I suppose the obvious (nerd) joke is that all blogs already abide by code in order to get read (wakka wakka). Seriously though for a second, I don’t have a particular problem with a voluntary code (so long as it doesn’t stipulate a minimum number of posts per month which I would no doubt fail to abide by), but I can’t see what good it will do. Responsible people will continue to behave responsibly, while irresponsible people won’t sign up to it in the first place. And it’s not as if readers will be particularly bothered who is or isn’t signed up.
There is, no doubt, a lot of offensive stuff out there, but so what? What tangible harm does it do that isn’t already covered by existing legislation?
I can’t help but feel that talk about voluntary codes is code for something quite involuntary. And it isn’t as if the Press Complaints Commission are the paradigm of self-regulation.
Paul “Guido” Staines and Matthew Taylor are having an indirect war of words today, with both sides blaming the other for the current ‘crisis’ in democracy.
Frankly, this is self-aggrandisement on a massive scale. Websites such as Order-Order hardly help restore people’s trust in politics, but anyone who believes, as Matthew Taylor appears to, that they are the problem rather than a mere symptom, is reading the situation incredibly wrongly.
There have been both cynics and gossips around since the dawn of politics. In the 19th century, Punch Magazine was brutal about politicians (I was given a wonderful set of pages from Punch by a colleague a year ago featuring some rather rude caricatures and poems about the then Home Secretary James Graham). Staines is doing nothing more than producing an online version of the type of diary column that have always been published in newspapers. The only difference is the speed with which he can get stories out there (and, perhaps, a slightly more appealing knowing sense of humour).
Ultimately however, while “Guido” might get the occasional scoop, he’s as much a part of the system as Taylor. He thrives off it. He isn’t actually for any reform, other than some vague libertarian dismantling of the state. If he was genuinely interested in pursuing this goal, he wouldn’t dedicate all his time to gossip. Similarly, it is hard to see how anyone reading the site is going to have their views about politics changed.
Unremitting cynicism seldom does anything to change hearts and minds. Matthew Taylor should know this: New Labour has only ever been about pandering to people’s prejudices (see this for example), never challenging it. The fact is, cynicism breeds cynicism. Worse, authoritarianism infantilises the population. If you treat the population like they are irresponsible children, you can’t be surprised if they fail to respond with gratitude. New Labour is as responsible for Guido as it is for Cameron’s own particular shade of “anything-you-want-gov” politics.
So bemoaning about all this is to spectacularly miss the point. The crisis in democracy is rooted in authoritarianism, elective dictatorship and a lack of moral backbone. Until these quintessentially New Labour tendencies abate, the blogosphere will inevitably be an uncomfortable mirror through which apparatchiks such as Matthew Taylor will always flinch when looking at.
The Webcameron spoofs seems to be multiplying, even if you ignore webcameron.info.
There is Stephen Tall’s provocative striptease (surely a Michael Kamen-style music career is now in the offing?), and Will Howell’s cheeky little number. And now, it would appear, Tom Watson has got in on the act and interestingly he doesn’t simply mock Cameron’s style, but actually engages in the “clean politics” debate.
While it’s fair to say that I certainly have my differences with Mr Watson, I agree with about 80% of what he says here. He does seem to be having his cake and eating it (i.e. a Â£15 million cap on spending is hardly a cap at all, and he skillfully evades the issue of individual donations altogether), but it’s good to see that Cameron appears to have provoked more of a debate on this issue, which can only be a good thing.