The first rule of Democracy Club is that you talk about it. The second rule of Democracy Club is that you log it, publicise it and then revisit it. Failing that, then @democlub is a decent opportunity to meet up with like-minded folk in your local area for a pint and some political debate.
And so on a most miserable midweek night, I walked past the site of the great gathering of the Chartist movement at Kennington Park, and then made my way to the inaugural meeting of the South London Democracy Club.
The idea of @democlub is simple: collate political literature online, and canvas the views of any candidate that is standing for election. Once the ballot boxes are closed, keep track of the promises made, and make the elected officials accountable.
For all the nonsense written about this being the first online election, the fact remains that online networks are allowing local people to make connections, and put collective plans into place.
We came up with ten questions that we are going to put to all candidates in South London. The answers will then be published in the central @democlub database, available for all to check back on.
On the very same evening, others were doing the same all around the country. @democlub can boast meetings in 98% of all UK constituencies.
We are working together online, sharing ideas, and learning new ways to track the vast amount of party political communication that is being spewed out by the party machines in the run up to May 6th.
Election literature is being crowd sourced, scanned and then uploaded online. On a very local level, I was able to track down the legendary Keep Clapham Swimming farce of a manifesto that Lambeth Labour deceived the good people of SW4 with back in 2006.
Local politicians have been allowed to operate with zero accountability for far too long around this little patch of South London. An apathetic local media breeds disinterest within the electorate.
Make no mistake – online communication is going to play a major role at this election. This is especially so on the ground at Lambeth, where the Labour group in particular are fond of feeding out endless press releases via twitter.
Say it enough times, and eventually the message will sink in. #lambethjohnlewis wasn’t quite a trending topic on twitter in the past seven days, but the number of times that a positive spin tweeted by a Lambeth Labour member was then re-tweeted nationally, is evidence that yep, the medium truly is the message.
There may be potential in the coop model of local governance preferred by Lambeth Labour. There are certainly parallels with local democracy groups and the sharing of social and civic responsibility.
The again it may just be a load of old twaddle. By collating this data now ahead of polling day, local democracy groups can then keep check on the pledges made.