Blears on Blogging–Cluelessness or Wilful Ignorance?

2:15 am - November 6th 2008

by MatGB    

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Hazel Blears today gave an intriguing, wide ranging speech on a number of topics that I found interesting, thought provoking and mostly agreeable[1]. Unsurprisingly, the media has chosen to highlight the minor area of the speech in which she is both woefully misinformed and completely inaccurate. It is, naturally, the bit in which she talks about blogging [2].

The BBC gives their report on the speech the headline Blears attacks political bloggers, and the Guardian has gone further with the headline as Nihilistic new media and the subhead as:

Unless and until political blogging adds value to our culture, it will continue to fuel cynicism and despair

Blears raises some good points about the rise and threat of the unresponsive commentariat–many bloggers rail against the likes of Polly Toynbee and their self-contradictory statements, so when she says:

I can understand when commentators disagree with each other; it’s when they disagree with themselves we should worry.

I think she’s spot on. But when she comes to blogging she goes completely off base and becomes an adherent of the (always wrong) repeated meme of the likes of Iain Dale:

The most popular blogs are rightwing, ranging from the considered Tory views of Iain Dale, to the vicious nihilism of Guido Fawkes. Perhaps this is simply anti-establishment. Blogs have only existed under a Labour government. Perhaps if there was a Tory government, all the leading blogs would be left-of-centre?

Um, Hazel? There are no accepted metrics for proving who the most popular blogs are, but I, like many other contributors here, am a fan of the Wikio rankings. If the ‘top blogs’ range from Iain Dale to Guido, then that means you’re only looking at the top two, because there’s no one in between them. But if you want to look at the top ten? Oh, look, what’s that at number three?

# 1 Iain Dale’s Diary
# 2 Guy Fawkes’ blog
# 3 Liberal Conspiracy
# 4 Blah! Blah! Technology
# 5 xlab
# 6 ConservativeHome’s ToryDiary
# 7 The Devil’s Kitchen
# 8 Liberal Democrat Voice
# 9
# 10 Labourhome

That’s right, it’s us. Now, I know that some people are convinced that market socialists like myself are ‘right wing’, but I self-describe as a Millian socialist, and am convinced that Mill’s liberalism is the very definition of left wing. And I definitely think that most of the rest of the contributors here consider themselves to be left of centre, don’t know about you.

In fact of the top ten blogs in this country, as counted by Wikio, two are tech blogs and eight are politics blogs. Of those eight, one is non-aligned left wing[3], two are partisan conservative[4], two are non-aligned right wing/libertarian[5], one Lib Dem[6], one Labour[7] and one non-partisan analysis[8] edited by a prominent Lib Dem[9]. So that’s two definite, four arguable right-wing; two definite, three arguable left wing[10]; and one neutral.

And that’s completely ignoring the much more disparate and dispersed nature of blogging, with large numbers of separate campaigning communities focusing around nodal points (such as The F Word for feminist blogs, for example) and many of us preferring to write for friends, contacts, party colleagues, etc instead of trying to chase the headlines or get themselves elected. I got back involved in political activism through reading (and then writing) blogs. I was persuaded to join my political party by bloggers. There are a large number of constructive, thoughtful blogs out there, and many of them are increasingly successful.

As James Graham puts it, she’s made this speech and criticised blogging:

on the day that a black man called Barack Hussein Obama won the presidency of the USA with the largest popular mandate anyone has ever achieved in the history in the world, fuelled significantly off the back of social media – of which blogging played a large part.

Ms Blears?

Unless and until political blogging adds value to our political culture, by allowing new and disparate voices, ideas and legitimate protest and challenge

We already are. You’re just not paying attention. Welcome to the 21st century.

