Sunday, 21 September 2008

Derek Draper versus LabourHome

The 'what can Labour learn from blogging' fringe - held by the Fabians, LiberalConspiracy and LabourHome - has descended into a (somewhat sweary) spat between Derek Draper and LabourHome, in the wake of the Independent front-page splash about LabourHome's not exactly scientific poll on the leadership.

Draper said:

If you want to wake up on March 2010 and say you were the star blogger of the election, and you got onto Radio Five Live twice, but the price you pay for that is costing Labour votes and David Cameron in Downing Street, then you can fuck off out of the Labour Party and run your own independent blog somewhere. But the point then is that nobody will be interested.

But Tom Harris, the blogging Minister speaking from the floor, defended the LabourHome website as a grassroots forum, arguing that Ministers and MPs should be seen to engage more, and that it was valuable to have a portal which most people used:

I agree with the need for discipline – though I haven’t shown it in every post. I have been mostly pretty much on-message because I am a government Minister. But I don’t think it helps to ask the grassroots, when they blog, to show the same level of discipline that government Ministers do.


The leadership debate didn’t start because LabourHome did a poll. The leadership question was out there, and so LabourHome did a poll because they wanted to be part of it. They can’t be blamed for the condition of the government and the Labour party

If you look at ConservativeHome, there is one single portal that is used by the Shadow Cabinet and MPs, and we need to think about whether we should be using LabourHome in the same way. If that means it continues with its Westminster focus, that is not a bad thing in my view.

I felt that Draper's willingness to move away from the 'command and control' model was far too limited and risk-averse, largely because of a sense that web engagement had more risk than reward.

The rest of politics will go on – and the blogosphere will slightly change the mood of politics; how its covered; the rhthym of it; but in quite a background way. But then something will propel something from the blogosphere on to the front pages. There’s the danger.

Derek Draper also had an entertaining dismissal of much of the praise for the Obama campaign, but perhaps stretched the point a little too far.

"Lets keep this in perspective. The people who have been given tools in the Obama campaign are being allowed to email their friends to say ‘we need change’. Lets be a little bit realistic. American politics is not about allowing people to engage with their leaders on policy or ideology. Its about allowing people to be part of a big fucking fan club – and the internet has made that easier. But the idea that they are being listened to or helping to direct the strategy is ridiculous".

UPDATE (4.50pm)

In his final contribution, Derek has nuanced his position a fair amount which creates rather more common ground.

"I think this will be about protecting the brand that is the Labour Party but having a whole lot of other things around that are not part of the Labour Party, but can have various degrees of discipline.

A kind of hierarchy: Gordon on the number ten website is going to be pretty on-message but perhaps then Ministers like Tom Harris might tell it a bit differently and make quite a spiky point, and then beyond that you will have lots of other much more independent spaces like LabourHome and LiberalConspiracy and there should be more of them and I think there will be. The model of the Fabian Society over one hundred years [as an independent but affiliated space] is quite a good analogy.

It is about saying to the Labour hierarchy that, in my view, you will lose control. But what you get in return are increased respect; increased credibility and increased engagement”.

1 comment:

SimonD said...

I've written it up over on my own blog, including - wow! - photos. Well, one. And it's not very good.

I can't help noticing that you noted down all the swear words, Sunder, where I didn't. Not sure if that says more about you or me?!

A very informative session, I thought. Thanks to the Fabians for helping to organise; and thanks for making it open access. If you wanted, you could make a nice story about encouraging all interested parties - party members or not - to come along and contribute to the current debate.