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Last Updated: Tuesday, 21 February 2006, 14:56 GMT
Campbell says he never used net
Alastair Campbell
Mr Campbell says politicians need to wise up to the web
Tony Blair's ex-media chief Alastair Campbell says he never sent an e-mail or used the internet during his near decade working for the Labour leader.

"I never used a computer other than to write - I used it as a word processor," he told BBC Radio 4's Start the Week.

The man who drove the communications strategy for New Labour said he had been in the technological "dark ages".

Mr Campbell, an ex-newspaper reporter, said he now believed politicians needed to use the internet more.

He pointed to the fact that polls suggested that at the 2005 general election about a third of young voters turned to the internet as their primary source of political information and news.

"It's still not become a revolution, but it's getting there," he said.

Playing catch up

Mr Campbell, who worked with Tony Blair from 1994 to 2003, told the programme "I never sent e-mails or used the internet".

He said that aides would sift e-mails sent to him and type up and send responses for him - e-mails sent "on his behalf" and appearing to be from him direct were part of the evidence during the Hutton Inquiry.

"Who knows whether that [not using e-mail or the internet] meant I did the job better or worse than I might have done," Mr Campbell asks in an essay covering the role of the internet in politics.

He's definitely a paper and pen person as well - he's got a computer screen on his desk and it's pretty idle
Alastair Campbell on Tony Blair

In the essay he said his former boss was not much wiser.

"He's definitely a paper and pen person as well. He tries - he's got a computer screen on his desk... it's pretty idle."

Mr Campbell said he had been getting to grips with modern technology since leaving his official Downing Street post - including using a blackberry.

However, he said the web was "unlikely to replace TV as a medium to broadcast communications to mass audiences".

Instead, its future for politics lay in areas such as encouraging campaigning networks for political parties, in raising funds and in giving localised information to people.

The area which most needed developing for politicians was getting a "genuine two-way process of debate and engagement", he argued.

They needed to be more aware that younger people used the internet as their core, or one of their core, communications channels.

Lack of trust

"I think the public out there are just consuming news in a completely different way which is way beyond what we did when we were sort of growing up in our 20s and 30s," he said.

"In a sense they're getting in the driving seat of their own media consumption and their own political consumption and they're saying: 'Well what I'm interested in is X'."

People did not trust politicians or the media to explain what something meant.

"They know that most newspapers and a lot of journalists have their own agenda and that's what they're pursuing," he said.

But internet users could find other people to agree or disagree with, plus information which helped them to develop their arguments, he said.

And people could decide what they wanted to see and read, "rather than have anyone tell them what to think".

'Not optional extra'

Mr Campbell, a former Daily Mirror reporter, said that since leaving Downing Street he had been inspired to find ways of using the internet and other forms of technology to bring people into politics when he realised many were being "turned off" by the "conventional media".

"We are now in a media age. I think the politicians have just got to in a sense let go a bit ...

"Above all they've got to start to understand the younger generation, in particular, is thinking about its political consumption in completely different ways.

"And I think if they are not careful, they are going to fall behind a curve and this whole business of disengagement from conventional politics becomes a bit of a problem."

He said political parties were going to have to view the web "as an essential part of their campaigning mix rather than an optional extra".

He concluded his essay: "They should also see that with the press as negative as it is, with TV and radio reporting as frenzied and press influenced as it is, that is an opportunity not a threat.

"Even I, technophobe that I am, can see that."


SEE ALSO
Profile: Alastair Campbell
29 Aug 03 |  UK Politics
Netting the connected electorate
06 May 05 |  Technology
The internet and elections
08 Dec 04 |  UK Politics
US web campaigning pays off
07 Jul 04 |  Technology

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