Why Blogging is Important: Comment from a Constituent

B L O G G I N G Blogs for young and old Oh, what a pity! Matthew Taylor, outgoing strategy adviser to Tony Blair, thinks blogs are undemocratic because they are "shrill". Take a look at this link for the news item and here for one set of responses. Blogs from MPs are great. No more trying to find stamps and borrow Mum's best writing paper. No need to write pages of perfectly reasoned argument. No need to go along to an MP's "surgery" (always sounds worrying, that!). With blogs you can make comments and answer as if you were down the pub or in the lunch queue. You can bring up new topics and try out ideas. Whether you are eight or 108, if you can type an idea, that idea will be read. Other people can add to your idea - see the Forum - and help it gain shape so that Boris, or any other MP, can work with it. Little ideas can become big ideas. That's democracy, not shrillness. You don't need to have huge ideas. You don't need to have lots of letters after your name - and I'll stick my neck out here and say the best comments and ideas usually come from people who just sign themselves as simply as "Tom" or "Mary" or "Saima". You don't need to be 'clever' - just genuine and interested. If an idea is truly amazing, Boris or Melissa will be in touch - guaranteed! If an idea is interesting and gains energy through discussion, you will be able to see it. What is an MP for? I wonder, how many people will comment on this? How many people will try it for the first time and find out that blog sites really are a new way of talking to people we have elected to do a good job for us. Gillian P HENLEY CONSTITUENT

36 thoughts on “Why Blogging is Important: Comment from a Constituent”

  1. I don’t trust these blobbers. They’re far cheaper than strategy advisors, so how could they possibly be any good?

    I give it three months before that sad figure starts a livejournal or starts haunting Facebook. You wait and see.

  2. I agree with Gillian, although I have to say that this is an extraordinary blog and Boris an extraordinary MP. I say that for two reasons, one because, whilst you can see that Boris welcomes comments from his constituents as most MP’s do, he also welcomes all those who do not live in his constituency but have an interest in politics or just the world around them and want their voice to be heard. Not all MP’s do this. Often you have to give your address when contacting an MP and if you are not in their constituency, you will not get a reply. Boris is not like that – if you have a good idea then it will be listened to. Which brings me to the forum. Boris has introduced the forum to allow people to comment on what they think is important or simply of interest. In that way Boris doesn’t follow the crowd in just telling people what he wants them to hear, he listens to whatever they want to say. That’s got to be good.

    An advisor to Tony Bliar? Yes, look where Bliar’s got us – into an illegal war, a dictatorship (ruled by TB) and the end of democracy. Good riddance Bliar!

    Boris for PM!

    PS: I hope I haven’t sounded shrill but TB’s legacy just gets me so angry. But the good thing here is that others will join in and voice their own opinions. Blogs allow us to say whatever we want, so you get a consensus of opinion, and despite Bliars outlawing protests from the people I know I can say here: good riddance Tony!

  3. Even more evidence that the Blair government has become just like the Thatcher/Major government before it: self-involved, conceited, disconnected, and arrogant.

    I wonder if Matthew Taylor will take the time to read these comments? One thing’s for sure, he’s not going to tell us he’s read them…

  4. I’ve just spent, to no avail, 10 minutes trying to find a full copy of that speech. I’ve only got the BBC’s highlights to go on, but here are some choice cuts:

    < ‘We have a citizenry which can be caricatured as being increasingly unwilling to be governed but not yet capable of self-government’<

    < ‘The internet has immense potential but we face a real problem if the main way in which that potential expresses itself is through allowing citizens to participate in a shrill discourse of demands.’<

    I really don’t know where to begin with this. Yes, I am fed up of being over-regulated, whether it be draconian smoking bans, new proposals to require sea fishermen to buy licences or over-bearing health and safety legislation in the workplace. A police force more intent of catching speeding motorists than car thieves. A world of politicans, wonks and hacks living in a London fantasy bubble of trendy wine bars restaurants and lunch on expenses, far removed from everyday existence. An overbearing EU, that can’t even make it’s accounts add up, that now wants to not only regulate every aspect of my working life, but what I am allowed to say in the pub about the Holocaust.

