Tuesday, 30 September 2014

NEW BOOK COMING SOON: Cameron's Conservatives and the Internet

Cameron's Conservatives and the Internet - By Anthony Ridge-Newman

About the book:

The internet seems to be changing the way many of us interact and communicate. But how is it impacting on more historically traditional institutions like the British Conservative Party? As more and more web-applications spring-up as parts of our everyday lives, are political parties changing in the age of the internet? If so, how are they responding to these wider changes in the ways in which we interface with technology and one another? Using David Cameron's Conservative Party as a case study, this book examines the role of specific internet technologies like blogs, email, ConservativeHome, Facebook, MyConservatives, Twitter and WebCameron in the organizational culture of the Tory Party 2005-14. Benefitting from both academic and party insider perspectives, this text presents the case for the emergence of a new technological subculture within the party, which the author calls 'Cyber Toryism'.

Endorsed by leading contemporary Conservative Party academics:

'Benefitting from being written from both an academic and an insider perspective, this study effectively outlines the challenges that new media pose to the organizational and campaign hierarchy that has traditionally characterized the Conservatives. Ridge-Newman shows that the advent of digital democracy doesn't only pose risks for parties; it also offers rewards.'

- Professor Tim Bale, School of Politics and International Relations, Queen Mary, University of London, UK.

'Anthony Ridge-Newman provides an innovative analysis of the Conservatives’ engagement with the internet under David Cameron. Drawing on ethnographic methods during hard-fought elections, his book is unique, breaking new ground in the study of the role that new technologies are playing in the lives of political activists in Britain.'

- Dr Alexander Smith, Department of Sociology, Warwick University, UK.

'Ridge-Newman’s book offers the first in-depth investigation of the role of digital technologies in the Conservative Party under Cameron. This book explores the challenges that new forms of technology pose to traditional structures of power and authority within political parties. It is essential reading for researchers and practitioners alike.'

- Dr Alex Windscheffel, Department of History, Royal Holloway, University of London, UK.

About the author:

Dr Anthony Ridge-Newman has diverse expertise in academia, communications, politics and media. He conducted the ESRC funded research on which this book is based at the University of London, 2008-11. During that time, he was a councillor for Virginia Water and a parliamentary candidate for Ynys Môn | Anglesey. This first-hand experience was embraced in this book using ethnographic methods.

Forthcoming October/November 2014:

For notification of launch - email:
For more information about the author - visit:

Monday, 22 September 2014

Devolution and the Scottish Conservatives (Smith, 2011)

The Scottish Referendum gripped the entire UK. But how did Scottish Devolution impact on the Conservative Party north of the border? My mentor, Alexander Smith, wrote an excellent book on this subject, which is now out in paperback. I highly recommend a read:

"This highly readable book is a unique, ethnographic study of devolution and Scottish politics as well as Party political activism more generally. It explores how Conservative Party activists who had opposed devolution and the movement for a Scottish Parliament during the 1990s attempted to mobilise politically following their annihilation at the 1997 General Election. It draws on fieldwork conducted in Dumfries and Galloway - a former stronghold for the Scottish Tories - to describe how senior Conservatives worked from the assumption that they had endured their own ‘crisis’ in representation. The material consequences of this crisis included losses of financial and other resources, legitimacy and local knowledge for the Scottish Conservatives.

"This book ethnographically describes the processes, practices and relationships that Tory Party activists sought to enact during the 2003 Scottish and local Government elections. Its central argument is that, having asserted that the difficulties they faced constituted problems of knowledge, Conservative activists cast to the geographical and institutional margins of Scotland became ‘banal’ activists. Believing themselves to be lacking in the data and information necessary for successful mobilisation during Parliamentary elections, local Tory Party strategists attempted to address their knowledge ‘crisis’ by burying themselves in paperwork and petty bureaucracy. Such practices have often escaped scholarly attention because they appear everyday and mundane and are therefore less noticeable."

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Time for UK Federalism

In the aftermath of the historic Scottish Referendum, which appears to have impacted on the socio-political fabric of the entire United Kingdom, it now seems time for the rise of a Britain of the people. A Britain with a fair federalised democratic system.

We need to step away from a system rooted in a tradition that places so much power in the hands of firmly established elites in a Westminster bubble that is made up of unrepresentative aristocrats, bishops, parliamentarians and traditional media.

Let's campaign for greater representation and a more direct democracy (the benefits of which have been demonstrated by the recent ‎Scottish Independence Referendum) starting with a referendum on ‪the UK's membership of the European Union (EU), because it is what people want‬.

