By Mark Hanson
I think enough people have raked over the McBride ‘Smeargate’ story without me putting my oar in. I just wanted to send a message to the burgeoning community of Labour people springing up on the web. All debating, challenging, campaigning and making friends both with AND without Party HQ.
We’ve come a long way from the sweary Manchester fringe debate referred to by Sunder Katwala. I was the guy on the panel who was representing Labourhome and the claims of the blogosphere to be the key to Labour bigwigs re-connecting with its grassroots. Remember this was two days after ‘that Labourhome poll‘ on the front of the Independent.
Myself and Derek Draper had a frank exchange of views that day but since then he and others in the hierarchy have understood that they need to do politics in a different way. And they have. Lets not expect the tanker to turn around in a few months but we should count our achievements.
Tools to make it easier to campaign in our constituencies such as the Virtual Phoneban k – used by Labour Party members up and down the country to make over 10,000 phone calls.
LabourSpace.com – a site launched by Ed Miliband at the turn of the year to help start to formulate ideas for Labour’s next manifesto. Whilst the site is still in its infancy it is growing into a site that now has many interesting campaigns. This site is about true engagement – Ed Miliband regularly looks at the site and comments on different campaigns – and campaigns are published even if they are not in line with Labour Party policy. It still needs work and a bigger audience/user base but we can see in LabourSpace the kernel of a site which really “gets” what the internet is about.
Alternatively you can look all round the country at Luke Pollard in Plymouth, Lucy Powell in Manchester, Stella Creasy in Walthamstow, Blackburn Labour’s cult Twitter feed. Look at the innovative campaigning being done by the likes of Noel Hatch and Sam Tarry on racism or John Prescott rallying us against the bankers.
I think the sentiment from Alastair Campbell’s blog yesterday sums it up
“What the fall-out must not do is make Labour defensive about trying to do a better job of communicating via the web. A more open and engaged politics is essential if Labour are to have a chance of winning a fourth term. This episode is a bad example of the old politics, much more than a botched example of the new.”
Just ten days ago a ragbag group of Labour bloggers and campaigners was gathered (organised by Derek Draper) to offer ideas as to how to build the resources on Labourlist and make it more useful to Party members at constituency level. How to build this Labour-minded community. Already the site has been adapting to the suggestions made that day. Indeed in all the half dozen or so meetings there have been (all organised by Derek Draper) the ideas that have come from all manner of contributors have resulted in real change to the way the Party behaves online and/or how Labourlist functions.
Don’t let the lobby press and Tory bloggers frame these ill-advised emails between three or four Westminster players as a ‘what’s wrong with Labour in the blogosphere’. It’s nothing of the sort.