Political parties have never had so few members in Britain. To illustrate the sheer scale of change in offline political activism, consider this: in 1951, the combined membership of Labour and Conservatives was above four million, by 2010 it fell below 400,000.
Interest in politics didn't disappear, it only comes in new forms. As Jamie Bartlett of Demos has pointed out in his excellent study, "young people in particular remain interested in politics, and use social media to stay politically engaged". However, politicians have difficulty in harnessing the political interest of young people.
One potential platform that remains unknown even by tech-savvy politicians is Tumblr. This microblogging site is very handy for posting multimedia content and gaining real momentum among young people.
The few political Tumblrs that exist belong to either of these two types: meme-themed collections of photos/videos and long-form Tumblr blogs resembling traditional blogs.
As usual, the European Parliament is pioneering some interesting use here. The EP Web Team are posting their infographics, some MEP assistants are running a funny meme on life inside Parliament, while interns in the Washington Office have a more serious take on their life.
As Tumblr is such a new thing in politics, really good ones are a rarity. But here are two inspiring Tumblrs from the US - probably by chance both come from the right.
The first one is an example of mixing political messages with popular content. The Heritage Foundation's Tumblr page combines fun posts (Can you find Damascus on the map?) and cute animal pictures with updates on their campaign against Obamacare. Whether you agree or disagree with their political aims, you are more likely to follow the blog for the fun content.
The second example comes from Rupert Murdoch - or actually from his Chief of Staff, Natalie Ravitz. She runs Murdoch Here, posting behind-the-scene photos from the life of Rupert Murdoch. This is a great little tool to fight the ever present dilemma for many public figures on social media: how to show some authentic personal side without becoming cheesy. Since it's not run by Murdoch himself, it feels like a peek through the keyhole, at the same time it's as safe as social media can be in a trusted hand. Similar photo blogs by chiefs of staff and spokespeople to presidents and prime ministers, could become instant hits if done well.
It's exciting to watch how Tumblr can be used for political communications - if you have any good examples, just send a me (@eurocrat) a message on Twitter and I will update this post.