The Scottish Referendum has electrified and reinvigorated what was becoming a stale and limp democracy in Britain. More direct democracy can only inject more confidence and sense of participation in the British democratic process.

But the democratic process needs also to be fair, balanced and representative. Labour's legacy of failed devolution has left Britain in a real hodge-podge in which MPs of devolved nations can vote on aspects of laws that affect only English people, but English MPs have no voting power over the same areas in the devolved nations.

This mess needs to be tidied-up in order to keep our Union alive. A federal system is the only realistic solution to this in post-devolution Britain and especially since the Scottish Referendum. 

Therefore, let's campaign for a federal UK system, made up of the following:

  • A UK Parliament at Westminster (as an all-Britain single chamber)
  • The abolishment of the House of Lords
  • An elected English Parliament sitting in the chamber of the abolished House of Lords
  • A greater devolution of powers to the London, Northern Ireland and Welsh assemblies and Scottish Parliament respectively
  • A UK Parliament at Westminster with certain scrutinising powers over specific issues that relate to the regional assemblies and parliaments in the new United Kingdom federation 

Until recently, I would have been against abolishing the House of Lords. However, we need to decide what is most important - preserving our beloved United Kingdom or preserving institutions that are unrepresentative and out-of-touch with the wider UK.

The House of Lords, and what it has symbolised historically, pretty much subjugates the common man to having a 'place'. The dichotomous culture of the UK Parliament encourages a bullish approach in the Commons which is juxtaposed with the supposed noble refinement of the Lords.

For me, in this day and age, this seems to be an acted-out caricature which actually puts-off many people from engaging in our democracy and politics. 

After the scandals over parliamentary expenses, parliamentarians talked a lot about reconnecting and rebuilding trust with the British people.

How on earth is that expected to happen if the electorate feel a million miles away from such elites cultures of political theatricality.

The Scottish Independence Referendum has highlighted how the whole country is ready for radical change.

Therefore, I would argue that the House of Lords really ought to go, as one part of wider sweeping constitutional reforms in favour of a federalised UK. An elected upper house is the very least the people of Britain should settle for. 

With a federal system, the UK Government would have less responsibility and more time to focus, debate and scrutinise the items important to the UK as a whole.

Today, 'the Lords' are Lords by name only. There are few hereditary peers left in the House and it all seems rather out-of-date and anachronistic.

No longer do we want or need all this unnecessary hierarchy. The people of Britain want a voice and better representation in a country where freedom and equality is valued.

The Lords is an extension of a class culture in Britain, which is out-of-touch with the ordinary lives of the vast majority of people. Furthermore, why should the Church of England Bishops maintain a grasp over matters of state affecting Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales? Or England for that matter...

When set in this context, the British constitutional structure as it currently stands seems to be unrepresentative of the real lives of real people. 

A federal system would help safeguard the Union. The United Kingdom would become a fairer and more authentic modern state - and real pragmatic change is now required to maintain its survival.

United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (UK)

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (the UK) is one of the most centralised countries in the world. 

However, in my global travels, at home and away, it has been rare to find my home country referred to correctly - many calling it 'England' when really they mean 'the UK' or 'Britain'. 

It seems ironic that the Scottish Independence ‪Referendum, which is likely to lead to a less centralised UK with greater devolution for all four corners of the Union, has been the event that has highlighted to the world that we are four countries in one United Kingdom. 

The UK is a country of four nations and, now, hopefully more people in the world will get the name right!

I have been asked: If the UK is one unified country, why are sport teams broken down into teams like England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland?

The UK does not compete as separate countries in all sporting competitions. 

In the Olympics, it is Team Great Britain (Team GB). 

In rugby, we have the British and Irish Lions, while also having the English, Welsh and Scottish teams. Football/soccer is similar. 

Tennis players represent Britain internationally and golfers sometimes play as a European team internationally e.g. the Ryder Cup. 

In the UK, we do not have a strict sporting tradition in which geographical delineation is consistent from sport to sport in terms of international representation.

Each individual sport has evolved its own national identity over time and those traditions have largely dictated how the teams are constituted on the international stage. 

This in itself is a very British approach. 

The UK has no written constitution. Therefore, it also evolves naturally over time. 

It means that it is frequently unclear, uncertain and a bit of a patchwork quilt of inconsistencies. However, this is, again, a very British trait. 

Where New World countries started from a clean slate, the UK is a knitting together of the evolving circumstances and ancient histories and traditions of diverse groups of people living in the British Isles. 

Sport highlights this, but whether on an English, Scottish, Welsh, Northern Irish or indeed British team, the member of the respective team would be travelling on a UK Passport as a British Citizen.