Any progress in progressive blogging?

I’m beginning to regret deciding to blog about the ethic of progressive blogging unveiled yesterday by Fabian Society general secretary Sunder Katwala. I like to think this blog goes easy on opinion, and I can think of very little objective to say about it. Happily, there’s been intense discussion on Liberal Conspiracy, and ex-minister Tom Harris has criticised it on his blog. Even so, I fear I’m going to have to express some explicit opinions.  Pass the rubber gloves.

Briefly (if you can’t even be bothered to click through) the statement, which applies to Labour Party members and supporters, is in reaction to the Damian McBride affair (as Katwala himself admits). It binds its signatories to behave ethically in their blogging; avoid personal attacks except insofar as they are in the public interest;  embrace pluralism and openess; avoid top-down Labour Party control; and co-operate.

This statement seems like the sort of thing that will be signed only by people who were trying to follow its precepts already, so one might ask, what’s the point? Tom Harris doesn’t see one. He doesn’t like its “defensive” tone, and perhaps he has a point, with passages like this one:

“The nihilistic approach practiced by a few online should not overshadow the greater energy and numbers engaged in constructive civic advocacy. We believe that we can challenge our political opponents without always questioning their integrity.”

A few? You mean Guido Fawkes? The language is certainly reactive, call it what you will; a reaction to the stink raised by the McBride affair. But then what else could it be? It’s a code of ethics, not a plan of action for Labour blogging.

As a discussion between like-minded people (or “live blogging from an Islington dinner party”, as one particularly partisan critic put it) I guess this is preaching to the converted. But isn’t this ethic also a message to Labour HQ to reform their apporach to blogging? Yes it is.

“We believe that attempts to transfer ‘command and control’ models to online politics will inevitably fail. Labour must show that it gets that – in practice as well as theory”

As a message, will it work? I don’t know. But it’ll have to be more successful than the Fabian Society and Compass put together – members of which make up a lot of the signatories –  have been at convincing Labour of the rightness of their policy papers. It’d be interesting, for instance, if the Fabians or Compass started saying that LabourList was all wrong and an example of misguided command-and-control new media authoring. But they probably won’t. So I imagine things will stay as they are. If anything changes the relationship between the Labour Party and Labour bloggers, I guess it’ll have to come from the bloggers themselves. Take the bloggers out of LabourList and you’d leave Ray Collins, sorry, Derek Draper, looking silly.


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