The video of Polish politician Katarzyna Lenart stripping for votes has generated the kind of online buzz that other party political broadcasts (and I use the term in its loosest sense) could only dream of. Shot on what appears to be a pretty low grade camera and featuring a swivel chair that wouldn’t look out of place in the head office of a packaging company in Slough, it looks a bit like something you’d find on Babestation at 3am. Still, at least she doesn’t stoop to airbrushing.
The knee-jerk reaction is to dismiss this out of hand. It’s not just crazy, it’s obvious. Surely even the voyeuristic, big brother guzzling, internet porn fed, fetid mess of a world we live in wouldn’t fall for something so desperate. It may be getting watched, but it won’t win votes.
Having said that, futurology is a tricky discipline, especially in the fad happy world of politics. Perhaps Lenart’s dance is so mad that it works. Lord knows we’ve been waiting for something to kick off the ‘digital elections’ repeatedly promised- and denied- through campaign strategies over the past few years.
Cameron fell foul of the net when his vote for change poster, complete with his staring visage airbrushed to Jordanian levels, was appropriated by a few ingenious trolls who created http://mydavidcameron.com/. The site allowed wannabe satirists to introduce their own accompanying slogans, with often hilarious results. It became one of the few truly concentrated, attention grabbing focal points of leftist criticism.
Across the pond, Boston senator Scott Brown ran into controversy earlier this year after guerrilla online tactics instigated by his communications department majorly backfired. Senior Republican advisor Eric Fehrnstrom attempted to artificially create the kind of satirical bite that grew naturally from the David Cameron affair when he set up a fake twitter account for Democrat Allan Khazei (@crazykhazei).
Apart from being disastrously unfunny (sample tweet: “Just read Scott Brown’s book. He isn’t the only one who had it tough growing up. I once got a splinter.”) the whole affair generated a storm around Brown’s use of public funds- an area of debate more or less untapped prior to the revelations. It was the exact opposite of a political communications campaign’s intended effect.
In short, whatever they say to the contrary, political brand advisors know bugger all about how to harness the internet: Obama’s web success aside, online campaigning is still uncharted territory. So who knows, perhaps in twenty years’ time Lenart will be hailed as the messiah and cabinets the world over will look like the B Team of a home counties branch of Secrets. If Theresa May is looking to try something similar, I hear Vaseline on the camera lens works a treat.