[1]Long term readers of my blog will know exactly how hard that was to type, my intense dislike of her is longstanding and at one point I coordinated a now-defunct Googlebomb of her old website–ironic as a significant part of her speech that I agreed with was her attack on insubstantial careerist politicians of the type we labelled her to be.
[2] Well, obviously the speech is riddled with other factual inaccuracies. For example, she thinks journalist’s bylines are a innovation, when the great Victorian campaigners such as Charles Dickens wrote under their own names. But let’s focus on her mistakes about blogging here.
[4] &
[5] &
[10] I know a lot of Lib Dems reject utterly the left/right analysis, and some within the Labour movement are still annoyed by the ‘betrayal’ of those who came into the party from the Social Democrats and assert that we can’t possibly be left wing, but the electorate generally seems to disagree with that idea. I personally find the linear left/right continuum a limited tool and prefer the 4-way graph with authority/freedom as the other axis, putting myself strongly in the bottom left.

ETA: The Independent has a good writeup on this one today–thx for pointing it out Bob.

ETA2: Matt Wardman has received and published a full transcript of the text, many thanks for this Matt, I’m trying to read through it now.

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About the author
Mat Bowles is an occasional contributor to Liberal Conspiracy. He's mostly a house-husband working part-time at a local school, and is based in Calderdale, Yorkshire. A member of the Liberal Democrats, he is 35 and lives with Jennie Rigg. His general interest blog is currently hosted on Dreamwidth and his old political blog is at Not Little England.
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Reader comments

(thanks to Jennie for proofreading this post and sorting out my egregious typos, my brain is still fried after staying up to 5am yesterday)

I hate to say it but Guido is right, we’re not here to ‘add value’ to some fucking politician.

Blears can fuck right off; I’d suggest she actually take a long hard look a the cynicism her fucking party has caused and the damage it has done, under Blair, to politics in this country.

3. douglas clark


A bit surprised to see Liberal Conspiracy at number three. That is some achievement in a year! It just shows what can be done when Sunnys’ dream team comes together. As you say:

We already are. You’re just not paying attention. Welcome to the 21st century.

It has been a privelege to have been on this journey with folk like you.

Good question, except the words “on blogging” are superfluous.

>>Hazel Blears today gave an intriguing, wide ranging speech on a number of topics that I found interesting, thought provoking and mostly agreeable

My brain just can’t cope with this sentence, even after the third time reading it.

However, I know your longstanding stance on her (somewhat akin to mine on Ruth Kelly) so I’m going to have to go and look up that speech, because it must have been amazing…

Unless and until Hazel Blears* adds value to our culture, she will continue to fuel cynicism and despair.

*(and the rest of the Labour crew)

I think Blears’ statements convey just how wrong Labour has got the online space.

They thrash around trying to develop a top-down policy towards blogging, when in fact it’s the very freedom and fluidity of blogging, that’s at its heart.

The Obama campaign was disciplined, but it was based on a carolled collective of grass-roots organisers who were fostered and promoted.

In other words, Obama’s campaigners didn’t consider social media to be a cancer.

Steve B: it must have been amazing…

I’ve just read this bit and that was enough for me thanks very much:

“In short, we need more Dennis Skinners, more David Davis’s, more David Blunketts in the front line of politics,” she said – calling on parties and trade unions to actively recruit them.”

More?! Arrrrrrrrgh!

PS: We need fewer greengrocers’ apostrophes.

Yeah, but Mike–she said that we need more non-career politicians, more people who’ve made a life for themselves outside politics then gone into it much much later. In other words, less people like her and more people with real life experience.

I’d, naturally, add someone like Vince Cable to the list, long successful career outside politics, PhD in his specialist subject, and now a career change (and pay cut) in order to point out how useless the Govt is every day.

@Steve: yeah, it was hard writing it–I nearly didn’t post the story as I couldn’t quite get my head around it, but walking the dogs and my head just cleared and gave me that approach. Genuinely, a lot of what she said (not, by any means, all of it) was spot on. Especially her attack on commentators–she didn’t name any names, but it was a perfect description of Toynbee.

I’d vote for a Cable before I’d vote for a Miliband…

Sadly, and this is an outrage, I only have the one vote.

Actually, in one sense she isn’t wrong. Blogging culture right now is very nihilistic and lame, and Guido’s blog reflects that.

