Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Satan gave me a taco

Just been alerted by Blackburn Labour via Twitter that Stuart Bruce has blogged saying that either Tom Harris or my good self should be in charge of Labour's online strategy. He says I have "one of the best set of blog house rules I’ve seen – My blog = My rules!" Indeed.

The more eagle-eyed amongst you may have spotted that I've introduced a new one recently: "Thirdly: I might just randomly delete comments from certain people because I'm getting thoroughly fed up with them and want them to go away and annoy someone else for a while. You know who you are." Have a look at the latest comments from Dave H (on 'Get the Message') and Cato (on 'A Professional Pirate') if you want to get an idea of what would make me wearily reach into my pocket for a yellow card. I am still not entirely sure whether Dave H is joking or not.

As for Stuart's suggestion, I'm not sure the analogy between the Conservatives having Jeremy Hunt MP in charge of online strategy and therefore Labour needing a political steer from an MP is quite right. The Tories' presence on the web is led by Iain Dale, Conservative Home and Guido Fawkes: all laughably described by Tim Montgomerie in yesterday's Guardian as 'Centre Right' blogs. None of them are in-house journals, and none of them are 'master-minded' by Jeremy Hunt. (Much as I love the idea of discovering that Guido is just a puppet in his hands!)

I think LabourList can and should be salvaged (though under a new name because the old one was frankly rather dull), and blogging MPs should play a role in deciding its future, as well as people like Alastair Campbell, Hopi Sen, Sadie Smith and other established Labour bloggers in my 'If you're bored with me' list. The site needs to be significantly whittled down, with a lot less immediate content coming through. There are too many contributors at the moment and some of them should be making their name by commenting on posts rather than writing their own pieces. Why surrender the comments sections to the trolls?

And it needs more gossip - not smears, but genuine political gossip, the stuff of diary columns. (By which I mean the way diary columns used to be before the blogs took over). People who want lengthy policy analysis have plenty of places they can go to on the web. If you want to read think-tank pieces from policy wonks, well, they've already got their own sites.

LabourList (NewLabourList?) should be informative, pithy and above all, fun. And no, that's not a job application. Although I will volunteer to draft the rules if they want me to. Our blog = our rules!


Iain Dale said...

Kerry, what you are proposing sounds very much like a mix of ConHome and what I do. Not necessarily a bad idea.

Just out of interest, if you find Tim's description of my blog as "Centre Right" laughable, what would you describe it as? I'd have thought that was the self evident description, or are you going to accuse me of foaming at the mouth too?!

timbone said...

Kerry. As I said recently on one of Tom's blogs, you are overlooked. It can't be your diminutive stature, as Hazel Blears is even less of a woman, and she pops up on TV all the time. Maybe I will utilise my time more effectively and write to all the Labour MPs (other than Tom who already knows) telling them that Kerry McCarthy, even though she sometimes does not even have time to go to bed, is a great blogger, and should rescue this Draperlist. Maybe in return I will realise my main aim in life, to be followed on twitter. I already have the party planned, with only muself invited.

Kerry said...

Iain, I wouldn't dream of descibe you as foaming! But aren't you/ weren't you in the David Davis camp? To me that's right-wing, without a hint of centre about it(as distinct from far right, naturally).

Centre-right I'd describe as Nick Clegg, David Laws (Orange Book Lib Dems), Ken Clarke, Michael Heseltine at a push, and possibly some of the Cameroons although I remain to be convinced on that point. Possibly Frank Field, although I just find him confusing.

Timbone, I don't think Hazel would take kindly to being described as 'less of a woman' just because she's on the short side. (OK, on the very short side, as opposed to me who is just 'centre-short'). If you really want me to follow you on Twitter I will. For as long as I can bear it.

Iain Dale said...

I think you misjudge David Davis. A lot of his civil liberties views (and indeed mine) are to the left of Labour. If you look at a lot of his campaigns in Parliament, they are far from being described as right wing.

All those LibDems would describe themselves as centre left, although I agree with you...

Kerry said...

I'm not sure civil liberties is a very useful political barometer, as it crosses the spectrum from liberal to libertarian.

I'd regard collectivism as being the defining characteristic of the left, as opposed to individualism, which is why I don't regard the Lib Dems as a party of the left.

(As an aside, remember John Bercow in his early days?! I don't think his libertarianism then made him appear anywhere on the left spectrum, but his attitude on social issues now definitely means he'd edging towards it. Not to mention his red rose tie, which I always tease him about - it comes out whenever he's thinking of defecting, I reckon).

I've heard very little from Clegg on social issues - he's mostly obsessed with constitutional affairs and civil liberties, which makes me think he just doesn't care very much about what you might term typically 'left' issues. In fact, apart from Steve Webb, very few Lib Dems do.

Centre-left I'd use to describe most of the Labour front-bench. And Steve Webb, Paul Holmes, some of the more beard and sandals type Libs. Maybe Simon Hughes?

Bevanite said...

Always find that interesting: David Davis, defender of the Magna Carta and civil liberties to the end.Yet a consistent supporter of capital punishment. Doesn't sit well I'm afraid.

Anonymous said...

It was a long post Kerry, so I couldn't say everything I wanted to! My suggestion about you and Tom wasn't that you should be in charge of LabourList. What I meant is that political leadership is requied to create an online voter communication strategy. Partially this is to ensure that it has a 'seat at the top table'. What the Tories are doing as a party, works alongside what Iain, Guido and ConservativeHome are doing. That's what Hunt leads on.

Anonymous said...

Policy is boring and will never grab even a small mass audience of the kind Guido and Iain manage.

Policy is a niche market that won't mix well with gossip - and what you haven't mentioned but probably mean - story-led material.

I'm not sure whether partisan insider politicians can really run such a site. Surely it's a job for journalists?

By the way, Alistair Campbell is not an established blogger.

Kerry said...

Is that a job application?

Alastair C might be a new kid on the block, but I bet his stats are higher than yours and mine combined! said...

Kerry is right. Online strategy can’t be ‘masterminded’ in the traditional style, something the central party has learned the hard way in the past couple of months. But I still think there’s a possible role for one of the blogging MPs.

Labour's technology supremo Sue Macmillan appears to have things headed in a promising direction but I think that a formal role for someone from the political side of the fence would bolster our leadership in this area. This is where Kerry or Tom Harris would come in - to help drive this agenda forward from within the PLP and show that the party takes this area seriously.

This week’s slow motion car crash notwithstanding, one of Derek Draper's genuine achievements was to achieve a degree of buy-in from the upper echelons of the party. We need to build on this and minimise the atrophy this may suffer in the aftermath of smeargate.

Now that deciding internet strategy behind the scenes has backfired we need to open this area up for participation from people that genuinely understand blogging and social media - not just party hacks and spin doctors that think they do.

The Lib Dems have their Technology board headed by Lynne Featherstone and, as Stuart Bruce points out, the Tories have a team featuring Jeremy Hunt. Labour would benefit from something along these lines. Sue Macmillan and a blogging MP and with scope for significant involvement from the bloggers who have built Labour online over the past few years.

L - one of the Blackburn Labour editors