What do you make of LabourList.org?

by Stephen Tall on January 12, 2009

LabourList – self-consciously branded by its founder, Derek Draper, as Labour’s answer to ConservativeHome – officially went live today, earning generous press coverage (in terms of column inches, if not warmth of reception).

So, what do we make of it so far?

It’s interesting that, as was true of both ConHome (with Tim Montgomerie) and LDV (with Rob Fenwick) when first launched, it’s a former party staffer who’s set up LabourList: perhaps not surprisingly, a certain amount of insider-knowledge is pretty useful when establishing a must-read party site. Even less surprisingly, if you want it to be seen as independent of the party, best to ensure it’s an ex-staffer.

It’s the suspicion, though, that LabourList will be a little less than independent of the party that has generated the greatest amount of scepticism, with the right-wing blogosphere in particular pouring scorn on Draper’s project. This won’t be totally allayed by the two top stories when I visited the site: 1) Responding to the Tories’ poster campaign Gordon Brown says, which starts with the on-message line: “Gordon is right”, and 2) the first blog-post by Lord (Peter) Mandelson.

I’m more interested in the motivation for Derek Draper’s involvement. ConHome was founded with an explicit aim, stated rather inexplicitly on its website: to “champion grassroots party members and advocating a balanced, authentic conservatism” (ie, IDS-style social conservatism mainly minus the swivel-eyed loons).

Lib Dem Voice was founded to give a voice (the clue was in the name) to Lib Dem supporters and bloggers – both through the public blog, but also via the members-only forum – and has always abstained from espousing a ‘party line’, aiming to give equal prominence to all perspectives within the broad Lib Dem church. And though we regularly invite key players within the party to write for LDV, our ‘bread and butter’ – and very often the most stimulating posts – originate from ‘ordinary’ members. In this sense, our most natural blogging affinity (whatever we think of its politics some of the time) is with Liberal Conspiracy.

I’m less clear what Derek Draper’s motivation is (does he want to be Labour’s Iain Dale?), or what he’s hoping LabourList will achieve (other than the me-tooism which dictates Labour must have a blog presence to match ConHome). My suspicion is that LabourList will fall between two stools: lacking the driving ideological inspiration of ConHome, but not wanting to risk giving too too loud a voice to party members as LDV does.