    Seemingly, by this mans logic, my disgust matters not, as I am incapable of managing my own life. Not only that, but my willingness to communicate my disgust to others via the WWW is a ‘real problem’ that they face. Who is this ‘we’ and ‘they’ then? This arrogant man has never been elected by the public but he speaks as if he is our overlord.

    As for his comments about ‘allowing citizens to participate’ I think this just sums up the mentality of these people. I really don’t know what to write about that clause, I’m just gobsmacked.

    Please Mr Taylor sir, can I have permission to speak?

  5. Mark Gamon – what you said is so right – good challenge

    Steven L – YES please keep speaking freely. The web is all about promoting free speech and free communication in abundance and it is madness to imagine it will go away or that it is too top heavy or shrill. Matthew Taylor must be of a highly sensitive disposition if he finds blogging discussions so shrill, sharp and high-pitched in sound…

  6. Steven_L said:

    As for his comments about ‘allowing citizens to participate’ I think this just sums up the mentality of these people.

    You don’t know what to write Steven and I too am ‘gobsmacked’ but allow me a few words that will annoy TB, ‘The Man of Steal’ et al:

    * The community has the right to hold accountable every public official in its administration.

    * The communication of thought and opinion is one of the most precious rights of man

    From D.G.Wright (1974) ‘Revolution and Terror in France’, 1789-1795

  7. One slight correction, jaq. The dictatorship to which you refer was not run by Tony Blair: it was run by George W. Bush and his puppetmasters (James Baker, Dick Cheney, Jeb Bush, et al).

  8. Raincoaster – I agree completely. I was thinking of the fact that Bliar lied to parliament in order to take us into the war. He should have been impeached, or at least apologised. That and his attempt to abolish trial by jury: 90 day detention and closed family courts being cases in point. And of course the reform of the House of Lords. And the inumerable changes in the law including outlawing civil protest. And…

    well, you know what I mean..

  9. The reason that Labour does not care for blogging and indeed for ePetitions is that Labour, indeed all Socialist Parties, abhors dissent and opposition. One only has to recall the treatment meted out to the elderly gent at their conference a while back who had the temerity to heckle (and I am not talking about Sir Menzies Campbell!) The quotes above by Steven_L are very much from the “The people do not care for what we are doing so let us change the people” school of democracy to which Labour belongs: just remember Stephen Pound opining “The people have spoken – the bastards” when faced with the prospect of having promote a Bill in Parliament (couretsy of The Today Progaramme) allowing summary execution of burglars found on your premises.

    Having recently started my own (very modest) blog @ http://www.thehuntsman2007.blogspot.com/ I have felt an engagement with political issues that periodic forays to the Voting Booth cannot match. If bloggers engage in proper reasoned debate, then MPs like Boris may find it to his advantage in developing his own political views or even picking up and running with a good idea. Of course there will be the odd nutter out there who offends, but the Englishman’s habit of tolerance should ensure that this method of generating political debate enriches our culture.

    I am not a constituent but since Boris has already achieved in a few short years National treasure Status, his blog is surely an obligatory place for the itinerant blogger to visit.

  10. < ‘The dictatorship to which you refer was not run by Tony Blair: it was run by George W. Bush and his puppetmasters’ (raincoaster)<

    Well I disagree. It was the American public’s approval of Bush’s actions that were ultimately responsible. If Bush’s approval rating had not soared post 9/11, if there had been no enormous clamouring for retribution, if there had been a general consensus in the US that war against Iraq was unwanted then I do not believe it would have happened.

    It’s fair to say that the mass media machine influenced the public over the pond, but throughout our lives we face others trying to influence our thoughts, be it through persuasion or downright deception, on an almost daily basis. Whilst the internet can help cut through the spin and propaganda, it can also serve to create malice, further deceit and spread confusion.

    To me this is why education is now more important than ever, with so much conflicting information at our fingertips people need to be able harness the power of clear independent thought like never before. Without the ability to decipher the legions of fact, opinions and lies out there, people will surely become more disinterested in politcal affairs and left out in the cold.

