Detritus: 18 Doughty Street, liberal blogging and David Cameron

by Stephen Tall on March 27, 2007

Let’s get the plugs out of the way straight off – if you want to watch last night’s Blogger TV on 18 Doughty Street, in which I appeared alongside fellow Lib Dem blogger Andy Mayer, click here.

To my left, geographically and politically, was Chris Ames, author of the excellent Iraq Dossier website, which “is dedicated to telling the truth about the British government’s September 2002 dossier Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction – that it was, after all, “sexed-up” by the government’s spin doctors.” Do visit it.

Slightly to my surprise we spent a good chunk of the early part of the programme discussing the state of the Lib Dem ‘blogosphere’ with über-blogging presenter Iain Dale.

And here I must issue a mea culpa – when asked to name a new blogger who had caught my attention I correctly named Tom Papworth at Liberal Polemic. I then incorrectly suggested he was the Lib Dem candidate in Folkestone. The T.P. who hopes to take over Michael Howard’s constituency is of course Toby Philpott at Liberal Legend – who also has a very good blog. Apologies to them both.

There are also lots of other good new blogs which I didn’t have chance to mention, though I’m trying to highlight the best postings via the ‘Golden Dozen’ round-ups on Lib Dem Voice. [That’s enough grovelling. – Ed.]

A question which occurred to me (pretty much as I was speaking) is how the Lib Dems can fit blogging into our traditional community politics and engagement. The Internet is a highly paradoxical force. In one sense it atomises us, as we each bury our heads behind our own individual computer screens, reading or writing our transient e-phemera.

And yet there is a virtual blogging community. We get to know each other through our articles – begin to understand what motivates, angers, delights or interests us – and probably reveal far more about ourselves than we ever do in person to fellow Lib Dems in our local constituency parties.

How can we combine pavement politics with virtual politics? Flock Together has begun the process, together with the ever-growing number of Liberal Drinks around the country. And Facebook is connecting party members at a frighteningly exponential rate. (Though I still don’t really understand what it’s for – if ever there were a sign I’m getting old…)

Websites such as Neighbourhood Fix-It perhaps point the most powerful way ahead – why phone or e-mail your local councillor to report a pot-hole or faulty street-light if you can alert the local council directly? If it takes off, this site has the potential to transform the relationship between residents and councils, as each problem is logged and residents track how long it takes the council to respond.

Perhaps councillors will become less of a glorified Yellow Pages for those with a gripe, and take more responsibility for ensuring local government systems are geared-up to cope with residents-as-consumers?

PS: last night’s BloggerTV also had an interesting discussion of David Cameron in which Iain Dale accepts that ConservativeHome’s traditional right-wing agenda is more in tune with most Tory members than Mr Cameron’s Blair-lite direction of travel.

Iain reckons this won’t matter for as long as Mr Cameron is seen to be a winner. For the record, I half-agree – the Tory Party is desperately hungry to beat Labour, which is why Tory traditionalists are currently biting their tongues… at least for as long as Mr Cameron is in the ascendant.

However, at some point the party’s hunger to beat Labour must give way to a hunger to form a Conservative government. And I cannot see Mr Cameron rousing the Tory faithful with (eg) a pledge to increase taxes on air travel. How he squares this circle is the great unknown of the current Tory mini-revival.