For a long time American blogging was like that too. Its only when the bloggers were energised by Howard Dean’s campaign that the left-wing blogosphere bloomed, became more sophisticated and strategic.

Compared to the Americans we are nowhere. they have TalkingPoints Memo – which sustains a staff to do original reporting and muck-raking. They have Daily Kos – which raises funds and encourages activists to do get involved in specific campaigns. They have FiveThirtyEight, which has been doing the best sort of statistical work on the election. And of course there is HuffPo and many more. The left wing blogosphere in the US is absolutely miles ahead of the right – in numbers and strategy.

I don’t really want to compare us with the whiny right-wing bloggers in the UK because they’re actually pretty lame and likely to become as successful as the whiny lame right-wing bloggers in the US.

If we compare ourselves to the left-wing blogosphere in the US however, we are pretty far behind. That is the problem. Blears doesn’t know much about blogging, but she is broadly right about the problem.

I also blogged about this over at program your own mind

Quite simply the biggest load of bollocks I’ve heard for weeks. Especially about career politicians.

Yeah, but Mike–she said that we need more non-career politicians

She could have chosen her examples a little better. Blunkett started his political career as a councillor at the tender age of 22 , Skinner is close to being a candidate for ‘father of the house’, having been an MP for 38 years. He was ‘down pit’ but those days must be a dim and distant memory now. In fact you’d be hard pressed to find better candidates for title ‘career politician’.

She’s not wrong, of course in wanting MPs drawn from a wider base. We could certainly do with fewer bloody lawyers in the house. Including her.

I’ve just edited in a link to the Indy article on this, which is also rather good on the blogging subject, but also fairly good on the whole ‘apathy’ thing, I especially like:

Polling suggests that people do not believe that their vote counts. Hundreds of parliamentary constituencies are considered to be “safe seats” which give their candidates such huge majorities that individual ballots are irrelevant.

It’s slightly off about the turnout numbers–they’re accurate but the cause is a lot more complex than they paint, and it’s the subject of a post I’ve been planning for months now–someone kick me when we’re over the Obama analysis (I’ll need some stats from that in the post as well, might as well delay it as it’s pretty good proof of the point I was planning to make)

@Lee: I think there’s definitely a case for having career politicians, as well as also having a good mix of talent and experience from elsewhere. Again, I can blame the current electoral system for this, the abolishing of multi-member seats in 1947 meant that independently experience people from elsewhere were less likely to get involved–gone are the days when the likes of Sir Isaac Newton, John Stuart Mill or David Ricardo could get involved without having to take on complete responsibility for an entire constituency as now.

But again, that’s for another post. I have no problem with good career politicians (I think of someone like Adrian Sanders my former MP when I was in Torbay as an example), but most are time servers, and having too many of them makes their basic understanding of ordinary non-public service jobs and people much more remote. You need people able to say “no, that’s bollocks because”, otherwise you end up with, oh, the current New Labour govt…


The only case there is, for me, is having good politicians. Unfortunately the system means we can’t actually ensure that, so we are always down to luck and hope. You could have an entirely career politician parliament and get great politics, real change….or you could have a parliament 50/50 with “life experience” mps and be stuck in a mire because they are all bad politicians.

That’s the only thing that matters, how much MPs and politicians are able and willing to effect change and push things forward. This is one reason why Obama won his election despite “lack of experience”…people know that experience s neither here nor there if the person you’re electing is willing to actually do their job to the fullest.

Glad to see that readers of this site are equally as fed up with Labour’s desire to control the blogosphere as us on the right of the political spectrum. I also blogged about this today and am in total agreement with other commentors here that Blears is just scared of the blogs because Labour can’t control them.

Labour can influence what appears in the papers and what appears on TV but their strong desire to manage, control and dictate is totally undermined by the blogs. Blears, Mandelson and the Number 10 PR crew are all desperate to stifle the blogs and are already preparing the legislation to do so.

