Thoughts on politics and life from a liberal perspective

Sunday, 12 April 2009

Derek Draper should go - now


I've been away for the bank holiday weekend down in Devon and so have only just got to a computer. I only had intermittent coverage on my iPhone so have not been able to follow the blogs as closely as I mormally so. I didn't actually need to read the blogs however to see what has happened as it was the main headline on the BBC News yesterday and has been rumbling on today.

There's not much point in me going into detail about McBride's resignation. I don't know much about him but everything I have heard makes him sound like exactly the sort of person that we do not need in politics and I do not lament his passing.

However, when it comes to Derek Draper who was the recipient of the e-mails and co-conspirator in this sleazy episode, I do have some experience. He responded to a comment I left on LabourList when it first started up and either him or one of his cohorts also commented on a post I made a couple of weeks ago when I accused him of damaging the blogosphere.

After this weekend's revelations I now very strongly feel that he is not fit to run a website so closely associated with a major political party.

Draper has posted an entry today on LabourList entitled "Apologies and Regrets". The tone is moderately contrite but I am afraid there is still too much self justification and attempt to spin his way out of things.

I don't like to kick a man when he is down but there seems to be no indication that he is going to step down so here is a quick fisk:

Since the beginning of this year we have worked hard to build a Labour supporting presence online. 99.9% of that time was taken up by setting up LabourList and trying to build it into our version of ConservativeHome. I am proud of what we have achieved in those three months. But of course I regret the 0.1% of my time that I spent thinking about how we might set up a separate left wing “gossipy” site. We had been looking at the success of the right across the blogosphere and seen how effective their more scurrilous elements were. To be honest I think we were a bit dazzled by what they get up to.

But why Derek? Why have you been so dazzled by the sort of bile that the more scurrilous elements of the right in the blogosphere pour out? Surely a blog closely associated with the Labour Party should be arguing the case for the policies on their merits, not trying to smear opponents.

But in the end both myself and Damian McBride came to believe that such a site would be wrong. That is why when you look at LabourList tens of thousands of words have been posted since those emails were sent back in January and the site we had kicked around the idea of - Red Rag - remains completely empty. You can see where my energy and passion has been going.

But Damian did write and send those emails, I did respond hastily and stupidly and now, thanks - it appears - to someone hacking into my private emails, they are in the public domain. Damian has paid a heavy price for writing them but I have to stress one important point: without the hacking they would never ever have seen the light of day. They were destined for the trash can. But we should never really have considered the idea and I am sorry we did. We got ourselves drawn into the most negative part of the blogosphere when we should have been concentrating exclusively on the more positive aspects as a model for LabourList.

Indeed. Also, from what I have read I doubt you were hacked. E-mails are very easy to forward on and unless you completely trust everybody who could have seen them then I suggest your first instinct should be that you have a leaker.

So I am sorry. I am particularly sorry to the individuals mentioned in those juvenile emails, and especially sorry to Nadine Dorries, George and Frances Osborne and David and Samantha Cameron. I can understand why they – and others – may be sceptical but all I can do is absolutely promise that these stories were just daft ideas that never – and would never have - got off the drawing board.

So in those last three months we have had some successes and made some mistakes. The most obvious being this silly idea that the smears and slurs of the right-wing blogosphere could be challenged through setting up an alternative Labour supporting gossip website – whether it contained the infamous stories in Damian´s emails or more harmless tittle tattle.

LabourList has a lot of work to do to grow and support progressives online. I want to draw a line under this email affair and make it absolutely clear that we will be doing that by discussing issues, policies and campaigning. Dozens of people have posted and thousands of comments have been made, the site grows every day, and gets richer and deeper too. That is because LabourList is about ideas and not smears.

As I have posted before, LabourList seems to be used primarily as a way of diseminating Labour Party propaganda and latterly to execute Draper's blogwars which have so spectacularly backfired on him.

On that note, though, while I do think it is right that we hold our opponents accountable our tone has sometimes been wrong. On the specifics of Iain Dale I do think he should have condemned Carol Thatcher when she used the term Golliwog but I have never said he was a racist. From what I know – and hear of him – I don´t believe him to be prejudiced at all, and actually a rather decent guy, just wrong about that particular issue. If I ever suggested other than that I apologise to him too. It may also surprise you to hear me ackowledge that, from what I know and hear, Paul Staines aka Guido Fawkes is also not a racist, though we did, rightly I believe, criticize him for hosting racist comments on his site, alongside other offensive material.

Lots of self justification here.

Maybe this affair will encourage the whole blogosphere, right and left, to commit to a new start, where offensiveness and personal attacks are avoided and debate is elevated not dragged down into the gutter? Maybe this can be a turning point at which we all redouble our efforts to tap into the internet´s positive potential rather than allowing its more peurile aspects to come to the fore? But that won´t happen without many many more people getting involved and taking blogging out of its ghetto.

Maybe it will Derek, but I think that your aims can best be served by you withdrawing from the blogosphere. You came from nowhere late last year and have tried through various tactics to get well known in the blogosphere and to influence things. You have succeeded in that, but it has all blown up in your face and it is you that has dragged things down. In that context this paragraph is sanctimonious tosh. Hand the reins of LL over to someone who understands blogging and can do a proper job.

For those who have suppported LabourList and feel they have been let down, I apologise. I would encourage them – and others - to stay with us: read the site, get involved, make some comments and write some posts. Join the community and make it what you want it to be.

That was always the way to build Labour´s case on line not getting distracted by silly plans for tittle tattle and gossip. I did realize that in time, but should have done so even earlier.. However I really am proud of LabourList and what we are trying to achieve and I rededicate myself to that 100%.

No, it's too late now Derek. You are damaged goods and you need to step back.

For me, the worst aspect of this whole episode is the revelation that one of the intended smears was to suggest that George Osborne's wife was suffering from mental problems. Draper's response to this suggestion was to say that it was "Absolutely, totally brilliant". Derek Draper is a psychotherapist who had a nervous breakdown following the lobbygate scandal in the late 90s.

That he of all people should react to a suggestion regarding a plan to smear an innocent party as being mentally ill in this way tells me all I need to know about him. He hasn't changed and it is now clear to me that he is incapable of changing. He must step down from LabourList.

PS: I know I promised not to post about LabourList any more, but after this weekend I felt I had to! I will now redouble my efforts not to again.

UPDATE (06/05/2009): According to Iain Dale, Mr Draper is indeed now leaving Labourlist for pastures new. Not before time.

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