Regular readers of my posts about online politics will know my scepticism of the extent to which online fundraising can work in the UK on the same scale as it does in the US. For example, because there’s a different attitude towards supporting causes by giving money rather than time in the US and because in the UK campaigns, courtesy of their parties, usually start with a significant donor lists rather than having to create ones from scratch.
However, what it certainly can do is to catch a moment of enthusiasm and to make it easy to do that which would otherwise be hard. The case of Evan Harris, Liberal Democrat MP for Oxford West & Abingdon, illustrates this clearly.
Courtesy of his views on scientific and social issues, Evan Harris has a profile and many fans right across the country. It also means he’s no stranger to debate on issues ranging from homoeopathy via libel reform to assisted suicide.
Sometimes that also means he’s on the receiving end of particularly nasty and unpleasant personal attacks – as has been the case recently. Neil Fawcett (who is running his re-election campaign) has documented some of them over on his blog and as Neil points out, the welcome reaction of many to those sort of attacks has been people flooding to put up posters and offer help:
I understand that there are people who honestly believe that life starts at conception and that abortion is the equivalent of murder. I disagree with them, but I believe they should have the right to state their views and campaign to change the law, which is what most of them do.
But to produce and distribute leaflets tagging someone with the nickname ‘Dr Death’ – a name usually associated with Nazi torturers and serial killers – is simply disgusting.
Because Evan’s campaign takes online donations it also means that as the coverage of the personal attacks has played out online, it’s been very easy for people to make donations in a way that before hardly anyone would have. (Hunt out a cheque book, envelope, stamp and then start trying to find from the phone book who to ring in order to find out who to make the cheque payable to.)
The result? Over £6,000 raised so far and counting.