After my efforts at analyzing Boris's website (such as it was), I was hoping that the other, less famous, candidates for the Conservative mayoral nomination would do a bit better and maybe prove that the Internet really is the home of the underdog, and the place where the little guy can take on the political behemoth on something like even terms.
Well, Andrew Boff blew that theory out of the water, as his site manages to be worse the Boris Johnson's (once again, click on the thumbnails for more detail). Actually though, it's not quite fair referring to Boff as the little guy. Had Johnson not entered the race at the last minute, he probably would have been regarded as a big hitter. Previously a councillor and then a GLA members, he ran for the mayoral nomination in 2000 and, thanks for unforeseen circumstances (Jeffrey Archer's little local difficulty), he found himself in the last two, against Steve Norris. Although he lost, Boff made quite a name for himself, getting a fair amount of national press coverage. He also very much fits into the mould of being a modernising, Cameron-type Conservative. He was one of the first openly gay and prominent Conservatives, and his rhetoric is certainly very post-ideological and centrist in tone.
So what's his site like? All-in-all, it's not good. Although Johnson's site was content-lite (and that's an understatement), but fairly pretty, Boff's is content-lite and ugly as sin. The background is all white, the font's are all over the place and quite scratchy. And the organization of the content is very poor, with seemingly random links, dotted around the middle of the page taking you to press releases.
What content there is isn't that well put together either. Boff's big headline at the moment is that he is going to campaign for more houses and family-friendly dwellings to be built; which seems like a pretty good and appealing idea. But the tag line his press release has on it is: "Funding for new one- and two-bedroom, affordable flats in London would be slashed if Andrew Boff becomes the Conservative Mayor of London". I don't think that advertising a desire to cut affordable housing is necessarily a vote winner, whatever the underlying argument is.
The one good thing about the site is that it has some functions of a pseudo-blog - RSS feeds are active on the page and you can comment on the stories that are highlighted (you will perhaps be unsurprised to hear that, thus far, no one has). However, because the original "posts" are nothing more than press releases, they contain none of the familiarity or humour that marks the best political blogs, so the additional features are really not that useful.
This exercise isn't going so well so far, is it? I'm going to press on and do another site in this post, run by Victoria Borwick, who is a councillor in Kensington and Chelsea. And, I'm pleased to report, it's a much better site than either of the two I have previously commented on. It's far from perfect - it hardly drips Web 2.0 action - but at least it has touched all the bases for what most people would now regard as the bare minimum for a website run by a politician campaigning for an office as significant as Mayor of London. It has a blog, video and MP3 files, as well online polls and a nice feedback form through which the candidate can be contacted. It is also fairly pretty, with a nice blue-green combo going on (although I would say the design is far from perfect; the front page for example is far too long and relies too much on overly long and not very nicely laid out sidebars).
Two other interesting things about the site stand out and are worthy of note. Firstly, the url. Whilst other candidates have used their name or slogans based around their name, Borwick has gone for mayor-for-london.org. That strikes me as a risky strategy, not least because it might make her harder to find for potential supporters; although she could presumably argue that, as a candidate with low name recognition, she might as well choose a generic name. Secondly, her site links directly to 18 Doughty Street, the right-wing Internet TV channel. This is something of a trail-blazing organisation (although estimates as to its impact vary, depending on how it is assessed). What it shows is that Borwick is seeking to link her site to the wider Tory-leaning blogosphere, perhaps in the hope they can give her campaign some much needed momentum against the juggernaut of Johnson's candidacy.
One more candidate to do, who I shall try to look at in the next few days.