McCarthy, Labour MP for Bristol East.

Kerry McCarthy
Kerry McCarthy: blog is well respected

"People are increasingly coming to expect it, particularly younger people if we're trying to get them interested in politics."

Handful of bloggers

So it may surprise you to learn that Kerry's blog, which is well respected in Bristol, is one of only a handful being written by the two dozen or so West Country MPs we send up to Westminster.

At a European level, the numbers are even worse, just one out of seven MEPs in the South West has a blog.

The number of people reading blogs may traditionally be quite low, but some can end up punching above their weight - they are often read by decision makers and they give a chance to engage in two-way dialogue.

Politicians then, ignore them at their peril.

Carried away?

But Phil Chamberlain, an investigative blogger and lecturer in Journalism at the University of the West of England, warns about getting carried away.

After all, very few bloggers have parliamentary lobby passes, even if they have broken some big stories and ended some big political careers recently.

"It's the traditional media which are still setting the agenda. Bloggers are being used as a news source," said Mr Chamberlain.

James Barlow
James Barlow: blogging requires discipline and continuity

James Barlow, who blogs for the Tories in Bristol, agrees.

"In the long term, elections will be affected by bloggers... in the shorter term, I'm not so sure... it takes a lot of effort, discipline and continuity," he said.

The coming elections may well determine where the real power lies.

Watch the Politics Show West on Sunday at 1200 GMT on BBC One (or watch again on the BBC iPlayer).


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