3/02/2008

How does one get to enter the "inner sanctum" of the Lib Dems - Start a blog perhaps ? - UPDATED

Note - This posting has been updated to take account of comments made.

I like blogging because unlike so many things in politics and life, I have the right to state my opinions openly and people can judge what I say by their own values and beliefs. Some might agree with me, some other might disagree, but in essence my views are as valid as any other blogger's opinion. Be the blogger Iain Dale or someone who started their blog only yesterday, it shouldn't matter. All our blogs should be of equal merit, even if clearly some blogs get more readers than others.

Now being a Lib Dem, I thought the party too would want to be seen as being even handed, fair and not too eager to bestow special title or honour on bloggers, but that appears not to be the case, well, not if you are in the London area.

There are a lucky few Lib Dem bloggers who get to meet some important people in the party. These bloggers, generally London based. Of course, it could be easily argued that Lib Dems based in London will always be able to attend these special meetings by nature of the geography of the country. But just who does get invited ? I have been contacted to and told the the offers are open to any Lib Dem blogger who wishes to go, but obviously there are difficulties for us more "provincial" bloggers.

Being based in Norwich makes it impossible for me to attend. But there is a danger for those who attend these meetings that they could be seen to lose their objectivity. They could be seen by readers to be following the party line or going easy on people because they want to speak to.

There is also a real danger that regional bloggers are seen as being outside the loop, not on message and therefore not worthy of special access to the top people. This is actually rather dangerous as it pushes the premise again that only London matters. As a party committed to devolving power, this seems at odds with the Lib Dems core beliefs.

If I were London based I would probably want to be able to attend, but equally, if I were not a blogger, why shouldn't I be able to attend such meetings ? Should bloggers be getting special treatment ? What about those regular commenters to blogs who don't have a blog of their own ?Should all party members start a blog so they can get an invite ?

20 comments:

Will said...

Millennium did make a public invitation to people to take part: http://www.libdemvoice.org/your-chance-to-get-involved-interview-ed-davey-the-lib-dems-shadow-foreign-secretary-2200.html

Richard Flowers said...

I'm sorry Nich, but you HAVE been invited.

Here, setting out what we - as a bottom up gang of bloggers - were and are planning to do

http://www.libdemvoice.org/the-elephant-interviews-1840.html

and here, with a direct invitation to attend the Ed Davey interview

http://www.libdemvoice.org/your-chance-to-get-involved-interview-ed-davey-the-lib-dems-shadow-foreign-secretary-2200.html

Gavin and Merel and James Schneider all joined the panel this time just by asking.

Now, I'm sorry if you didn't read the Voice, and I'm sorry if you feel that you are too far away to attend, but you are absolutely emphatically NOT being excluded by anyone other than yourself.

regards
Richard

Gavin Whenman said...

Um... I replied to an open online invitation on LDV, and didn't go along because I have friends in right places.

As for objectivity, just read James Graham's article that you link to, which is quite critical of the party's stance (although I can appreciate the perceptions argument).

On the London-centric point, two of those at the interview, James Schneider and Jonny Wright, came down from Oxford (I think)

James Graham (Quaequam Blog!) said...

God your impetuous whining gets tiresome. The answer to your question "how does one enter the inner sanctum" is reply to the advert.

Will said...

"What about those regular commenters to blogs who don't have a blog of their own ?"

As the advert that Millennium put on LDV says, those without blogs could offer to write up the event for Lib Dem Voice.

The point is, though, that it should be written up somewhere public so that we can all find out what was said.

At the end of the day, Richard has taken the initiative to get in touch with MPs and asked to interview them; anyone else could do the same.

Alix said...

"What about those regular commenters to blogs who don't have a blog of their own ?"

I think the suggestion made in Millennium's piece was that they could write it up for Lib Dem Voice.

Alex Wilcock said...

Oh dear.

Your latest re-edit of your work is “equally, if I were not a blogger, why shouldn't I be able to attend such meetings ? Should bloggers be getting special treatment ?”

If that new moving of the goalposts is meant to be populist, it’s a shame you’ve still not had the courtesy to read the invite here on Lib Dem Voice, which you’ve now had several people post links to. Which makes it clear that if you don’t have a blog, you can come along as long as you’re willing to write the interview up for Lib Dem Voice.

And just what prevents anyone else in the party, or indeed the world, from setting up interviews of their own? Why don’t you do it? Why don’t party organisations? Why don’t groups of interested members? The only reason these interviews happen is that Richard does all the work. Did you think they happened by magic?

Feel free to continue the debate on Lib Dem Voice, where everyone is more likely to read it, where you’ll show you’ve bothered to make some vague acquaintance with the facts rather than making up some nasty conspiracy theory, and where people posting comments don’t have to wait for your censorship to allow them.

http://www.libdemvoice.org/the-elephant-interviews-1840.html#comment-41485

Mark Pack said...

To add a little to what others have said, not all the events have been in London - they've also been at party conferences around the country (and no, people don't have to have been able to afford to register for conference either to take part).

Whether in London or not, attedance has by no means been dominated by people living in London.

technomist said...

Inner sanctums are mirages. Say what you want on your blog and if it makes any sense, you will find yourself being read and influential, if that's what you want.

As for going to meetings, in my experience, unless there are some genuinely talented people involved, they end up being echo chambers after a time and to gain status members refer to their outside contacts to enhance their prestige in the group.

Lee Griffin said...

Wow, nice hostility there guys!

While clearly there is a little bit of an overstatement of the issue here, his point about regionality is key.

Nick Clegg has been very pro-active in stating he wants to go about and visit all areas of the UK, and as far as I'm aware has been doing his best to follow that. I'm not going to claim I know about plans about the future of these sort of things, but wouldn't it make sense for the rest of the party and those that organise "blogterviews" to recognise the statement it would make to not base them always in London?

