Labour party gets tips from Obama campaign

Britain's Prime Minster Gordon Brown speaks during a news conference with Spain's Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero at Downing Street in London February 19, 2010. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor

LONDON (Reuters) - The Labour party is taking a page from U.S. President Barack Obama’s campaign book by contacting voters directly and encouraging word of mouth campaigning by members, its election coordinator said.

Douglas Alexander said Labour, which has been clawing back some of the opposition Conservative party’s commanding lead ahead of an election that must be held by June 3, has been in discussion with the Obama team for more than a year.

“Their key campaigning insight in an age of cynicism about politicians is word of mouth,” Alexander told the Guardian newspaper for an interview published in its Saturday edition.

“The (opposition) Conservatives are fighting a broadcast election in a networked age. What we are going to offer is not a one-way communication, but one-to-one communication,” he added.

“Obama better understood community organisation and peer-to-peer communication than any recent candidate and we are applying that lesson.”

He said Labour had made 400,000 voter contacts in marginal seats since the start of the year -- double the number of such contacts in the 2005 election -- using software that allows party members to set up phone banks in their homes to contact voters and build a relationship with them.

Revealing a new election slogan, “A future fair for all” -- due to be officially unveiled by Prime Minister Gordon Brown on Saturday -- Alexander said it had been chosen to counter what he called the Conservative’s “empty” offer of change.

“Change is a process, future is a destination. People want a sense of hope, possibility and pride about Britain,” he said, adding that beneath the anxiety and anger over bankers’ bonuses, the expenses scandal and the recession, there was a “submerged optimism” among voters.

Reporting by Kylie MacLellan; Editing by Michael Roddy