Sunday 3 July 2011

Why blogging matters

As Friday was my final day in the office as General Secretary of the Fabian Society, colleagues suggested it would be rather more in keeping with the extracurricular, and often nocturnal, musings of Next Left were I depart from this blog during the weekend.

That did give me the chance to finally write something about Blue Labour, its value and limits, before finally depart from the blog by publishing the excellent Teal cartoon, above, which was an excellent leaving present from the Fabian Executive.

So I am proud of the work that we have done on returning inequality to the mainstream of public and political debate, on forging an inclusive British identity, and on rethinking fairness and welfare.

We hear quite a lot from our critics about what is wrong with Fabianism – but I am proud that there are today more Fabians than at any time in our 127 year history. So I hope that we have shown that the reason Fabianism endures and thrives is precisely because it has been open, plural and self-critical tradition – the only one to help generate more than one ‘clause four moment’ for Labour - committed to the importance of ideas as well as organisation in contributing to political change.

Over the last couple of years, I have particularly enjoyed extending those debates online, particularly here on Next Left, as well as engaging with and writing for Left Foot Forward, for Labour Uncut, for Labour List, on Liberal Conspiracy and other sites. The British political right has had an impressive presence, and it was good to be part of an effective mobilisation of progressive voices too. Its given me the chance to write at length, not just about political events, but about political ideas, history and, as often as not, football too. Some of the pieces I most enjoyed writing last year can be found on the Orwell prize website.

Across the political spectrum, the blogosphere has been good for the culture of British politics.

There are many important political issues which are not going to grab national newspaper headlines. The internal cultures of our political parties, which were a response to the media environment of the 1990s, will need to change. Their first instinct is rarely to open up debates to their own members and supporters. But the civic culture of our parties is already changing for the better, not because of decisions taken at the top, but because of the commitment to engagement and debate of political blogs. Across the party spectrum, blogs including ConservativeHome, LibDemVoice, LabourList and many others feeding off and into those conversations have all demonstrated that it is possible to combine commitment to political causes with a recognition that scrutiny and challenge from within are also an important part of our politics – and that nobody intelligent should ever be 110% loyal to everything their own side says and does.

At its best, these online conversations help to capture why democracy matters – that disagreement is part of who we are, and that passionately held views can be debated with civility in a way that helps all of us to reflect on, and sometimes even change, our own views too. So I'd like to thank everybody who has commented and argued about politics with me here, with a particular thank you to Stuart White for his brilliant guest blogging exemplifying precisely that democratic republic spirit.

I will shortly be launching a new organisation to inform and deepen our public conversation about migration and social justice, integration and identity, promoting the vision of a strong and confident society which is fair to citizens and to migrants. It currently has its working title the 'Social Justice Communication Organisation' - though it won't be called that for long! - and please drop me a line at sunderkatwala [AT] if you would like to be kept informed about that as our plans take shape and go public this summer in Autumn.

But I hereby renounce all rights to the Next Left brand – so you can now find me personally tweeting at sundersays or contact me via Facebook too.

The Next Left blog will continue here - and I look forward to hearing what Fabian colleagues and friends have to say in the weeks and months ahead.

1 comment:

13eastie said...

I hope you find your new role rewarding, Sunder.

All the best.