Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Cardiff Political Blogging Debate misses the point

A day after writing a piece about the Slugger Awards celebrating blogs as a tool for creating a greater involvement in politics by ordinary people, I have run across an example that is in the opposite direction.

There will be a debate about the value of political blogging organised by the Bevan Foundation in the Senedd on Tuesday 21st October:

To Blog or Not to Blog?

6.00pm to 7.30pm on Tuesday 21st October 2008
Conference Rooms C&D, Ty Hywel, National Assembly for Wales

You are invited to attend a debate on the value of political blogging.

Speakers are Peter Black AM and Betsan Powys, Political Editor of BBC Wales, and Eleanor Burnham AM and Annabelle Harle from the Electoral Reform Society. In the Chair is Victoria Winckler, Director of the Bevan Foundation. This event is being held in the Assembly with the support of Peter Black AM. Refreshments are provided with the support of Positif Politics.


I think that that list of names for this debate, comprising two professional politicians, a specialist in the political process and a big media journalist, misses the point. It is also a symbol that the most important aspect of political blogging - the potential for engagement in the political conversation by those who would not do it otherwise - may not yet been sufficiently absorbed.

I can't help asking why Valleys Mam (for example) - or somebody (anybody!) using a political blog to comment on politics from below - is not speaking in this debate? It may be that the focus is "the value of political blogging for politicians", in which case the focus itself is in the wrong place.

I'm not trying to show disrespect for the participants - all of whom are excellent in their own right - but it is the wrong group of people.

My suggestion is that there is still a week to go, so why not add a couple of political bloggers into the debate? I'd also invite Mick Fealty to give a 20 minute address + 20 minutes of questions afterwards about what can be done.

17 comments:

Victoria Winckler 15 October 2008 at 12:55  

I would have been delighted if some of our pseudonymous bloggers were prepared to reveal themselves but sadly they were not.

Miss Wagstaff 15 October 2008 at 13:16  

Matt,

A big-name blogger who isn't a politician would've been a great choice in addition to those confirmed attendees.

Victoria,

Were any pseudonymous bloggers asked? Which ones?

Morgan Hen (Morgan the Old) 15 October 2008 at 13:56  

Were the ones who are not pseudonymous asked? I think can Alwyn comes too mind or even Sandeff!

Valleys Mam 15 October 2008 at 14:38  

Were you asked Pippa, I wasnt and yes there are those who do not hide.What about some of the Bloghounds.Or even some of the people who blog on Bevan's blog

Valleys Mam 15 October 2008 at 14:39  

Just a though - what about Blammer, one of the best of bloggers,he would be great

Victoria Winckler 15 October 2008 at 15:45  

What do you guys want? We've done our best for a bit of a debate and a laugh, given that we have no money to spend on this at all, and all we get is a load of moans. It might not be perfect but it is better than nowt - I can't see anything better on offer. So, if you want a debate, please come along.

And if Valleys Mam really is up for revealing her identity perhaps she could leave her name and email address here.

Ordovicius 15 October 2008 at 16:06  

I think Pippa makes some very good points, Victoria, and there's no need to accuse bloggers of "moaning". The debate is not presented as "a bit of fun" (another Blog Drinks would have catered for that) but as something serious staged in no less a place as the Senedd itself. Apart from Peter Black, a professional politician, no actual bloggers have been invited, and apperently Eleanor Burnham - a complete nobody in the blogosphere - is for some reason judged to be an authority on the subject.

So who's up for an annual Blog Drinks then?

Daran 15 October 2008 at 16:42  

Victoria and I pulled this event together on a bit of a whim really. It was never intended to be anything definitive on blogging and "celebrating blogs as a tool for creating a greater involvement in politics by ordinary people" was never the intention. There's obviously merit in studying and discussing that angle. But this event - which is meant to be an open debate - is based on a different premise.

The rationale of next Tuesday is perhaps best set out here:
http://bevanfoundation.blogspot.com/2008/09/to-blog-or-not-to-blog.html

Yes, it is elitist to an extent I suppose, but hopefully there will be plenty of opportunity for contributions from the floor. The 4 speakers aren't changing and Eleanor has been asked to contribute because of her views on blogging as a non-blogger. We felt that might make an interesting discussion rather than a panel of experienced bloggers (anonymous or otherwise). If you want a different event, then stage it.

Anyone who wants to come along is welcome, but you'll need to send me names as the room we're using is in the part of the Assembly which needs badges to access it. To book in just email me on daran@positifpolitics.co.uk. There will be some light refreshments available too.

