Labour needs a Robert Scoble

Why aren’t there any ministerial blogs? From my perspective, Labour seems to have a problem explaining its position. The Human Rights Act is a good example. The tabloid press despise the thing, and I rarely hear the opposite position, which surely exists. Despite occasional mutterings, Labour are surely in favour of it, but I don’t know where to look to find out why. Currently I’d turn to Labour bloggers for this. The major newspapers are no use, as decent explanation is difficult to find. There are some – David Aaranovitch etc. – who do a good job of properly investigating issues, but I don’t think it should be so hard to find. The Labour website carries little in the way of argument, instead concentrating on news and press releases. The Home Office website does a good job of explaining the law, but there’s very little argument in favour of ID cards, for example – there’s something about how good they’ll be, but nothing that addresses concerns I’ve seen elsewhere. I’m sure this already happens behind the scenes, and if I investigated enough I’d be able to find all the information I wanted. But, without meaning to sound lazy, it’s too hard. If only there were some way for the government to communicate without the filter of the media…

Ministers are busy people, but their offices could surely find somebody to run a blog. They could respond immediately to Tory arguments, or tabloid misrepresentation, and not have to worry so much about the newspapers taking one quote terribly out of context. The important thing would be to make it genuine; glorified press releases would be pointless. You want a Robert Scoble of the Labour Party – somebody happy to say ‘we screwed this up, but here’s what we doing to make it right’. Maybe that goes against the grain of modern politics, but I think it’s going to be necessary. Tony Blair’s great at explaining his position, but he’s not enough. The odd Guardian article or 10-word soundbite from other ministers just doesn’t cut it any more. I want to see John Reid tell me what the hell a respect squad would actually do. I want to see Patricia Hewitt explain why NHS redundancies are necessary. I want to see Alan Johnson point out the huge rise in school food standards, and be happy to acknowledge Jamie Oliver’s role in the affair. Would it be official government comment? Tricky. Would they allow comments? Probably not if they’ve ever looked at Comment is Free, but trackbacks maybe.

Sure, the majority of people don’t read blogs. But people who do (he says, tentatively) are often the people best equipped to communicate. An increasingly tech-literate younger generation is seeing a government that doesn’t know how to communicate with them. Blogging wouldn’t solve the problem of Labour’s increasingly out-of-touch image, but I think it would help.

Update: Hat-tip to Jo in the comments for pointing out David Miliband’s blog. He’s Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and the blog certainly seems to be a good start. Should have done my research properly 🙂