Saturday, September 12, 2009

Why you still don't know what Party Committees are up to (part 4) - is there an easy answer to the dilemma?

For anyone else considering using a blog to reach out to interested parties, it makes for a depressing spectacle. If the outcome is to provide a platform for rather aggressive, insistent and often ill-informed criticism, why put yourself through it? Given that most committee hands are doing it with the aim of achieving an improvement in how the Party operates, and give up their own time, and money, to do it, you might understand why such personalised criticism hurts all the more.

I haven’t forgotten the individual who accused me of being a ‘lackey of my wife’. The fact that their criticism was wildly inaccurate and born of a total ignorance of my record within the Party didn’t make it any less painful. It made my decision to withdraw from the field of internal party debate much easier though, and so another source of information is lost. It hurts me not at all but, unfortunately, someone somewhere may miss out on information that I would otherwise have freely given and might have been valuable to them. Worse still, I know that there is nobody likely to take my place any time soon.

In the midst of the debate, Oranjepan suggested that committee secretaries might report via a group blog. In principle, this might work but, unfortunately, there is a catch. Secretaries are not word perfect and their interpretation of a debate might not be wholly accurate, which is why minutes are approved at a subsequent meeting and not before. Until those minutes are agreed, any statement made is merely provisional. Often, perspectives of a meeting can vary wildly, depending on what the agenda of the commentator is. Most of us are not above spinning the decisions taken at a meeting to support our stance or to condemn that of an opponent, so whose opinion can you really rely upon?

Another problem is that most people don’t like to blog. Either you want to, or you don’t, and if an individual doesn’t, how do you make them? Do they have a duty to a small corps of bloggers, to their direct stakeholders, to State, Regional and/or Local Party Officers? It might surprise some reading this to know that, in some quarters, the blogosphere is not thought to be reflective of the membership, or even worth engaging with unless they want something from us. Indeed, the more we demand, the more adherents that stance attracts.

There is also the inconvenient fact that, for some, their words are scrutinised far beyond the activist base of the Party. Our opponents and the media don’t care much about our squabbles. On the other hand, if an MP, Peer or other senior figure commits a faux pas, it will be recorded and potentially used against us, just as we do to errant opponents. As an example, Nadine Dorries take vast amounts of flak because of her blog and, whilst she holds many views we as liberals can disagree with, she is communicating. It isn’t doing her prospects of advancement much good though, and both Labour and ourselves are enthusiastic in using her as a stick to beat her Party with, evidently causing some concern to the Conservative whips.

Finally, the whole point of blogging is that it is interactive, or it is nothing. If most committee members don’t blog, don’t engage with the blogosphere, in short, have lives, and do not respond immediately, or even at all, will they be criticised? You bet they will and, like I did, would probably withdraw back into their collective shells.

Tomorrow, in summary...


Jennie Rigg said...

With love and respect, Mark, this tells us why committee members don't blog, but it doesn't explain the paucity of their reports.

Ed said...

You could just turn off comments, couldnt you?

Oranjepan said...

I accept that there are pros and cons to this, but it is an evolving medium with no set rules. If the party hierarchy doesn't embrace it then they will lose the opportunity to shape it.

Nobody expects them to be perfect from the offset, but I think there is immense value in blogging as a teaching method by which we learn to communicate better. I also feel the Fed Ex may be missing a trick in coopting the blogging community through wider engagement.

In the end it all comes down to how it is done rather than whether or not it is. Even if it starts off as an edited version of the minutes and agenda then this would enable a much wider audience to understand the processes and consider these issues for themselves. If this gradually expands out into a wider discussion of them then the audience automatically has a stake in the process and the success of any outcomes.

So my key questions are how does this show we are encouraging greater participation, and how do we do so whilst ignoring the vast potential advantage afforded by blogging?