The recent controversy over the policing of protest has revealed serious shortcomings in a range of institutions. Most obviously, it has revealed a deeply aggressive police culture, apparently indifferent to freedom of protest. The IPCC has come in for criticism for its tardiness in investigating initial claims of police abuse. The BBC has deservedly come under fire, too, for the superficiality of its reporting of the issue.
As a Labour party member, however, I think its important to state, clearly and unequivocally, that this controversy also reveals a fundamental weakness in Labour's governing philosophy. The legal and cultural framework in which the police operate is a product of a Labour government. We - or, at least, the government which we support and which many of us helped to elect - bear a large share of the responsibility for creating this mess.
A look across the media today just confirms the deep complicity of Labour in this mess, as well as revealing even further just what a mess we are in.
Thus, The Guardian tells us on its front page that a government Department has been sharing police intelligence on environmental activists with E.ON, thereby taking sides with the energy company against its environmentalist critics and treating the police as if they are a private security force for the company. Is it then any surpise to find the police acting last week to preemptively arrest 114 people prior to a planned protest at E.ON's Nottinghamshire power plant?
In its editorial, The Guardian asks the very good question: 'Why...has there been virtual silence from ministers on the policing of the G20 protests?'
The Times adds one more video to the emerging body of evidence, showing a police officer apparently pointing a taser at protestors who have been forced to lie on the ground.
Meanwhile, the Labour blogosphere is not, in general, rising to the challenge of providing the government with the honest criticism it both needs and deserves. Over at LabourList, Michael Harris mars what is otherwise a thoughtful post with disparaging remarks about the G20 protesters, describing them variously as 'waifs', 'anti-establishment fashionista Left' (I don't think he can be thinking of me with either of these labels), and a 'rabble'. How far is this attitude shared by other members of the Labour party? By members of the government?
It is precisely because of this kind of failure that today's statement on the ethics of progressive blogging by a group of Labour bloggers is so important.
Progressive blogging, by its nature, has to be independent and critically-minded. It exists to ask awkward questions, not to cheerlead.
To be progressive is not to be loyal, come what may, to a particular political party. It is to be loyal to a set of basic values. It means showing respect to those who largely share one's values but who reasonably disagree about how to advance them. And it means holding every political party - perhaps especially one's own party - to account in terms of these values.
Of course, critical blogging isn't going to roll back the tide of Labour's authoritarianism by itself. That will require a lot of other action. But the first step to action is always a clear perception of where we stand, and the right kind of blogging has an important role to play in achieving this.
(Hat tip to David Semple for drawing my attention to Michael Harris's post.)