Blogging from the Highlands of Scotland
'From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step' - Diderot

Tuesday 7 October 2008

Labour, or at least Kezia Dugdale, isn't blogging (any more)

I am sure readers will immediately identify the genesis of that title, an election slogan in the run-up to the 1979 general election, in which the then Conservative Opposition told it like it was concerning the governing Party of the time:

- an advertisement voted in recent years as having a major impact on the voting public and their decision to turf Labour out that year.

Sounds familiar now, because Labour has once again bled the British economy dry and it seems likely that the British voting public will take the decision at the next general election to turf them out again, just as the Scottish voting public chose to do at the last Scottish Parliament elections in May 2007, much to the displeasure (how could they do this to us? - was the plaintive collective whine from the UK and Scottish Labour establishments) of a Party grown too used to quasi one-party rule in Scotland for the previous five+ decades.

Now I learn, as a result of an article posted by Jeff at the SNP Tactical Voting blog, in which he writes about an 'interview' with Kezia Dugdale of Kezia Dugdale's Soap Box, of her decision to 'retire' from blogging - in fact if you click on that link it will bring up a Blogger page which informs people that:
"This blog is open to invited readers only"

- so presumably blogging continues behind a barrier, although I have no way of checking as I do not have the pleasure of being on the good lady's Christmas card list. Here's how she responds to one of Jeff's questions:

Why did you decide to hang up the keyboard?

Blogging has become too much of a risk. I have an inclination that the vast majority of my readership are SNP activists just desperate for me to trip up spectacularly. I'm not risk adverse and this is no act of cowardice but I have to make a judgement about whether or not blogging almost daily for the next three years, in the run up to the next Scottish elections, is good for me personally, good for my career and good for the Labour Party. I've decided that for now, and certainly the immediate future, it isn't.

I make no comment about this right now (although see below), but I think it speaks for itself. One of the other responses to a question from Jeff that I thought especially pertinent was this one:

How relevant is blogging to modern-day Politics as a whole?

Extremely. Blogs, comments forums, phone ins, letters pages, YouTube, all collectively set the mood music for Scottish Politics... the SNP know that and they utilize it very effectively. But I also think it's a very seedy environment - the vast majority of bloggers operate anonymously. And with anonymity, accountability completely evaporates...
Blogging is no longer, in my view, a proper vehicle for debate. It's been saturated by partisan venom and that can be quite debilitating.
I'll write a post and then 95% of the comments that follow will be negative. That doesn't mean I'm wrong every single time... but it does begin to feel that way when the blogosphere leans so heavily towards nationalism and/or a right wing agenda.

I hate to be judgmental, but have you ever read a more nauseating piece of defensive codswallop in your life? It is no secret to anyone that I am right-of-centre in my politics; I am also one of those bloggers who is pretty open about who and what he is, by the standards of the Blogosphere at any rate and I would agree with her that the impression I get too is that there seem to be fewer 'left wing' than 'right wing' or, in Scotland, 'nationalist' blogs; I agree also that there is a lot of 'venom' out there. But is the correct response to this to reduce yet further the number of left wing blogs? Far be it from me to give advice to anyone, but I'd have thought the best way for someone who (for whatever bizarre reason - that's just my little joke, by the way!) wants to further a left of centre political agenda would be to engage in reasoned debate, rather than (and I'm sorry if this sounds harsh, but I see no way of putting it otherwise) running off in a huff.

In the first quote above are included these factors contributing to her decision: "I have to make a judgement about whether or not blogging almost daily for the next three years, in the run up to the next Scottish elections, is good for me personally, good for my career and good for the Labour Party". I can certainly sympathise with her worries about whether blogging is good for her personally (I know how mentally fatiguing and stultifying emotionally it can become to write several blogs a day over many months or years), but I find the other two reasons she cites quite extraordinary. Is the Labour Party and its ideology so fragile that people who work to further its policies and activities might see their careers within the Labour Party or elsewhere placed at risk as a result of their blogging activities and is the Labour party really so frightened of open debate? There is no mention at all about 'democracy' however. I wonder why? And you don't get someone like John Redwood, whatever you think of his politics, coming over all defensive when he writes something controversial and it attracts criticism; he attempts to rebut opposing viewpoints with reasoned debate and he certainly cannot be regarded as the 'darling' of the whole Conservative party, having attracted his own share of visceral criticism from various Conservative quarters over the years.

I can't finish without mentioning her response to another question though:

How do you see the next few years of Scottish Politics panning out?

I think Labour will win a fourth term. I think the Scottish Parliament will grow in stature, with more powers and that minority government is here to stay. I think the Historic Concordat will fall apart spectacularly. I think that class sizes and student debt will be higher in 2011 than they were in 2007 and I think Iain Gray will be the next First Minister of Scotland.

Does Kezia know something most of the rest of us don't, or is this just a piece of empty bravado? Time will tell of course, but I tend to think that at least parts of her predicitons will not, ...err, come to pass.

I have only been reading Kezia's blog for a relatively brief period and I can't say I agreed with much of what she wrote, but if I wasn't interested in at least making myself aware of different viewpoints the very last thing I would have done was to have started up a blog over six years ago and making it my business to link to and read a pretty wide variety of other blogs, both 'big' and 'small'. In any case, farewell Kezia. I'm sure if you do decide to open up your blog again to everybody you will be welcomed back as another badly-needed voice.

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