    Of course for people like Mark Taylor, the less rival voices competing for the attention of his target audience the better. He sounds like he’d rather have us all shut up than have to reason with us on equal terms.

  11. Hear, hear raincoaster! Who said that those from across the Pond aren’t just as clued up, if not more, than anyone here – that is what blogging brings home loud and clear

    *you are the sharpest knife in the box, raincoaster!*

    Well done for making the point Jaq

  12. Tony Blair was not under the thumb of the US but was over stretching tempted by a sense of his own destiny frustrated at home .He was broadly right about Iraq and judging from the implosion of support for the Yellow Peril despite their opposition people are less concerned than they may appear.His instinct as to the defence of this country were sound and that is the main thing. Terrorism is a problem but the world wars my parents and grand parents lived through are as an elephant to a gnat by comparison. .Perhaps we would all relax a bit more about the middle east if it wasn’t for its infestation with reporters looking to fill space. Is it really important? Oil flows war or no war and reliance on it is diminishing. The military strength of the combatants is constantly exaggerated and the GDP of the whole area is about that of Germany. I suspect people are bored and looking for any old cause no matter how small .I would suggest ignoring the place in the future , the fiction that the Israel conflict is related to aggressive Muslim fronts all over the world can only be a myth.
    Blogs can be important and are , for the most part no more shrill than the daily Mail or the Sun , when they are over the top it is with a sense of irony in the political sphere or for the relish of a well turned insult . They seem to have taken over from the Spectator at least in the right wing sphere.

    ( Prospect is good though read that )

  13. I often read this blog and for once will permit myself a brief comment. All those who are persistent in standing up for freedom of expression and a stop to the erosion of freedom through over-regulation, please keep it up!!

    My family and I have lived in France for the last 18 months, and the level of regulation of almost every aspect of life here is simply overwhelming. For a country which professes “liberté” as one of its foundational values, I honestly believe the French have little concept of what real freedom is. This certainly is an oppressive society compared to Britain.

    Residents of the UK, you don’t know how lucky you are. Fight to the last to maintain the freedoms for which may have given their lives over centuries. Britain is blessed to have such freedom and it needs to be highly prized and fiercely guarded.

    Whew…feel like I need to listen to “Land of hope and glory” now!

  14. Ed note:

    Problems with access to the site are causing difficulties with posts – we hope to clear the difficulties as soon as possible

  15. Steven, the people of the US were lied to just like the people of the UK. And really, they’d have supported a blind donkey if he made soothing noises and promised to fix things after 9/11. You must know this; it’s simply human nature. The single Republican who distinguished himself for his own honest actions in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 was Rudy Guiliani. In any case, none of that relates to whether or not Blair acted independently: could you really imagine him going to war against Iraq if the US hadn’t gone first?

    newmania, I think Blair’s not so much a poodle as a very clever self-promoter who found a way to get his country back on the world stage in a major way. It is indisputable that the UK is now one of the major global players whereas pre-Blair and, indeed, pre-Iraq War it had increasingly been seen to be somewhat of a “legacy empire” to which respect was paid for old time’s sake.

    Blair put you back at the forefront of global events. For good or for ill.

    Melissa, thank you for that: as always, you’re too kind. I’m sure you’ll come to regret it.

  16. One more thing: given that as 33% of the lefty commenters on this site I refrain (and note that my comrades do as well) from posting blanket insults about the Right, I wonder if the Right could rise to The People’s Glorious Example and refrain from characterizing all Socialists as X, Y, or Z.

  17. I was surprised to see that blogs are generally speaking, hostile and, generally speaking, basically see their job as every day exposing how venal, stupid, mendacious politicians are.”” I thought that people had been exposing that sort of thing for centuries!

    I do feel a bit guilty though for not keeping up my end of things. It’s been months since I’ve exposed a venal, stupid, mendacious politician on my blog.

    Note to self: Blog about political panderers with overblown sense of self-importance and demented view on public’s place in political process.

