Thursday, 21 August 2008

10 Downing Street site creates controversy with 'Benjy is a prat' prank and spoof Clarkson video

The 10 Downing Street website has been re-launched to incorporate a range of social media elements. It now aggregates the 10 Downing St Twitter, the 10 Downing Flickr profile, e-petitions and the Ask Gordon Brown / 10 Downing Street YouTube account. David Cushman and Dan Calladine have gone into more depth on the Downing Street site relaunch.

Whilst the new interactive elements of the 10 Downing Street site aim to revitalise the site, some of the new content has created controversy.

On launch, the site contained a post about No.10 aide Benjamin Wegg Prosser saying "PM backs Benjy in 'prat' row. The page also included a picture of Harry Potter who allegedly bears resemblance to Mr. Wegg Prosser. The page has been deleted from the site but is still in Google's cache:

Screengrab from the 10 Downing Street site showing the 'PM backs Benjy in prat row' post (click for larger image)

If you enter the page address the 'PM backs Benjy in prat row' page no longer exists, however if you enter the address into Google and then click the 'cached' link beneath the result you can still see it:

The negative publicity has continued with widespread criticism of the latest video to be uploaded to the 10 Downing Street site. Number 10 have created a video response to the e-petition calling for Jeremy Clarkson to be Prime Minister:

The Clarkson Prime Minister film has been defended by Downing Street as a bit of fun that someone made in a 'spare half an hour' - though I think it would have taken significantly longer than half an hour to film it, edit it, upload it to YouTube and then link it back to the 10 Downing Street homepage. Either way I'm not sure this is the sort of content that should be running on the Downing Street site? Gordon Brown in Afghanistan, PM calls for Russian ceasefire, amusing video about Jeremy Clarkson, Government crackdown on youth knife crime........

I think it's great that number 10 is opening up a bit more and sharing information from behind the scenes through Twitter, Flickr and YouTube. However, whilst the 10 Downing Street site should be a powerful vehicle for Gordon Brown to engage the electorate, it won't work if the staff behind it continue to indulge in internet jolly japes - the number 10 website needs to focus on delivering unique insight and behind the scenes information from inside the workings of government.

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