David Miliband blog survey

I’ve just received an email from the Hansard Society asking me to complete a short survey about Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs David Miliband’s blog. I’ve completed it but found it difficult as some of the questions didn’t really ‘fit’ my experience of the blog.

For example they ask "Compared to other politics blogs you visit, please rate David Miliband’s blog." How can I answer that? I think it is a really good blog, but it isn’t remotely political. So does that mean it scores 5 for best, or 1 for worst?

It even states that on the ‘About this blog’ page where it says "And because this is a Government site I won’t lapse into party ranting and I can’t link to party political websites". Ironically the same page says "This weblog is being evaluated by the independent, non-partisan Hansard Society as part of a Department for Constitutional Affairs pilot into use of information and communication technology by central government. " [my emphasis]. So why then use the survey to ask about political blogs?

I think it highlights a fundamental problem with both this project and the Read My Day project. I just don’t think the artificial divide between ‘political’ and ‘government’ publicity can be maintained in 2006 with the growth in social media and a much greater transparency and openness.

The idea that any politician from a Government minister down to a local councillor can have a CONVERSATION about policy without getting political is ludicrous. How can you explain the rationale or defend against criticism without being political? You can’t, that’s why you are there in the first place because your political beliefs are different to somebody else’s and the voters have chosen you. And who decides what is political – a civil servant?

That doesn’t mean to say it has to be overtly party political with ‘Punch and Judy’ style knockabout politics. In fact one of the benefits of blogs as conversations is that you can talk about policies and issues that really matter to people without having to go through a media filter (which is what causes most of the knockabout stuff).

At an IDeA conference I attended Mary Reid offered an excellent explanation as to why you should be allowed to talk about politics. There are no restrictions on you being political when you are in the chamber – but you’re using a microphone paid for by the taxpayer in a room paid for by the taxpayer. What’s the real difference between that and using a blog to talk and listen?

You’d get the expected complaints from the media and ‘opposition’ politicians but it would just be posturing. I suspect privately most politicians of whatever party would want to have more open conversations, but they also wouldn’t be able to resist knocking the governing party for wasting money.

Do we really want to stick with a set of rules from the 20th century that force politicians to be less open and honest? because that’s what the current rules do.

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UPDATE: Stephen ‘PR Blogger’ Davies appears to have been typing about the same subject at the same time as me.

Stuart Bruce

International Public Relations Adviser | Trainer | Author | Media Commentator | Conference Speaker | University Lecturer | Online PR | Digital Corporate Communications | Crisis Communications | Digital Public Affairs