Blears: “In short, we need more Dennis Skinners, more David Davis’s, more David Blunketts in the front line of politics,” she said – calling on parties and trade unions to actively recruit them.”

So that’s one ‘Old Labour’ politician who epitomises everything New Labour have run away from; one Tory who got trashed by New Labour for criticizing its policies on civil liberties; and one ex-municipal socialist-turned-illiberal hard man who thought ‘getting tough’ was the only way New Labour could (a) win votes and (b) pass more ‘progressive’ policies. It’s hard to see how you can allow for more ‘characters’ with the centralised vetting process New Labour apparently have to select candidates

@MattGB @ 14 – It’s also interesting to note that Obama fought a 50-state strategy, and didn’t buy into the red state/blue state model. Compare New Labour’s idea that if only they could identify the right number of swing voters in the right number of marginal constituencies (ah, so that’s what ID cards are for!), they’ll win in 2010.

Blears may wish for the ends, but she has no idea as to how to create the means – especially if it means letting go of the choke chain, or recognising that she (or others like her) may be part of the problem.

original reporting and muck-raking

Erm, isn’t that what Guido does?!

Come on, LC is just as capable of being whiny/bitchy as any other blog…..everyone with whom you disagree seems to be a “moron” or “idiot”!

But you are still one of the best…while having a lot of catching up to do.
But there is a big difference between having a “staff” and relying on people who have other jobs to do.
How are the US blogs to which you refer financed?
Is finance the key to it all?

As a sidelight on this issue, I recall this snippet from PRWeek in September:

“PRWeek can reveal that the Labour Party is exploring plans for an online rapid rebuttal unit, designed to kill off damaging stories circulating in the blogosphere.

Labour strategists are keen to respond to the growing influence of right-wing blogs. The eventual system could resemble a modern-day version of Labour’s famous Excalibur unit, which was successfully used to kill negative stories by Tory-supporting newspapers in the run-up to the 1997 general election.”

So I wonder if Blears’ speech is a new strategy, or a salvo in this one. Apparently a meeting took place and everything. Any Labourites in the house care to comment on that, or are you all going to whistle innocently 😉 ?

“PRWeek can reveal that the Labour Party is exploring plans for an online rapid rebuttal unit, designed to kill off damaging stories circulating in the blogosphere.

Or as everyone else might call it: An Official Labour Party Blog (because they’re going to have a hard time getting any kind of rebuttal posted over at Staines/Guido’s).

Come on, LC is just as capable of being whiny/bitchy as any other blog…..everyone with whom you disagree seems to be a “moron” or “idiot”!

Indeed, both points are demonstrably true. We are indeed whiny, and people who disagree with us are very much morons.


I would help if agreed with ourselves!

An ode to Hazel Blears

Hazel Blears, Hazel Blears
at political bloggers she aims her sneers.
She really doesn’t like their jeers
thinks it’s cos they have had a few beers.
Perhaps she thinks we should all
act wet between the ears.
But look at her record over years and years
politicians who vote for wars are one of our fears.
We distrust those who boot lick to further their careers.
Hazel, Hazel, just use what is between your ears…..

Redpesto :blockquote>if only they could identify the right number of swing voters in the right number of marginal constituenciesThe thing with that is that, if oyu’re only looking at Parliament, and all you care about is winning and holding power, the strategy works for at least three elections. It’s a politically valid approach–see also the Lib Dem seat targetting system that they’ve built up, which was the only way they could possibly have managed to build up to more’n 60 MPs from a low base–getting 25% in every constituency gets you nothing, getting 40% in some and 5% in others gets you a lot more seats.

The problem is that if you keep it going for long enough, in the ‘safe’ areas you’ve abandoned the non-voters significantly outnumber the voters, and all you need is someone organised to come in and challenge and you have dynamism again. Obama’s done it in the US, the Independents did it in Blaenau Gwent, and the Lib Dems have done it in areas like Sheffield.

US politics is very different in its approach as there are always strong Dem areas in GOP states, etc–there are parts of the country where the Tories will never have a chance, and parts where Labour has never had one (I’m from such an area).

