Posted by: secretperson | November 5, 2008

Blears Blast Bloggers

Hazel Blears has attacked the culture of professional politicians, sensationalist mainstream media reporting and cynical, nihilistic blogs for damaging relations between politicians and the public.

She is of course correct about politicians, and the “‘transmission belt’ from university activist, MP’s researcher, thinktank staffer, special adviser, to MP, and ultimately frontbench”. These people have no experience of the real world, they have never managed anything but PR, yet we expect them to manage the country. Of course, there is not much I can do about this, though I would recommend that we avoid any positive discrimination to get the ‘right people’ in. Far too open to corruption.

The media does exaggerate stories for impact, but no more than the politicians. My main complaint is they are lazy and simply repeat press releases, and that they ignore the EU. EUphiles too don’t like that our media hardly report on Brussels political news, thinking it would help increase support for the EU. I think if people saw how much of our law comes from there, how little our parliament does and how the executive uses the EU to avoid parliamentary scrutiny, they would be considerably more EUsceptic. Either way, I’m not sure that sensationalism is the cause of voter cynicism.

And finally, and of course of most interest to me, she attacks bloggers:

Perhaps because of the nature of the technology, there is a tendency for political blogs to have a ‘Samizdat’ style. The most popular blogs are rightwing, ranging from the considered Tory views of Iain Dale, to the vicious nihilism of Guido Fawkes. Perhaps this is simply anti-establishment. Blogs have only existed under a Labour government. Perhaps if there was a Tory government, all the leading blogs would be left-of-centre?

“But mostly, political blogs are written by people with disdain for the political system and politicians, who see their function as unearthing scandals, conspiracies and perceived hypocrisy.

“Until political blogging ‘adds value’ to our political culture, by allowing new voices, ideas and legitimate protest and challenge, and until the mainstream media reports politics in a calmer, more responsible manner, it will continue to fuel a culture of cynicism and despair.

Samizdat was the underground copying and supply of censored or illegal documents in the Soviet Union. I am not sure what Hazel Blears is implying, but yes, political blogging has a large grass roots component. Having complained about the shrinking newspaper market, she can hardly complain about bloggers taking up the slack and concentrating on views outside the mainstream.

Or is it simply the right-wing nature of blogs she objects to? I don’t know why right-wing views seem over-represented in blogs but I know a few left-wing blogs who wouldn’t think New Labour was “left-of-centre”. My experience of Labour supporters online (not all left-wingers there are some trade unionist old Labour types and nutty commies out there too) is that they toe the party line as badly as any MP. So they don’t make for interesting reading, they just parrot Gordon.

The middle paragraph, our disdain for politicians? Digging up scandal (she’s thinking of Guido) used to be called investigative journalism.

Blogging does allow “new voices, ideas and legitimate protest and challenge”. Its just that many people don’t want to “add value” to the existing system, they want to change that system. It seems to me that Ms Blears wants those outside the mainstream engaged with politics, but only if their politics “adds value” to “our political culture” (the status-quo). More working class, female and ethnic MPs – yes! More power away from MPs and to oridinary people (working class, female and ethnic included!) – No!

The three main parties sit close together with minor shifts around an accepted centre. None of the main parties supports: leaving the EU, joining the Euro, an English parliament, localism, elected regionalism, giving politicians less power, changing the taxes by more than about 1p, pulling troops out of Afghanistan, privatising schools, nationalising railways and only the Lib Dems might still support proportional representation. That’s just some “new ideas” that you won’t find in the main parties and hardly in the main press either. And they said in court, manifesto promises are not subject to legitimate expectation.

The only people fuelling a culture of cynicism and despair are the politicians. Take a long look in the mirror, Hazel.

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Responses

  1. There’s one or two decent labour blogs, but the vast majority are dreadful.

    The best way of engaging people in the democratic process is to have more democracy – citizen-initiated referenda, the “people’s veto”, the right to recall elected officials who don’t obey their constituents (e.g. standing against student fees then voting for them).

  2. But then they might vote the wrong way and ignore their masters. Or as they say in NewLabourSpeak, they might be swayed by the right-wing Murdoch press! Referenda are democratic when they produce the right outcome, but heaven forbid one of them might get the wrong outcome and be populist!

    Far better to let the MPs decide on our behalves, they are all experts on all things who will examine things carefully and come to a solid conclusion without help from the whips, lobbyists or generous party donors.

    But seriously, I am with you on every point.

  3. […] Blasts Blears There have been plenty of rebuttals to Hazel Blears’ attack on bloggers, but this is probably my favourite so […]


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