Monday, 29 June 2009

Honduras is the new Venezuela


Sunday, 28 June 2009

The blogosphere has come of age

I think I have to mention this post from Stuart Sharpe.

So the additional scrutiny which blogging can provide is giving our politicians palpitations - that's exactly as it should be!

But Graham Jones calls the suggestion that blogging is dying 'tosh' and that a lot of the anti-blogging feeling going around is the market rationalising itself as the number of 'active' blogs reduces and the cream rises to the surface.

He says, "the negativity about blogging is actually causing an increase in quality, not a reduction, because people are polarising to those blogs which are useful, beneficial and interesting."

I agree, but I'd also add that a smaller number of blogs are consolidating their hold at the top having benefitted from penetrating a wider consciousness and are therefore squeezing the rest of the struggling proles who wish to participate into exploring the prospects of more marginal territory.

On the political side of things I too have noticed a fall-off in the volume of articles from my own monitoring site of the local Berkshire blogosphere (one more plug), maybe it's burnout after the elections or silly-season while everybody hops off for some spiritual refreshment to Glastonbury and Wimbledon, or maybe people are realising what we write needs to be relevant and worthwhile - it can be immediate or it can be considered, but it has to be different and better to what you can find elsewhere.

It doesn't really matter as there are still just as many issues as there ever were, it's just that we've got to be more rigorous and innovative in the ways we cover them.
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Friday, 26 June 2009

This is my corner and I will argue it

Now here's a fantastic blog post from the incomprable Charlotte Gore and another excellent comment from the wonderful Costigan Quist!

I think there definitely needs to be a serious debate about the particular reforms of the electoral system needed, but that's not what I want to talk about here.

Those inspirational LibDem members have helped me decide what to do with this blog (I've be shamefully neglecting you recently, NYOOTW!). While I've built up my other project introducing various debates as they affect the local political scene I've found myself inhibited from voicing my own opinions (and I'm not short of them as most people can assure you).

The problems of failing to reach a conclusion about the right direction to take doesn't leave us with the least worst option, because until we properly debate all the issues we can't be considered to have informed ourselves sufficiently to make any sort of adequate choice. The consequence of which is that 'we' can't adapt our behaviour to the situation and 'we' will run into all sorts of new problems 'we' hadn't considered, hadn't prepared any contingency plans for and therefore can't mitigate against.

So it's no wonder 'we' feel voiceless, powerless and are forever being surprised by what happens around us!

So now is the time to signal a change in direction and make this a more personal blog participating in debate, rather than just passing comment on it.

I might not yet be out of the woods, but it feels like this is a clearing where I can see some light!

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Official Blogging

I have stuck my oar into a subject which it seems is causing some friction within the LibDems.

It started off with Mark Valladares declaring an adjustment to his own publishing policy to remove any suggestion that he is merely "a lackey of [his] wife", party President Baroness Ros Scott.

Other members of the committee he sits on clearly felt he was badly positioned to report dispassionately and objectively and this may lead to a destabilising effect. As he describes himself, a disclaimer and self-denying ordinance were not enough to satisfy the need to be seen to be non-partisan when it comes to matters under discussion.

Paul Walter introduces the subject of Party President Ros Scott's deletion of her blog and clearly gets very worked up about this. He has a point because she did mention her intention to communicate directly with members through her blog, which is mentioned in this thread at LibDem Voice.

Meanwhile Liberal Vision supports Paul in the need for 'a running commentary' of events.

There are several issues at stake here which I've confronted myself in publishing my Reading List monitor.

Firstly, it is important to understand the insatiable need for information and means to interpret it. For this there are different types of journalism to satisfy different demands. Some people want pure undiluted facts; some people want to know how it will effect them; some want to know how they can get involved and have an influence; other just enjoy consuming the drama of a clash of views as it helps them make decisions.

Secondly, we need to recognise that a liberal party must defend freedom of information consistently. This means we need to use a bit of lateral thinking and creativity to get round conflicts of this nature and reconcile the different camps who are all responding to valid concerns.

I'm unhappy that Ros has deleted her blog rather than mothballed it during a period of reflection, but it also shows decisiveness on her part - which is a good thing in her role. Whatever we may have wished at the time, there is no looking back now, and any regrets will just weaken the beer.

I'm sure a lot of members are agitated by the expenses scandal (I know I am) and the discussions surrounding Chris Rennard's decision to stand down as Chief Exec at the Federal Executive (coming as it was suggested he had abused the second home designation) will have been of vital interest - our continued support for the party depends on the ability of our reps to uphold our mutual principles. With this in mind the advice produced by the committee was not enough - critics wanted a demonstration of positive conviction to make a clear statement of intent.

Mark is in a slightly different position and I think the pressure mounted on him was more of a case of avoiding negative perceptions - especially in the context of an atmosphere of general distrust in political office-holders plaguing the public realm. There is no reason why reports from the English candidates committee should not be published, but it would be unfair for Mark to do so, despite his offer being voluntary.

So what has been created is disatisfaction with the limitations of the current LD blogosphere. And I agree - it is inadequate. Reportage and commentary cannot be fulfilled simultaneously.

So what needs to be done to create the space where information and context can be supplied?

I think the LibDem network needs to evolve and grow.

Currently on my sidebar I have listed the main platforms - there is LibDemVoice (the independent membership site) which connects with LibDemBlogs (the aggregator of individual sites). Then there is the leadership's platform, LibDemNews, and the spaces for factional wonkery Liberal Vision and the Social Liberal Forum.

All of these are excellent resources for what they do, but there is a clear gap in the market for an 'official' site dealing with specifically internal issues. Such a site needs designated people to be held accountable for what is published. This means they need to be members of those committees, and suggests to me that the secretary of each committee could be delegated a shared responsibility.

I'm not bothered what it is called, but I certainly think we need one.

LibDems have been highly innovative in using the internet to build new connections and we can steal another march on our opponents to unlock the mysteries of political bureaucracy - it might even drive up our standards!

Monday, 1 June 2009

Coherence, Integrity... and Money

Alistair Darling is the next name in the frame over the expenses scandal.

I won't go into the details of his alleged crimes, instead I want to make a succinct political point: if this is how the man runs his personal financial affairs, how should we expect him to run the public finances?