  18. The best thing about blogs is that they are publishing not just by the masses, but also for the masses. In writing a blog you speak outside the party walls, and we see the real Boris. The party spin machine must be reading every word you write, rabidly calling you names under their breath and hoping you don’t make a blunder, in the interests of “party unity” (aka dictatorship). That “shrillness” is more probably theirs, not yours.

  19. It is not merely democracy or the the elected who are energised by blogging…

    His Grace firmly believes that the medium will be the salvation of the Church of England. It is not so much that blogging is a virtual confession – all the catharsis with none of the face-to-face embarrassment (though it is) – but it permits communicants to air their views, sometimes very forcefully, without being constrained by motions to the General Synod, or the fear of being excommunicated. In an age of pluralist relativism, blogging is the way for communicating truth.

    Yea, on the eighth day, God created blogs…

  20. “the fiction that the Israel conflict is related to aggressive Muslim fronts all over the world can only be a myth.” – newmania

    I’m not entirely sure what you mean by this.

    To clarify my own position I would offer that the Israel conflict is, contrary to what various Zionist apologists would have us believe, very simple.

    The indigenous inhabitants of the region Israel now occupies (generally referred to as ‘Palestinians’) were displaced from their territory NOT, as is widely advertised, by virtue of UN resolution 181 in 1947, but as the result of direct conquest in the 1948 war. The displaced Palestinians have never been compensated for this expulsion and those who remained currently endure persecution much like that committed against non-white South Africans during apartheid.

    In the same way that many Americans from Boston and Chicago supported the IRA (allegedly, because of some common ancestry or affinity for for the plight of these ‘freedom-fighters’), Palestinians generally attract the support and sympathy of many of the surrounding Arab nations.

    Thus, the United State’s constant, unswerving and unconditional financial and military support for Israel (regardless of the extremes of oppression Israel’s military exerts) is a bitter pill to swallow for these nations and their peoples.

    Couldn’t be simpler and the line which joins the dramatic increase in militant Islamic fundamentalism and US/British foreign policy is easy to see. For the record US foreign policy has been responsible for smashing virtually every secular Arab state over the past few decades and have more or less stitched the current monster together from dead parts.

    On a scale of one to bloody stupid where does that put them?

    And I agree with you completely; we should get the hell out of the region, buy their oil and leave them to invade each other. A hundred years of that should make them far more mellow and amenable to reason.

  21. “One more thing: given that as 33% of the lefty commenters on this site I refrain (and note that my comrades do as well) from posting blanket insults about the Right…” – raincoaster

    Certainly; because, without the Left, there could be no Right.

  22. Raincoaster stated “One more thing: given that as 33% of the lefty commenters on this site I refrain (and note that my comrades do as well) from posting blanket insults about the Right, I wonder if the Right could rise to The People’s Glorious Example and refrain from characterizing all Socialists as X, Y, or Z.”

    Er, is that not a blanket insult in itself?

  23. Actually Derek has a good point. The Americans did give a lot of support to the IRA. I remember seeing people with car stickers saying “support the IRA” and school text books telling American children that the Northern Irish even had their own army called the IRA. It is rather annoying that now they have been victims of terrorism the whole world is supposed to help them. Can you imagine if we had gone to America and arrested people who were supporting the IRA and held them without trial for years?

  24. Derek , so which precise year would you like the borders of the word to return to then ? Or is this just to attack Israel? The support of America for the IRA was I think you will agree from a very different self loathing Liberal narrative of “Repression ” soi disant and it went on far beyond any possible justification. Support for Israel is strategic and in support of democracy as against theocratic and other backward systems. So I don1`t know if it is quite comparable . Incidentally the support of the US for the IRA is something I only know rumours of . The support of the Liberal elite in the UK for the IRA especially the NI BBC is irrefutable , disgraceful and continuing.
    Blanket condemnation of the left is entirely valid as the left of the country are wrong selfish and stupid. Not to be allowed to say so would be absurd and this new found politeness that I also notice from the previous belligerent Liberals is down to one thing . They have lost the argument and like a routed chess player have suggested a draw. Despite having lost the argument as both Party`s agree( ie on the market as opposed to the state ) The state grows irrevocably larger , from 38% of GDP to 45% of GDP in the last ten years . We must therefore add the description ” Liar ” , to the
    left who have consistently pretended this was either not happening or was not their intention . We have reached a point in history akin to the last serious sputterings of the creationist in the 19th century. Only honesty and observation are required for statist and socialist solutions to be abandoned. Those who will not abandon them are morally as well as intellectually flawed and must be abused as an act of public service. I am a martyr to my own conscience in fact and Labour in the Augean stables in small hope they will ever be cleansed of their mephitic taint.
    “Certainly; because, without the Left, there could be no Right”
    Nonsense Conservatism has its own sustaining resources and does not required the manifestation of the Left that currently opposes it . It is not much Yin and Yang and Penicillin and Disease
    When are we getting Boris’s superb piece defending Willets dropping Grammar schools ? Mmmmmmm

