Political parties in New Zealand have been looking at ways to make the internet work for the organising of membership. This is still an evolution of organising in its infancy. [Read more below]
For example, Labour party president Bob Harvey announced his plans in early 2000 to give the email address of the prime minister and ministers to members in order that they would be able to participate in the democratic process (Laugesen, 30 Apr 2000: p.3). Likewise, in November 2000 the new president of the Labour Party, Mike Williams, was reported as saying that he,
would look at internal party communications and alternative ways to organise. For instance, in large electorates such as the Maori seat of Te Tai Tonga, teleconferencing and other new technology approaches might be more appropriate than a branch and electorate committee structure. Pressure on people’s time and the young’s interest in new technology might even open the way for "virtual branches" (Small, 2000).
Some political party websites, such as the Green and National parties, now have member login areas where internal party information can be displayed and debated.
Despite these innovative ideas, the reality is that any real increase in party numbers will ultimately only come out of an increase in the politicisation of society. Attempts to increase membership are often based on superficial strategies rather than representing anything meaningful. As Levine argued in 1979, politics needs to genuinely change before party membership can substantially increase:
To intensify participation in partisan politics requires the scope and meaning of political conflict to be widened and personalised. The enlargement of public involvement in politics cannot be manipulated into existence, but must emerge out of a renewed awareness of the salience of politics, and of the existence of meaningful alternative choices (Levine, 1979: pp.72-73).
As will be seen in future blog posts about ePolitics, there has been significant developments in the use of the internet by political parties, and this has had ramifications for the membership – but there are no signs that it has led to any growth in numbers joining parties.