Thoughts on politics and life from a liberal perspective

Tuesday 31 March 2009

Derek Draper is damaging the blogosphere

I stopped reading Labourlist seriously a few weeks ago once it had become clear to me that it was largely a conduit for Labour party propaganda. If I wanted to read Labour party press releases and centrally coordinated attacks on opponents I would subscribe to them.

In Labourlist's first few days I posted this on one of their initial threads:


I wish you luck in this endeavour (I am a Lib Dem activist and blogger) however I do have a couple of concerns.

Firstly the list of contributors seems to largely consist of very mainstream party figures. If a blog like this is to be successful, it cannot always parrot the party line. There has to be space to be able to question and constructively criticise your own party's approach. I hope you can find the right balance here.

Secondly, and I don't wish to get too personal but I am fearful that with such a divisively partisan figure as yourself Derek as the driving force behind it, there is a risk that the blog will reflect this too strongly. I saw you on BBC News 24 a while back and I was shocked at how unwilling to even engage in the discussion with your Tory opponent you were. You just kept shouting things at him like "Same old Tories!" and similar and also kept grossly misrepresenting your opponent's position on things. It was exactly the sort of performance that turns people off from watching political "debates" in my opinion. I hope you can curb these instincts and allow proper debate to occur on here. I know you will have problems with Tory trolls but not all Tories are in league with the devil and they often have valid opinions that merit debate. As do we Lib Dems and others from across the political spectrum. If you can engage in this way, the blog is much more likely to be successful.

To his credit, Draper did respond to my post:

mark. there will be more contributors added and many of those will be non-mainstream. we already have ken livingstone and another key left of centre figure is joining us tomorrow. i don't think that bbc 24 appearance was my best and will try and raise my tone (it'll slip occassionally though, i'm sure) - but the tone of this site should always be welcoming to constructive comments like yours...

However since then I have seen no evidence that he has followed through on the general thrust of what he promised. Every media appearance he has made has been as bad as, or worse than his News 24 appearance I referred to. He has been rude, hectoring and unwilling to listen to anything his opponents say as well as deliberately misrepresenting their positions. Also, there are numerous comments in threads on there that I have seen in a brief scan today that imply that censorship has been taking place on the site against people who post negatively about the Labour Party.

And then today Iain Dale has revealed that a very articulate and thought provoking piece written by Labour Party member Shamik Das criticising Jacqui Smith and submitted to them at about 4:00pm yesterday has at the time of me writing this (about 9:45am the next day) still not been published on Labourlist. Dale has (slightly mischievously) published it himself on his own site now.

Either Draper has deliberately censored the publication of an article that is critical of Jacqui Smith in which case Labourlist is not an independent grass roots site, or if he claims he has not got round to publishing yet due to time constraints then he does not have enough time to devote to this enterprise. Things in the blogosphere move fast and it cannot take many hours or even days to get things published if you want to be fresh and relevant. As Dale has shown, someone else will publish it anyway and you will be caught flat-footed. The old rules of the spin machine no longer work in the digital world and Draper would do well to heed this.

I think Labourlist needs someone else less partisan at the helm if it is ever going to be taken seriously as a force in the blogosphere.

UPDATE1: Labourlist has now published Shamik's article. It was posted at about midday today.

UPDATE2: This is now officially my most popular post ever by quite a long way largely due to Iain Dale having included it in his Daley Dozen yesterday. Thanks Iain! Also, Labourlist is still at it - publishing press releases and trying to pass them off as blog posts as I have detailed here.

UPDATE3: I now feel very strongly that Draper needs to resign as editor of LabourList following the "Sleazegate" revelations.


Oranjepan said...

I get the sense that Draper's idea of 'non-mainstream' is John Prescott - after all he's no longer a cabinet minister.

Ken Livingstone is and always will be a dangerous radical, obviously!

LibCync said...

When I load this page I get:

A username and password are being requested by The site says: "Protected"

Unknown said...

Or, perhaps, we choose to publish things when we think they would feed well into our narrative or the news agenda?

It's simple editorial discretion. Iain Dale simply does not have a right to tell LL when to publish posts...

Mark Thompson said...

Hello "labour", or should I say Derek?

Of course you have the right to publish what you want, when you want. In the same way as myself and other's have the right to interpret what you do and don't publish as being consistent with being a Labour Party puppet site that tries to squash dissent and appears to delete comments that do not feed into your "narrative".

Unfortunately that is not what the blogosphere is about.

Would you care to defend your behaviour on the media in the last few days after you pledged to try harder? I have never seen Andrew Neil tell someone to "shut up" before.

Oranjepan said...

Labour's perversity is pitiful.

Labour claims to have editorial discretion, but feels it necessary to actively refute the need for accountability when the terms of that discretion are placed under a microscope!

That's worse than censorship - that's ignoring reality!

Bill Quango MP said...

Shame on you. Labourlist is the very model of impartial debate.

It is of the people, by the people, for the people.

Just like Pravda was.

Unknown said...

Your claim that Draper is damaging the blogosphere fails on two counts. Firstly the "blogosphere" is more than just a collection of UK political blogs. Too many UK political bloggers seem to forget that their community is just a small part of a huge, pan-global sprawl of good, bad and indifferent outpourings on a broad spectrum of topics.

And secondly, your claim gives Draper far too much credit. In terms of quality of debate there seems to have been a popularist race for the bottom which Draper has joined, but did not start.

Sure, LabourList is at its best a dire effort, but try the comment threads on Paul Staine's blog. How about trying to get your head round some of Nadine Dorries blog entries? No one part of the political spectrum has any monopoly on bad blogging.

jailhouselawyer said...

I agree with most of what you say. However, the think tank Centre for Social Justice claims to be independent, yet Jonathan Aitken had to be approved by the Tory Party to chair the working group on penal reform.

Mark Thompson said...

Clive - I take your first point. Perhaps I should have been more specific. I meant the UK political blogosphere which is the subset on the Venn diagram he is trying to be a part of.

I never said that Draper started the race to the bottom but he is a clear example of a political party trying and failing to "get" blogging. Staines has his own style which I personally do not follow but at least he is honest and consistent about what he is and does. As for Dorries, I don't read her blog regularly but I know what she is like. She is not however, as far as I know spun by central office which is my point about Labourlist.

Plenty said...

Labour's credibility will drop further if they pick him, (or it looks like thay have picked him as the face of New Labour)

From people I have spoken to outside of the blogosphere and journalistic and political clique, they say Draper is rude, arrogant and quite simply a buffoon. And they support a wide range of Parties. So DD should either hand it over to someone else - or clean up his act.