Tag Archives: blognotes

Bloggers Bad! (part 93)

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.

Staines’ and Taylor’s self-righteous face-off

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.

Webcameron. And on.

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 £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.

Tribune Tribute

I was amused to see Susanne Lamido get a whole article printed about her blog in this week’s Islington Tribune because she recommends it as “the best read for local residents”. Clearly blogging has come of age when local newspapers actually write whole articles out of the fact that a blogger has said a nice thing about them.

I too find the Tribune required reading, although I suspect not for the same reasons as Susanne. As a political hack, it’s a great, fun read – full of scandal and gossip – but I’m not as convinced by commitment to news values as Susanne clearly is. It’s certainly true it has a strong interest in community issues, but it has a real weakness for hearsay and seems more interested in mischief making than informing.

This week, for example, there is a report on a public meeting about Highbury Fields. Headline: “Fields update more like a ‘game show'”. Sub-heading: “Audience ‘shouted at by woman in dominatrix shoes’.” Indeed, fully 50% of that article is about the fascinating-sounding facilitator and her footwear (clearly I need to go to more public meetings), all based on the fact that Josie Lawrence-lookalike Green councillor Katie Dawson made a couple of catty comments.

The letter’s page is also a great read. Being a member of a political party or a pressure group appears to be compulsory and all the letters are full of bile and vitriol. All great fun, but anyone interested in getting to the truth of the matter is entirely frustrated.

Do ordinary people read this thing? It’s possible but if they do I doubt they gain anything from it except a confirmation of their worst prejudices about politicians. A bit of nuance, and the volume set at something other than 11, would be quite refreshing every now and again.

El Presidente

In my absence from the blogosphere, it would appear there has been fevered discussion about who should be the next Lib Dem President, with most people appearing to favour pretty much anyone but Simon Hughes. See Alex Wilcock and Liberal Review.

One name I haven’t seen mentioned much is David Rendel, yet he would appear to be superbly qualified (leaving aside Alex’s rule that it must be a woman): a non-parliamentarian (ex to be precise) with a good profile, and one who has been on both the FE and the FFAC this past year meaning that, unlike Simon, he wouldn’t start his tenure not having the first clue about how the party does its internal business.

The new Lib Dem Voice – which I’ve also only just become aware of – has a poll on the subject. Drop in and add your view. Well done to Rob Fenwick for setting this up.

I’ll show you my conference if you show me yours

I’ve added the main fringe meetings I plan to be going to onto flock together and added my personal feed from that website onto my sidebar. If you’re a Lib Dem blogger, why not do the same?

Personally, aside from the day job I’ll be busy promoting my chapter on intergenerational equity in Graham Watson/Liberator’s new pamphlet “Liberalism – something to shout about” (fringe meetings on the Sunday evening and Monday lunchtime) and I will also hopefully have an article printed in ALDC’s update of the Theory and Practice of Community Politics.

Blogging Lite

Barely blogging at all at the moment – drowning in work, which also explains why I failed to publicise this evening’s Liberal Drinks.

Anyway, just to say I should be turning the corner soon and to regret that I simply don’t have time to rip the piss out of this. Ah, happy memories!

In the meantime, expect to see blogging here limited to my occasional rants about adverts and free newspapers I pick up on the tube. Sorry!


A couple of days ago, I received the following email:

Dear James,

I am setting up Lib Dem Home and would like you to be one of the contributors.

If you accept I ask that you post anonymously (as all other posters from across the party spectrum will) so that your articles are treated as articles and not automatically agreed or disagreed with because of who you are.

Both Labour Home and Conservative Home have proved useful to their parties while the nearest we have is cix which is only available to those who subscribe.

Please inform me of your decision.


Lib Dem Home

I responded that I wasn’t interested in making anonymous postings, and that I certainly wasn’t interested in accepting offers from anonymous people (the email address is libdemhome@googlemail.com).

Am I alone in thinking this website is a really bad idea? In fact, is it a wind up? Can anyone shed some light on the subject?

Snyde on the Lib Dems

I couple of days ago I suggested that Iain Dale was seeking to emulate Marina Snyde’s glittering career: now he’s taking the shortcut by quoting large chunks of her articles on his website. What can I say? QED.

As for the article itself, it starts off well: there certainly is a self-destructive streak running through the Lib Dems at the moment. I feel it myself. It is borne out of an anxiety that came out of the last general election. A lot of people are asking themselves “is this it?” A few gains here, a few loses here, the prospect of becoming the official opposition in the next 20 years IF we can hold it all together? Shouldn’t we be doing more?

This has externalised itself in the form of a lot of odd behaviour: the way Kennedy was treated, the way Kennedy was behaving, Mark Oaten full stop. But much as our political opponents would like to claim that this is The End, such periods of ennui and self-doubt have the potential to be incredibly creative. I have a feeling we may yet have a few surprises up our sleeves.

None of this of course was explored by Ms Snyde. Her article, apart from a couple of half-decent gags, just seems to fizzle out, which is par for the course. Snyde is an example of what happens when you combine Julie Birchill’s attitude with a posh middle class upbringing and remove most of the intelligence. The result is some weird parody that you can only stare and gawp at. Still, it’s nice to have a bit of attention.