Iain Dale has today written a long post about how some Labour people think he’s in some way the mouthpiece of the Tory Party. I don’t agree with parts of the way his article is put together (for example: Sunny Hundal is one of the most straightforward and interesting people I know on the left) but he deals with the issue which is always important to me – the relationship between political parties and bloggers.
I think the essence of how the relationship works is that the Tory party has – broadly speaking – been a bit more relaxed when it comes to its relations with bloggers than Labour has been. While I trust what Iain says about his lack of contact with Andy Coulson I also would be astounded if Coulson was not reading Iain’s blog. Furthermore, while it might not be HQ sending Iain ideas, then I am sure there are plenty in the Tory party that do, one way or another. I think Labour is still too stuck in the 1997 Mandelson mentality – message control, and either you’re for us or against us. Political debate online changes that, and don’t think Labour has adjusted.
On the Labour side I have no clue to what extent blogs are even read by Labour HQ. I would be astounded if anyone there followed this blog as it’s too EU-oriented anyway. I would imagine there would be some effort to follow Luke Akehurst, Tom Harris, Labour Home and a few dozen more that deal with national issues. Beyond blogging I’ve been doing good business making websites for Labour politicians and I’ve never been asked anything by central office despite my business undercutting Web Creator.
When it comes to EU matters things are more complex. There are some people in Brussels that actively dislike what I write here and have made that clear to me, thinking that because I am a Labour person I should be more favourable to what Labour and the PES are doing in Brussels and not running sites like Anyone But Barroso. On the other hand Commission VP Margot Wallström, herself a social democrat, cites this blog as one of the three main ones contributing to debate about the EU. Eurosceptics equally cannot make up their mind – some think that because I don’t loathe the EU outright I must be evil, but others realise that some of the points I raise are actually valid.
That all leads to the last issue: bloggers for political office. Iain has tried to be selected a number of times as Conservative candidate for Westminster and has never managed in any seat that was winnable. So while I would think the Tories tolerate him, it’s not as if they are welcoming him in with open arms. He might be well known (thanks to The Telegraph as well as his blog) but having him as a Member of Parliament is one step too far.