    [Ed: coming up, Newmania, and look forward to your searing comments about it!]

  25. Of course many political blogs are ‘shrill’ in NuLab eyes, they’re critical of the government and can’t be manipulated and ‘spun’ as easily as the media. They do offer a field-day to fascists, but that’s freespeech, and I figure it’s better to know what absurdities the morons are spouting. But there doesn’t seem to be the old style machismo from these pavement knuckle-draggers, they usually run when challenged and, like Bliar’s NuLab and Islamism, they don’t seem capable of handling humour directed at them. However, will the Tories be so keen on blogs if they are in power and hence the most popular target, or will they similarly adopt more Stalinist attitudes? It also seems to me that far too many are written by folks sat in offices, they’re the ones with access to the machines and time on their hands.

    Had we followed US tactics as regards the IRA, we would have bombed Dublin or Cork everytime there was an explosion on mainland Britain, and ‘taken-out’ Boston at the discovery of the first arms shipment.

  26. < ‘The Americans did give a lot of support to the IRA … It is rather annoying that now they have been victims of terrorism the whole world is supposed to help them. (k)<

    You can still find obscure webpages around if you search hard enough, painting romantic pictures of Irish freedom fighters on horseback fighting against the repressive King of England.

    US support for Sinn Fein and associated organisations was reported to fall drantically after Timothy McVey blew apart that office block in Oklahomo. According to come sources this was because many Americans realised what terrorism was, and that it was not as romantic as they thought. Bush has no time whatsoever for the IRA and their cause, after 9/11 their US support has dwindled down yet further.

    Cairde Sinn Fein in the USA, Firnds of Sinn Fein Canada and Friends of Sinn Fein Australian haven’t gone away though. The Australian organisation explains on their website:

    < ‘Australian Aid for Ireland has been active in politics in Australia for over 15 years with its roots go back to the H Block Committees (Formed to support the 1980 and 1981 Hunger Strikers) and further. It has been active in raising political awareness about the situation in Ireland, and in fundraising for Sinn Féin, political prisoners and their families throughout that time. (http://sinnfein.ie/fosf/australia) <

    ‘Political prisoners’, i.e. terrorist scum murders!

  27. The Balfour agreement was a very tawdry document that would probably be regarded as illegal today. The UK only gave up the Palestine mandate under US pressure, and against the advice of British military intelligence reports (they predicted a potential blood-bath). The US recognised Israel more quickly than it has ever recognised any other new nation. Of course it’s ‘strategic’, the strategy was to create a US client state and thus dominate the region. Israel is a nation founded on terrorism, that of Ergun and the Stern Gang, they murdered British nurses when they bombed the King David Hotel, and now they are considering putting the grand-daughter of that bomber into political power. They deliberately attacked a UN post in the recent adventure against Hezbollah in south Lebanon, they destroyed ambulances and dropped cluster-bombs on civilian targets, but worse than any of this catalogue of crimes, they lost.

    But that’s blogs for you.

  28. “Derek , so which precise year would you like the borders of the word[sic] to return to then ? Or is this just to attack Israel?” – newmania

    newmania, I don’t think I said anything about borders returning to anywhere; I merely asked you to clarify your position and, in the spirit of fairness, presented my own understanding of the conflict.