Marginals do matter more than safe seats, but it’s worth noting that Labour won in ’97 by turning a huge swathe of nominally safe Tory seats into marginals, while the Lib Dems did the same in other parts of the country. Obama’s victory, psephologically, is very close to what Blair did in ’97. The ’50 States’ thing was as much to do with supporting House candidates and similar, and also putting pressure on McCain’s much more limited finances.

Um, yeah. I said I’d do a post on this. My brain isn’t up to it, but it appears I can still ramble on lots. Anyone know a cure for insomnia, my brain is still fried.

And comments subsciption still not working 🙁

Cjcjcjcjjc: yup, we can whine and bitch. But crucially that’s not all we do, it’s not even the majority of what we do.

MatTTTBGBGB – there you go!!

It’s a question of tone – too many posts start with the standard attack on the standard bogeymen (Daily Mail etc etc) before moving on to the substance.

Fun perhaps, but results in simply preaching to the choir.

Is that all you want to achieve?

simply preaching to the choir…Is that all you want to achieve?

Personally? No, not at all (and see that this post doesn’t, despite my inclinations). But the thing is this is a site aimed at the disparate factions of the ‘left’. We may be united in our dislike of the Mail and Dorries, but that’s because we know what we’re against.

What we’re for is what this site is about, hence the rhetoric is normally aimed at persuading those on ‘the left’ that aren’t in the author’s personal faction. If I write about politics on my journal, I write knowing my audience are mostly personal friends or partisan Lib Dems (most of my readers are distinctly non-political and non-aligned). When I write here I write aiming the post at lefties.

When in the past I’ve written at places like Devil’s Kitchen, I’ve written the post in a style aimed at libertarian types. Different sites dictate different styles, and the point of writing here is to allow me to appeal to non-Lib Dem lefties and try to persuade them on the strengths of the policies I care about. That a bunch of non-lefties also read and regularly comment is an added bonus, but you’re not my target audience when I write here.

Well put. Understood.

This site is not a blog it is a free magazine for loads of wannabe Guardian writers and assorted bourgeois layabouts to indulge in vanity publishing still……..

Collectivists always struggle with a personal voice . The novel was once a thrilling new medium, and similarly works best by whispering into readers ear ,… ‘This is way things really are… ‘. Social novels are therefore usually more successful from an implied conservative perspective, Jane Austen being the exemplar. The left sadly are the very people who think the world is really what the public moralists say it is .They tend to be dull preachy and unappetising , the natural villain of the gleefully unconfined blogasphere . Even George Orwell only wrote a successful political novel against socialism.
Trying to think of exceptions to this JB Priestley and HG Wells pop into my head. This is where you should look for clues to escape from the current dreary state of lefty bloggery .JB Priestly was successful, by tapping into the working class realities and cultural conservatism that coexisted unhappily with the preening Fabian element this gives him some weight .Lib Con is more often free floating jargon , querulous and self delighted in turns . HG Wells , who wrote the last utopia ( The natural form of the socialist or progressive ) , was also a very skilful inventor of popular genres . The detective story and science fictio n are both he was pivotal in developing . The lesson here is that he took enaaging more seriously than his didactic role . As a public speaker he new about holding attention …… Sunny , is by contrast , a good cure for insomnia ( in my humble …)

Writing from left presents perennial and thus far there is little sign of Priestley or Wells and far too much desire to ape the very worst of Orwell. I think Hopi is alone in having any inkling of the problem.

Here endeth the anti preaching lesson.

Any Labourites in the house care to comment on that, or are you all going to whistle innocently 😉 ?

Can’t say I’m privy to what might be going on in those kinds of meetings, nor am I aware of any particular ‘rapid rebuttal’ strategy or who, if anyone, might be approached to take part in such an exercise.

I can say that I won’t, personally, be working for Draper’s spin machine, if it even exists.

