ME and Ophelia

Friday, February 06, 2004


What do you think?

Professional journalist Bill Thompson recently attended a meeting at Westminster Hall in London with James Crabtree, who runs the iSociety ICT research project, and three Labour MPs, Clive Soley, Tom Watson and Tony Benn (retired). The meeting, organised by the Hansard Society and chaired by Richard Allan MP, was to try to get a clearer idea of what was going on in the space where politics meets technology, and to look at the potential of blogs as a tool for MPs.

Towards the end of Bill Thompson's report on the meeting, he writes of James Crabtree: "He finished by pointing out that running a blog takes time and costs money – and we need to be willing to pay our MPs for doing it, or they will simply not be able to afford it. If we do, we’ll get MPs who are slightly more open and likeable, and a Parliament that is slightly more open and transparent."

I am happy to confirm it is not true that running a blog costs money. This blog, apart from my computer upkeep and internet access charge, costs me not a penny to run, maintain or store. It is a free BlogSpot Plus through Note it has no advertising banners. It has unlimited archive storage, free permalinks and commenting service, Atom and RSS site feeds, plus several other features including two site meters and email notification. Award winning top British blogger Scaryduck also prides himself on proving that one can blog for free. His BlogSpot Plus at Blogger has no problems in handling 250,000 visits and two years of archives.

Yes, blogging takes time. But so does thinking, speaking, planning, organising, networking and communicating through letter, fax, email, phone, newsletter, internet, media and in person. Blogging is merely another great tool with which to communicate. Why suggest that the public need to be willing to pay our MPs for communicating, when MPs already receive office expenses to cover the costs of communicating with the public? In my experience, blogging helps to focus thinking and reduces costs on paperwork, photocopying, news cuttings, letterheads, envelopes, stamps, phone calls, websites, newsletters - and eliminates the need for extra computer storage space, software, webmasters, printing services etc.

Also, in Bill's report, James Crabtree says that "if MPs are paid to blog, we'll get MPs who are slightly more open and likeable, and a Parliament that is slightly more open and transparent." Huh? Seems to me that Clive Soley MP (described in Bill's report as ‘the first entirely non-geeky weblogger’ ) was the only person present at that meeting who "gets" blogging.

To my mind, Clive Soley's blog is a good example of an MP getting the tone right as well as maintaining a high standard all round, especially on things like moral issues. He writes clear and in-depth original, well thought out material, timely and eloquently. His tone is thoughtful and kind, and gives the impression of being someone solid who you can learn from and grow to trust. He kindly responds to readers' comments, always credits his sources and engages with his readers, from all walks of life, in a non-judgemental way with tact and diplomacy. And, he gets the same in return from his readers.

Although Clive is a new blogger, I really cannot imagine him considering the power of the blog as a weapon and, with that in mind, posting (as did Tom Watson MP) a list of forty bad things you should know about Michael Howard, the leader of the Conservative Party - or stating that it is justified because, quote: ‘believe me, he is a very, very bad man’.

Good luck Clive. Blog on!

# posted by Ingrid J. Jones @ 2/06/2004
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