    “Certainly; because, without the Left, there could be no Right” – DM
    .
    .
    “Nonsense Conservatism has its own sustaining resources and does not required the manifestation of the Left that currently opposes it . It is not much Yin and Yang and Penicillin and Disease” – newmania

    Evidently the metaphor has escaped you, ‘Right’ was, I though amusingly, used in the context of ‘correct’ rather than ‘dexter’.

  29. “Of course it’s ‘strategic’, the strategy was to create a US client state and thus dominate the region” – AP

    I would concur. This is, of course, the only possibly justification for the billions the US pumps into Israel every year. Had the US adventures into Iraq and Afghanistan gone better in terms of ‘hearts and minds’ (as opposed to ‘Cut and Run’) I suspect that support for Israel from the US may have dwindled somewhat.

    I’m not suggesting that Israel is anything but an honest ally of the, so called, Coalition of the Willing but, whenever international activities go pear shaped in a big way, I’m always a tiny bit suspicious about the influence of vested interests. In my cynical moments, I occasionally wonder if any roadside explosive devices might have ‘Made in Tel-Aviv’ on the box.

  30. There’s two side to the Israel / Palestine story, last time it got debated the thread ran to over 300 comments if my memory serves me correctly. Nothing was solved, it became much a case of ‘Mohammed started it, he slaughter the Jews at Al-Medina’ against ‘they’re living in a terrorist state on Arab land’.

    Nothing will ever be solved by debating the history of the problem, the solution surely lies in the future.

  31. k:

    One more thing: given that as 33% of the lefty commenters on this site I refrain (and note that my comrades do as well) from posting blanket insults about the Right, I wonder if the Right could rise to The People’s Glorious Example and refrain from characterizing all Socialists as X, Y, or Z.”

    That is not a blanket insult. It is a blanket request for civility. At no point in there did I say that all Right-wing commenters indulged in such activities; I merely requested that in future none of them do so. If you believe that to be insulting, please consult anyone who’s known me for long: when I wish to insult people, there is no ambiguity whatsoever about it.

  32. The MSM and “respectable” journalists have to consider libel implications and D-notices before publishing. Bloggers in UK may be somewhat intimidated by the “Prevention of Terrorism Act” and specifically the justification of terrorism clause. But those beyond UK jurisdiction can blog with rather more impunity from say an Internet café in downtown Vientiane or Ho Chi Minh City (formally Saigon). For the risk averse yet to fly the UK coop, you have to realise that prevention of terrorism is one on the justifications Authority is preparing to control use of the Internet. So if I were to blog that Tony Blair’s immoral foreign policy vis-à-vis Iraq had effectively painted a target on London, this may be construed as justification of terrorism, however accurate.
    It’s the alternative media and Internet correspondents that keep alive the issues Authority would prefer were buried and forgotten. Take the London bombings on 7 July 2001: Many aspects of the official version simply do not compute. The supposed suicide bombers simply didn’t fit the profile, the train the police claim they caught from Luton was cancelled that day, the training exercise that precisely paralleled the actual attack; what are the odds, the police diverted the bus from its normal route just the explosion. And what precisely was the explosive used? Many, many anomalies, but Blair still rejects calls for an independent public enquiry; labelling it a “ludicrous diversion”. Can’t imagine why he’s so reluctant, the last so-called independent public enquiry was into the mysterious death of Dr. David Kelly, and that was successfully whitewashed. And now with the “Enquiries Act” which became law in June 2005 (convenient timing, or what?), the executive has the authority to control any enquiry. So it won’t be public and it won’t be independent. That’s right, the government department being investigated has the authority to control the enquiry. Totally Alice in Wonderland.
    Of course Internet correspondents are disorganised and uncoordinated; that’s the appeal. But they are also uncontrollable (at present). The truth is out there, and we will expose it even if it brings down the governments of the United States and the United Kingdom. No wonder Authority is running scared, because it’s the one thing they “misunderestimated” when drawing up their cunning plans.

  33. I wish we didn’t have to call it blogging, what an ugly-sounding word that is, who came up with it, an America I bet you, or Cherie Blair. “I’m just sitting down for a blog”. Really, a little more info than I really wanted…

Comments are closed.