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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Blog, blogs, everywhere

Last night’s seminar on blogging at the House of Commons was quite interesting for all sorts of reasons. Firstly it is always nice to meet fellow denizens of the blogosphere face to face for the first time, such as Mick Fealty of Slugger O’Toole. Secondly, it is fascinating to see who ‘gets’ blogging and who does not. Much of the discussion was about how blogging can make politics more inclusive and participatory… ‘making democracy work’.

Labour MP Tom Watson, who is the first Member of Parliament with a blog. Tom clearly does indeed ‘get’ blogging but I think he is quite wrong about blogs being inherently ‘democracy-friendly’, though in fairness he did not labour the point and seems quite realistic about the potential downside for a politician of having an easy to search archive of his views. He also made the interesting point that party whips are going to get very nervous about blogging MPs and I am sure he is quite right once they realise that an enthusiastic but untutored MP swinging his blog like Excalibur is more likely to take his own head off than that of the leader of the opposition… to be an effective blogger you must write what you really think: insincere political PR speak is treated with derision by the blogosphere… and thus I look forward to watching many MP’s torpedo themselves spectacularly via injudicious blogging far more effectively than we could ever do it for them. Not surprisingly we at Samizdata.net see this as a feature, not a bug.

It will surprise no one who knows me that during the public section of the proceedings I could not resist making the point that blogs like Samizdata.net are not in the slightest bit interested in helping the political system work but rather about throwing spanners into political interactions whenever possible. To be able to say that within the Grand Committee Room of the Houses of Parliament, with Members of Parliament present, was something of an inexpensive thrill for me.

Redoubtable blogger and journalist Stephen Pollard was also one of the speakers and we were delighted that he mentioned our across-the-spectrum civil liberties sister blog White Rose as an example of an issue specific collective blog. He also rather artfully addressed the question of ‘why would a professional mainstream journalist write for free on a blog?’… and his short answer was that he does get ‘value’ from his blog which often translates into paid journalistic output. Unsurprisingly Stephen uses his blog as a ‘vent’ for issues which irk him but for whom there is no market, but also he uses blog commenter feedback to spark ideas for articles for which he does indeed get paid.

Overall it was an interesting evening. Blogging continues its march ever deeper into the public consciousness.

Guy Fawkes was not the only honest person to enter Parliament

Adriana Cronin, Perry de Havilland, Mick Fealty, David Carr

9 comments to Blog, blogs, everywhere

  • About the nervous whips awaiting blogging MPs taking their own heads off – thank God.

    I’ve think a too heavily whipped Parliament is bad for democracy. I appreciate that whips are needed for Parliament to be an effective legislative body not paralysed by indecision (maybe libertarians would like that :), but an army of clones on the green benches, be they Tone Clones or any other sort, has to be a bad thing.

    And besides, integrity and forthrightness can only be a good thing. (I’m naive ;).

  • Not sure a group of bloggers and pro-internet types talking about stuff really counts as a “march ever deeper into the public consciousness”.

    But I did find some of what went on last night <"http://politx.ohskylab.com/archives/001766.php" target="_blank">interesting.

  • Oh bugger.

    Concentrating on too many things at once. Again

  • Johnathan

    Any Tory MPs who might be thinking of blogging? Surely Boris Johnson is a must!

  • Guy Herbert

    I take it everyone has seen the “teens”–sorry, “teens!”–page on Tom Watson MP’s site. If not I recommend a visit. Breathtaking.

    I imagine the whips would be very concerned if they thought backbench MPs were going to commit their own thoughts to the web. There may already be means in place of discouraging it, if the distractions of constituency social work and jolly parliamentary missions to exotic places can’t be guaranteed to keep them out of mischief.

  • BoJo in the Blogosphere, we can only hope. 🙂

  • mark holland

    C’mon give Boris his proper title. Boris “three jobs” Johnson, MP!

  • I am so bloody miffed I missed the durn thing. Glad it was of use though, I hope they have another one soon.

  • Very interesting post