I do occasionally receive emails from contacts within the party with the suggestion that I might like to blog a particular story or that running with a particular line might be helpful in moving a story along. Those contacts, however, know perfectly well that I won’t touch anything that isn’t backed up with evidence or that I can’t validate myself, and there have been a couple of occasions where I’ve even batted back a story with the question ‘how the hell can you expect anyone to run with something that boneheaded?

“It’s not our fault.”

That is the theme I sense from Labour speeches relating to disengagement.

They are ignoring the evidence.

Hayden Phillips’ review of party funding found that “trust in politicians at a national level and trust in political parties are both low, and have been subject to a long-term decline. Polling research indicates that people feel distant from parties, and they feel that parties are only interested in them at election times” (sometimes not even then).

The Power Inquiry found that people are disengaging from mainstream politics because they “do not feel that the processes of formal democracy offer them enough influence over political decisions (this includes party members who feel they have no say in policy-making and are increasingly disaffected); the main political parties are widely perceived to be too similar and lacking in principle; the electoral system is widely perceived as leading to unequal and wasted votes; political parties and elections require citizens to commit to too broad a range of policies; many people feel they lack information or knowledge about formal politics; and, voting procedures are regarded by some as inconvenient and unattractive.”

The Electoral Commission said of the general election 2005 that “our research found a strong sense of anticlimax with both voters and non-voters recalling being uninspired by the state of politics in 2005, by the four-week campaign and by the choices on offer. On the whole, people recounted little excitement, few genuine incidences of interaction between people and politicians, and were critical of the negative tone of the campaign.”

Bloggers and the mainstream media may well be a factor – they obviously contribute to what people think. But there is a root cause and it would be nice if Blears & co. were honest (!) with themselves for once and pointed the finger in the right direction… at themselves. If politicians did not lie, if they were not corrupt, if they were not involved in scandals, if they did not vote to make themselves less accountable, there would be less of “a culture of cynicism and despair”, precisely because there would be less to be despairing about.

Blears says that the commentariat are unaccountable. This sort of thing makes me laugh (in derision). We cannot legally get rid of our MPs until the next election no matter how fed up we are. We can choose what blogs to read or what newspapers to buy but we are stuck with paying well over £60k a year for five years to the candidate who won first past the post (on a low turnout, too). A Government formed by a party that only one in five people voted for – no wonder people have disengaged, four in five aren’t represented. Accountable? Look at the MPs who lie, get involved in scandals, etc, but somehow retain positions of influence – even after they have resigned not once, a rare event in itself, but twice!

Blears wrote,

mostly, political blogs are written by people with a disdain for the political system and politicians, who see their function as unearthing scandals, conspiracies and perceived hypocrisy.

I started blogging not only because I was concerned about a sustained assault on our liberties but also because those in charge keep lying about it. Stop the lies, stop the spin, do things based on genuine needs and evidence rather than political expediency, move to re-establish trust, be a bit more humble, and deal swiftly (but fairly) with those who let us down.

Clare Short’s speech to the Hansard Society rang rather more true (and no, I’m not her biggest fan by any stretch of the imagination).

Is newmania’s comment in code?

I’m having trouble deciphering it.

You’re apparently well-read and (if we overlook the grammar and most of the content) intelligent. And yet your conclusions are so utterly wrong. Interesting.

I think there are plenty of examples, obviously most prominently in the partisan areas of the blogosphere, of people being positive towards aspects of politics. Unity is always one for defending and promoting things as much as trying to tear something apart for example. I just think it’s lazy to categorise bloggers as Blears has.

You boys and your grammar ,(a subject, incidentally , that if I had to time I could teach you a lesson in ).What I was getting at was that some forms inherently favour different political standpoints. It is noticeable that the attempt to engage people with progressive politics has been far more successful in the theatre from Shaw onwards , ( Brecht…better at the risk of being horribly pretentious ) it is easier to wheel out your “Types” however disguised . I feel a blog does not suit the left ,its too immediately human…….

