Thursday, November 20, 2008

Hazel Blears vs. Political Bloggers

A few weeks ago a journalist from the Bexley Times contacted me and asked if I would submit something to go into their Your Shout column in response to Hazel Blears' comments on political bloggers. Amongst many other places you can read about those comments here.

After emailing in my thoughts I was told that the newspaper didn't have room for the column that week and that what I'd said might be reused in the future. I'm not sure that it has been and given the time since I sent it in and that far more eloquent and political local bloggers, such as the Last Boy Scout, were also asked to submit something I doubt that it will ever see print.

So I thought that I might as well share what I had to say here.

I have disdain for the political system and politicians and I’m encouraging a culture of cynicism and despair! What am I doing? Well those are the words that Hazel Blears recently used to describe political bloggers, which is a category in which some would include me.

I have a blog that covers my local life and during my time online I’ve covered a number of political issues that directly affect me. Examples of that would be the peculiar allocation of tickets by Greenwich Council for the first Red Bull Air Race or the recent changes to our rubbish collections.

I’m a strong believer that our political system thrives when people are informed and feel involved and when politicians feel accountable for how they are performing. It’s when those two parts of the system break down that it is damaged. When people feel in the dark about what is happening around them and when there is no examination of what our politicians are doing then the gulf between the electors and the elected grows and real cynicism sets in.

Local blogging can both inform people and expose low level local politicians to the public eye. For example I came to know that it wasn’t just my small area that was affected by rubbish being uncollected and other people in turn knew of my attempts to get things cleaned up. We’re not alone and we can do something about our problems.

It used to be that only the politicians working at a relatively high level were exposed to the public’s gaze and judgement. Now if you go onto the internet and search for your local Councillor the chances are good that you’ll find bloggers talking about them. Good deeds and answered letters will be remembered, details of unanswered letters and promises unfulfilled will be readable for years to come.

We’re shining a light into our political system from the bottom up and that surely has to be a good thing? This isn’t about cynicism but is instead about hope that when we are involved we can change things.

Edited to add: Just after I posted this up I heard from the newspaper and apparently my "Your Shout" went into the paper yesterday. I should try and get a copy...

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