Page last updated at 17:04 GMT, Thursday, 29 January 2009

Prescott fronts Labour phone push

John Prescott
Mr Prescott writes a blog and has a page on Facebook

Labour is using former deputy prime minister John Prescott to promote a scheme allowing party members to canvass the public from home.

Based on techniques used by Barack Obama's US presidential campaign, the Virtual Phone Bank allows activists to key the results into a central system.

Mr Prescott said on YouTube: "Put it on. Have a cup of tea, watch the telly and come back to it, if you like."

He has also set up a page on the social networking site Facebook.

'Cyber-warrior'

Meanwhile, the 70-year-old has started writing a blog for the site GoFourth, aimed at helping Labour to a fourth term in office.

Contrary to his self-proclaimed credentials as a leading "old Labour" politicians, Mr Prescott seems to have become a convert to the internet, describing himself as a "cyber-warrior".

The Virtual Phone Bank gives party activists the telephone numbers of people to ring and stipulates a list of questions to be asked.

The results are then sent in to be collated and used in campaign databases.

'Cold hotel room'

In a video posted on YouTube, Mr Prescott said: "Instead of getting a call from the constituency saying can you come down and meet - usually in a cold room in a hotel - and talk to people, this allows you to do it in your own home."

Political parties, which have lost members in recent years, are attempting to utilised the data-gathering, fund-raising and promotional potential of the internet.

It is thought the Obama campaign employed as many as 95 permanent web staff and spent millions of dollars on its online operations.

The Labour Party is widely seen to have been lagging behind the Conservatives in the use of internet campaigning.

Douglas Alexander MP, Labour's general election co-ordinator, said: "We have taken on board the lessons of the Obama campaign and the key aim of our web strategy is to give our supporters the tools they need to campaign for us both online and offline."

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