Not a big point I suppose

It’s a tell that Blears uses a phrase like “value added” — New Labour can’t seem to grasp anything that isn’t about product, marketisation, demand, and target-driven terminology. Blogs should be spontaneous. Inherently, Blears won’t like what bloggers have to say, since New Labour is entirely about control — of the political message, of candidate selection down to the council level.

MattGB: The problem is that if you keep it going for long enough, in the ’safe’ areas you’ve abandoned the non-voters significantly outnumber the voters, and all you need is someone organised to come in and challenge and you have dynamism again. Obama’s done it in the US, the Independents did it in Blaenau Gwent, and the Lib Dems have done it in areas like Sheffield.

…and the BNP did it in Barking and Dagenham, as well as Stoke-on-Trent (albeit at a local level). It doesn’t really explain how Labour’s going to take the fight to the Tories as an insurgent party, but I take your point.

One other thought re. Blears – I don’t think she realises how bloggers get their (un)deserved reputations – there’s no ‘Central Committee’ saying you can’t set up a blog and build your audience…but maybe Blears is working on that one.

Oh newmania,

Please do give it up. We’d be insulted if your stream-of-concious nonsense actually made some sense.

Also, your tired attempts to frame us all as Kool-Aid drinking marxists, really do miss the target my a mile.

I have very, very few socialist tendencies. Many of the bloggers here are free-marketeers, who just happen to be socially liberal as well as economically so.

However we do, in the main, share an equal distrust of conservatives, who by and large are idiots who seek to force their idiocy on others.

Ta ta.

All that said, maybe if we ignore newmania he’ll dissolve into a pathetic puddle of his own self-righteousness?


“I have very, very few socialist tendencies. Many of the bloggers here are free-marketeers, who just happen to be socially liberal as well as economically so.”

In other words, ‘superficial liberals’.

“However we do, in the main, share an equal distrust of conservatives, who by and large are idiots who seek to force their idiocy on others.”

That’s told them.

In other words, ’superficial liberals’.

How so?

Please tell me how liberal = socialist? I’d love to know.

I would say it you’re socially and economically liberal, you’re a classical liberal.

That’s told them.

I thought so.

@ leon

I couldn’t have put it any better than your second paragraph. Perfect.

I inhabit an invigorating Jacuzzi of self righteousness thanks very much Aaron. I see you are still unable to control your need to talk about yourself , whatever the subject in hand .Should you ever trick anyone into becoming a sexual partner I hope you will spend longer the not – Aaron aspects of this adventure we call “life “.

It pays dividends , honestly


I sometimes feel the need to explain my positions, when people (collectively) misrepresent them.

I completely understand that this nuance rather spoils your left-bashing bigotry, so I forgive you.

There is a basic error in Hazel Blears’ thought process. She says that people unearthing scandals are showing disdain for the political process. Unearthing scandals (and exposing spin and hypocricies) are an integral part of the political process. It is part of accountability. Blears claims to be accountable, becuase she is a politician) but she isn’t really accountable unless she is called to account for what she’s done (or failed to do); and that only happens when someone points out the scandals and the spin.

I think that she is confusing disdain for politicians with disdain for politics. It’s a variant on the old chestnut that people who criticised the invasion of Iraq were motivated by some inexplicable hatred of Tony Blair or the Americans. Politicians spend so long talking to each other, and to people who are buttering them to gizza’job, that they are unaware that people actually dislike them for their spin and hypocricies.

Good thread.

I’e posted the full text of the speech here: It is NOTHING like most of the articles.

There’s also a good stunt by Old Holborn here (plus a lot of OTT insults on HB):

I pretty much agree with everything she says about Disengagement, but I think that her actions such as closing small Local Authorities in favour of County Councils and NL Centralisation contribute to this problem, and that NL media management (e.g., allowing the coverage to revolve around “nihilistic political blogs” rather than “Disengagement”) is a large part of the generator of cynicism.

Especially small, especially local – political blogs are already showing themselves to be part of the solution if only Westminster Village events which DON’T engage politically like this one would get out more.

