Saturday, June 27, 2009

Can a Blogger be an Effective PPC?

I've watched the deabte unfurl with interest started by Chatlotte Gore the other day about why she sees her blog as a hindrance to her being an effective Lib Dem PPC that could be elected to be an MP. I've no doubt that Nich Starling who at one point was being talked about as a potential candidate for the Norwich North by election as I myself, another approved candidate and blogger, read this with interest.

Charlotte says that her blog would cause an hindrance as her candidacy 'could be derailed very quickly by finding a few choice quotes'. Remember the story that some poor Tory staffer was charged with reading Nich's blog.

No admittedly a lot of our politicians and PPCs shy away from blogging after the misadventure that was our PPC's blog in the Hartlepool by election. One just should never publish anything that could be seen as a slur on the people who you hope are going to vote for you. But that shouldn't prevent you from putting your opinion on policy across. The fact is our party does allow our people to think for themselves and formulate, debate and then vote on policy is one of the things that does actually set us apart from the other two. In fact I dare anyone to find me a regular voting rep at conference who has voted for every piece of policy that our party has ever passed in their time with that crucial word 'VOTING' in large letters on the obverse of their badge.

Now those that know me would know that I sit almost on the opposite side of our party's Kirk from Charlotte on many issues but that doesn't mean that I don't think that her views can't be represented within the party, even at Parliamentary level. The thing is that on the core issues the things that make us Liberals and Democrats we see things in pretty much the same light. How we choose to implement and balance our economic and social responsibilities can at times differs but the fundamentals of freedom, fairness and openness are there.

Mr Quist has already posted an counter-point in which he states that the current FPTP electoral system and our state of democracy encouraged 'safe and homogeneous candidates' and that it 'isn't that other people don't have interesting opinions'. He has a point out of the thousands of people that vote in Linlithgow and Falkirk East only a few hundred actually heard that all five of the candidates disagreed to some extent with their party's position on something*. The fact that there are more public declarations and statements by me (approx 15o0 over the last 4 years) on a wider range of issues by me that the sitting MP is not in my opinion a hindrance it shows that I think about such things.

I don't expect everyone to agree with everything that I say and write that would be craziness and I'd probably have to start executing those that thought for themselves to keep the status quo. But I do expect people to see that I have an opinion and to know that they can approach me about a topic and expect and answer not to hide behind a wall of silence and inaction as from what I've been receiving correspondence about recently which shows that there is some discontent with the MP which stretches beyond expenses but to the effectiveness of the job he is doing.

My experience from campaigns is that sometimes someone who is prepared to say something that is broadly in line is better than someone that you worry about saying the wrong thing every time they open their mouth. Of course the latter often doesn't have an impact in the safe seats where any buffoon can wear a Labour or Tory rosette and often get in. Lib Dem candidates do tend to be thinkers for the simple reason that to get our message across we have to be smarter, have to be clearer in our message, have to find some way to impact. Sometimes we have the smartest and best suited candidate but the media doesn't like to portray that.

In the classic West Wing episode just before the debate for the second term the team decided to 'Let Bartlett be Bartlett'. The same applies to Charlotte or any other candidate that is worthy to put on the Lib Dem rosette, blogger or not, we have to let them be them. By doing so the true liberalism (whatever the individual means that that truism) of our message comes across in all that that means.

*At least at the first hustings at the second the Conservative was toeing the party line to the letter watch out East Lothian he's heading your way.


Alan Smart said...

Good question, not sure you answer it. You essentially ask "can a PPC afford to be honest?" (online in this context, but more generally.)

And beyond Lib Dem circles, look at Grant Thoms ( Tartan Hero). His blog, immediately deleted by him on Michael martin's resignation, appears none the less to have cost him Glasgow East, before the by-election is even called. (Technical warning bloggers, you cant really delete a blog, its RSS is stored on any subscriber's reader)

And whilst I'm not saying your party be the worst offenders, i'm sure the Lib Dems would be all over this blog were he have proceeded with his candiature. His main offence - to speak his mind on Catholic schools.

Sadly I fear this is an area where liberalism and "Lib Demism" ( or any other party political ism) are essentially incompatable.

James Mackenzie said...

Hi Stephen,
The bit from this they're going to quote against you out of context is:

"I'd probably have to start executing those that thought for themselves to keep the status quo.."


Unknown said...

I think that the way campaigning is done these days makes it difficult for bloggers because there is too much dirt on them if they dare to have an opinion.

In other ways though blogging also does not help. In North Norfolk Iain Dale made a name for himself blogging, but it probably had a negative effect in North norfolk as people there perceived his blog to be him blowing his own trumpet whilst we Lib Dems were able to minotor his every action. It was like having a mole in his campaign team. On doorsteps poeple had not realy heard of Iain Dale's blog, but those who had seemed to be of the agreed response "who does he think he is ?"

Yes, his blog was a success as a blog, but totally failed in campaigning terms.

Stephen Glenn said...

AWC yeah it was a shame about Grant (like Kezia) when the seriousness of politics got to much he thought he could hide the blog naively by deleting. The point I am making I guess is that if you are prepared to say something in a public arena you should be able to stand by it. On the issue of Catholic Schools of course I made a short intervention on the subject at our conference which is in the BBC archives.

James well spotted, I call it style. At least that out of context is easier to defend and for the complaint to be held than some of the misreprestations that have been made in the past.

Nich I'm going to say that it may make it harder 'these days' but I also think the tidal shift is happening. I'm lokking around at the youth members, future PPCs of all parties. They all have an massive online presence from way back in their student days which most of us maturer types would be quezy about that level of profile from that age. Some are currently suffering from that but others will come through from whatever online presence that shows it as more the norm than otherwise for serious politians to blog.


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