Mandate to blog

For those not familiar with affairs of B-stories in British politics, the situation is this:

  • David Cameron MP, leader of the Conservative party and HM Loyal Opposition in the House of Commons, started a video blog to better communicate to the electorate without having to depend on the rather undependable mainstream media. Good idea.
  • Sion Simon, labour MP for the constituency of Birmingham Erdington, didn't like it.
  • Simon prepared a spoof video in which he parodied Cameron by doing a poorly written rap, which included offering to sell his children and prostitute his wife.
  • Tom Watson, Labour MP for West Bromwich East, prolific blogger, posted the video on YouTube.
  • The video got multiple thousand hits.
  • The spreading of the word that Cameron sells his children and prostitutes his wife caused massive controversy.
  • Simon appeared on Sky News to answer questions about his video.
And here it is.

It wasn't the best of interviews from the perspective of the Labour spin doctors, since he came off as rather petulant. But more importantly, he said some things that were rather questionable.

Tom's a proper blogger, who's been a computer blogger for years; Britain's first blogging MP. He's serious about the video blogging. It's a medium he's committed to. I, for instance, am not particularly interested in blogging. It's not my thing. Neither is David Cameron. He self-evidently isn't. His blogs, what he talks about, is empty, is meaningless, is shallow. It's patronising. It's just the way to turn young people off. The idea that politicians only engage with the medium when it's got something in it for them. If you're really serious about it, do it properly. If you don't mean it, don't do it.

It is pretty clear Simon disapproves of Webcameron. Specifically, there are two criticisms. The first really isn't a problem with the blog itself, but with Cameron's act in general, which is faithfully reproduced in the blog. So we'll ignore that. The second is that Cameron isn't really a committed blogger, but is merely using the blog to further his own ends (which involves getting his message across to the electorate so that they might vote his party into government at the next general election).

In Simon's view this is wrong. It is apparently only right and proper to blog when the blogging is an end in itself, as is supposed to be the case with Tom Watson, rather than when blogging is purely a means to an end (such as conveying your message to advance the standing of your party), as in the case of Cameron.

I will agree with Simon that I don't think Cameron is committed to the medium and that he is only using it because he thinks it will serve his political aims. But I fail to see any problem. You don't have to be "committed" to the medium to use it. As Simon confesses, he is not a blogger himself. So I suppose we can forgive him for missing the point completely. The point of blogging is to communicate with the wider world,free from the limitations and exclusivity of the mainstream media. If you have something you want people to hear, you can blog. David Cameron is in that position. He has something he wants to say to the electorate and he uses his blog to say it.

That's what it's about. If it wasn't, then we could criticise the countless blogs, some created years ago, that have seen only one post. The bloggers who created them had something to say on that day, and then nothing after that. We can safely say they aren't committed to medium (assuming they are still alive and well and capable of blogging if they wanted). Does Sion Simon disapprove of their rather limited blogging activities?

Many prolific bloggers enjoy blogging for its own sake in addition to the message they're conveying. But that isn't a requirement. There is no obligation to say a pledge of allegience to the blogging community. No condition that you join the National Union of Bloggers. No need to get a tattoo saying, "Born to blog!"

Sion Simon seems to view blogging as some kind of after-school club that Cameron has gate crashed simply to avoid playing afternoon sports. Perhaps if he paid more attention to his friend's outreach activities, he might have understood how false this is. It is a good thing that Cameron is contributing to the alternative media, regardless of how important the medium is for its own sake in his eyes, just as it is a good thing that Tom Watson is. It's about the message, and here we have just a couple of people spreading theirs.

Another note: the growing populating of politician bloggers, particularly those "not committed to the medium", speaks volumes for the growing power of the alternative media.

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