I think Sunny may well be right about US right wing blogs – is that the “opposition generates blogs” problem? I wonder if HuffPo will now go for broke to position itself as part of the MSM since it is now a friend of government.

The biggest mistake a lot of bloggers have made on this one is reacting to a few controversial nuggets thrown to the MSM. The BBC have been much better.


Matt, the overall problem with her speech is the cognitive dissonance. The speech, when Guido called up to try and attend, was a closed event. Blears says that “the political parties, and the trade unions, need to actively recruit, mentor and support working class people into political life” … well, where are they in the PLP, in the junior cabinet? Why take her at face value when her party has been doing the opposite for 10 years … nurturing talent like James Parnell – Oxford, Blair researcher, IPPR, and Andy Burnham – Cambridge, former adviser to Chris Smith, at cabinet level? Or even nurturing talent in the same way at the local level. Here in Coventry, Ed Ruane, a politics graduate who has run Geoffrey Robinson’s constituency office for the past three years, was installed in a deselection struggle.


I’m assming that you’ve read the whole speech in order to talk about the “overall” problem (?)

Can I refer you to my previous postings:

1 –

Made BEFORE her speech and after talking to the Hansard Society people. Asking why it wasn’t being streamed using the (identified) free and easy services available – as used in the “Organise, Activate, Influence” conference in Dublin last month (it works: I streamed that conference on my blog), including a great long list of politically effective blogs, and making these points:

1. Why is a talk that focuses on the need to re-engage with the grass roots being given by a Professional Politician to others inside the Westminster Bubble, without using a free and easy to use way to engage the grass roots then and there?
2. Why has an attack on Political Blogs been briefed to the Main Stream Media and not to anybody at the grassroots? This looks like an attempt to create a media narrative, combined with a carefully targetted mugging.
3. I can’t help thinking that a Minister who just abolished a swathe of Local District Councils over the wishes of many of their residents, and therefore facilitated a shift of power to far more “professional” County Councillors, is asking for trouble speaking out against the professionalisation of politics.

2 – It wasn’t totally private 😉

She’s on the money about political engagement, which was most of the material; she’s on the moon about political blogs, which was a tiny snippet; she’s in denial about Labour’s role in creating a culture of political cynicism.

An attempt to tackle political disengagement shouldn’t be shunned, surely, just because the Minister making it is a hypocrite in some of what she says – any more than we should pour scorn on the Guy Fawkes Walk yesterday just because we may disagree with some of their politics.



Alix – That comment was made at the Liberal Conspiracy event at the Labour party conference, and I know the guy who was there at the event. To be honest I doubt Derek Draper has followed through with it. The Party has more problems than trying to dominate the blogosphere.

The ‘overall problem with her speech’ is that it’s completely irrelevant. She was invited to make a speech and cobbled together some guff which any politically active citizen would agree with, added some crap about blogging and some nonsense about getting more working class (ie Sun readers!) into parliament. Big deal. If she hadn’t mentioned blogging the speech would have got hardly any coverage in the blogosphere.

The woman is a dope, as well as a hypocrite. She didn’t ‘attempt to tackle political disengagement’, she just gave a poor, ill thought through speech (which will be completely forgotten by next week) so we shouldn’t feel guilty at, apparently ‘shunning’ her.

So the general view is that the Hansard Society have been used as a soapbox. Won’t help them. So not good for anyone.


Matt, many thanks for the full transcript, I’ve edited in links to it above and am reading it now. I am with the consensus of cynicism that while she talks a good fight, her actions in Govt are completely opposed to what she says she’s trying to acheive.

I’m certainly with the concensus of basic cynicism on Blears/NuLab. I’ll split my response between Political and Engagement.

It’s the Hansard Society and the fantastic non-bubble local/issue blogs I’m feeling sorry for at the moment. I’m after three outcomes:

1 – The full transcript should be released early to at least have a chance of skewering off-beam media narratives.
2 – They should *all* be streamed live.
3 – They should *all* be public access by ticket.


Any takers to review chapters of the white paper then?

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