"It might not be perfect but it is better than nowt" is pretty much how I feel too.

Bloggers are people with opinions and obviously people aren't being shy in putting those opinions across. I hope plenty of you can come on Tuesday so that we can have a bit of a constructive debate.

Sorry if this all sounds a bit grumpy... Hopefully it will all be fun! Events in the Senedd can be fun sometimes and we think we'll get a good turnout.

Valleys Mam 15 October 2008 at 16:50  

Who me dear , no dear, no
If I set foot in the Assembly the Dragons of War would roar, and Merlin would conjure Arthur's return.
I gave you some suggestions of good blogers to use, why would you want to unfrock me.
Sad to say I will not be around in Wales next week any way, I am off to rest my weary body , bu I will take my laptop so beware.

Anonymous 15 October 2008 at 17:21  

Looks like Ms Wincklers thrown her toys out of her pram on her blog. Thought she had more about her than that.

Miss Wagstaff 15 October 2008 at 18:24  

"So who's up for an annual Blog Drinks then?"

I'm not putting everyone up at my house after the annual bash.

Glyn Davies 15 October 2008 at 19:06  

I wonder why someone from the Electoral Reform Society would want to speak against the idea of politicians using new forms of engagement with the people. Only asking.

Clywch Blog 15 October 2008 at 19:48  

I will be attending this event in the hope of learning something from other bloggers. I am not a politician or journalist.

Here is the message I sent Victoria explaining my reasons for blogging :

I was one of the nine people who brought a claim for damages arising out of the Clywch Report and my experiences as a pupil at Rhydfelen. Eight of the cases have settled as reported, albeit disingenuously, by the BBC etc.

The Clywch blog - http://www.clywch.co.uk/ - aims to address in part the silence of the media and politicians on the issues raised by Clywch.


I look forward to this meeting. Thank you.

Matt Wardman 15 October 2008 at 19:50  

Since it was me that posted the article, not Pippa, I'd better put my thruppence-worth in ! I'll make four points:

1 - Obviously I disagree with Victoria's general scepticism about blogging (hope that's a fair description), mainly because I think there are a good number of examples around where blogging has made a difference and *has* been used as a vehicle for political engagement. There are also places where there is no other mechanism available for expression.

2 - I'd quarrel with anybody making general characterisations about "bloggers" - that surely is no more valid than me using a brain-dead editorial in (say) the Daily Star as a reason for criticising "newspapers" or a flight of fancy by Local Radio as a reason for ignoring Evan Davis. We cannot group people together just because they use the same medium, even columnists (!)

3 - On the "rumbustiousness of bloggers", I'd draw a comparison with early versions of democratic processes (say 18-19th Century Politics), or even campaigns of this century. There were replete with insults, verbal punchups and personalised satire.

All of which these have appeared in newspapers and in conversations in Parliaments since the year dot and continue to do so. The most vigorous area of our politics - single issue campaigning - continues to do exactly the same thing.

So I don't really have a problem with even personal insults; sometimes it comes with the territory. On blogs it is just recognising publicly confrontations that happen anyway - arguably it is also more regulated, as it is all subject to law. Those who only do insults don't usually last long without a more serious backbone.

4 - Finally, there's a process going on of learning to use the medium and (yes) a process of learning how to do it by those unused to public debate. That latter group includes most of us.

Putting my head in the Dragon's Mouth and drawing a Senedd/Westminster comparison - I'd take vigorous confrontation over something a bit sleepier ("FMQs need Adrenaline" - Wales Online, Sept 30th) any day, while noting that the Senedd is still learning as well and it will probably be 2018 before we can really tell how it is going to end up.

Suggestions

This discussion doesn't look to me to be made up of "gripes" (17.21 aside) - there are some good ideas in the posts.

I've made a couple, but I think Vicky is dead right to say "What do you guys want?"

Personally, I'd prefer debates to focus on "how can we use this in politics" rather than "is this useful", and to provide more of a platform for inclusive conversation.

And surely it must be an excellent
thing that in 2008 you can get feedback BEFORE an event?

>"I can't see anything better on offer."
A very fair point.

My take.

Matt Wardman

Matt Wardman 15 October 2008 at 20:28  

One more suggestion: stream it live.

The Senedd must have state of the art facilities, and services such as ustream.tv can do it free.

Matt

Anonymous 15 October 2008 at 22:35  

The Assembly has only recently come to terms with the fact that people blog, nevermind streaming live a debate on blogging.

Matt Wardman 15 October 2008 at 22:52  

All it needs is an Internet connection, and they should have those.

Matt

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