How about playing the ball here and not the man?

Stephen Glenn said...

Talking about provincial now you now how us Scots feel about attending the Federal Autumn conference. Convenient generally for Londoners and southern based party members but a pain for us with greater travel requirements.

Linda Jack said...

Nich, the geographical issue you have highlighted is a real one, not just in regards to bloggers, but all Lib Dem committees. It is one that needs some thinking about certainly. But I do think it is wrong to suggest that those of us who go are there because we are some sort of a soft touch. Hey, I have been accused of some stuff in my day, but soft touch?! I started going because I asked if I could, and was welcomed with open arms and Krispy Kremes.....what more could anyone ask for?!

Mark Pack said...

Lee: "recognise the statement it would make to not base them always in London?"

Except ... they haven't all been in London.

jim said...

Nich has a gripe becuase he was over looked for the LD blog awards.

He then does not get an invite for any of the "bloggers meet ..." sessions.

He has a moan about it.

Alex then has a hissy fit on his site and throws his toys out of the pram with some inflamatory OTT abuse.

end of.

Bob Shaw said...

I believe you have a point Nich.

Lee Griffin said...

So Mark, what percentage have been outside of London roughly? And where about's have they been held outside of London?

Justin Hinchcliffe said...

"So Mark, what percentage have been outside of London roughly? And where about's have they been held outside of London?"

Perhaps he could do a dodgy bar chart?

Richard Flowers said...

Nich,

I'm sorry to keep on about this, but your piece is still both negative and inaccurate. You are proceeding from a couple of false assumptions.

First, you assume that I haven't even thought about access for people outside of London, but that just shows that you still haven't read the invitations to take part.

This is what Millennium said on Lib Dem Voice back in December 2007:

http://www.libdemvoice.org/the-elephant-interviews-1840.html

"We should also think about LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION. So far we have held three of our interviews in LONDON. This is because it is CONVENIENT, what with all the MPs working in that big old CLUBHOUSE there. But it might not be convenient for YOU – especially if you are blogging from EDINBURGH. We would have to think CAREFULLY about how – as an AMATEUR organisation – we could make that EASIER.

"We did, though, do our FIRST interview – with Sir Mr the Merciless – when we were in BRIGHTON at Conference, and this might be a GOOD place and time to organise future interviews. Conference, I mean, not just Brighton!"

I did discuss with Nick Clegg's office the possibility of organising an interview with the Leader in Liverpool, but I'm afraid – quite understandably – he's going to be just too busy. Check out Lib Dem Voice though and you'll see that Alex Foster is organising a Lib Dem Bloggers Drinks. Hopefully. That would be a good time for non-Londoners to meet us and make suggestions of how we can make this work better.

Second, you assume that these interviews are being organised by the Party: they aren't. They're organised by me. They happen in London because I make them happen. I live in London, I work in London, I have a full time job so I don't, I'm afraid, have the luxury of organising a travelling circus. I don't have access to support out of the capital, so I can't set up a room or organise places to meet.

Anyone else who wants a go, from any part of the country, I'd be delighted to co-ordinate efforts with you.


Lee Griffin:

"How about playing the ball here and not the man?"

Good advice: I suggest that you do that and investigate the facts, rather than just accusing us of aggression.

Nich's article is entirely playing the man (i.e. me), with all those mentions of "special title", "honours" and "special access" like I'm in some Masonic cabal, rather than playing the ball (i.e making a positive contribution to improving the Bloggers' Interviews).

You may have been slightly deceived by the way that the early comments are in fact responding to a different article to the one that you can now read, an article that protested a lack of invitation and did not play on the difficulties for non-Londoners. Even so, if you had followed the links we set out, you would see that I HAD been thinking about how to get a broader participation and that Nich's complaints are groundless: we would more than welcome bloggers from any part of the country.

To answer your question, there have been six interviews so far: Ming in Brighton; Chris and Nick for the Leadership contest, Vince while acting leader, Nick again on winning, and now Ed, all in London. So roughly 17% (1 of 6) out of London, though that's meaningless as a statistic. As I said above, Nick wasn't able to do Liverpool though we tried.


"if I were not a blogger, why shouldn't I be able to attend such meetings ?"

Well, the idea of organising Bloggers' Interviews is, I would have thought it was obvious, to connect bloggers with the top of the party. So obviously it is primarily bloggers who get invited. In fact, in response to people who actually took time to make suggestions on the Lib Dem Voice thread, we even broadened that further so that anyone who wants to write it up for a slot on Lib Dem Voice can ask to come along as well.

But this isn't just a jolly, and it's not just for party members to meet the front bench team – there are other forums that already do that sort of thing. This is to produce a half-dozen write ups, and some exciting blogging.


Finally, I have to say, the headline suggestion here that there is some "inner sanctum" that you need "special favours" to enter is quite insulting.

Some very senior people in the Party have been incredible open to approaches from ordinary party members and I think we should be proud, as a Party, of just how easy they have made it for us to open up a new line of communication.

Can we just be happy at how brilliant that is!

Norfolk Blogger said...

Richard, you've answered this well and I accept what you say. You've stuck to the point, been polite and I thank you for this.

Lee Griffin said...

"Good advice: I suggest that you do that and investigate the facts, rather than just accusing us of aggression."

I'm afraid I'll have to disappoint you and let you know that I did read everything I could, and still come up with the same outcome...the response was disproportionate to the article by some on here. If you believe I was including your more reasoned comments in that then such is your misinterpretation to make.

Thanks for the figures, as you say they are pointless. I merely asked because there are those on this thread getting supremely defensive, as indeed you have with your reply to me, for absolutely no reason.

Meetings with Lib Dem MPs like this are a bonus that I applaud, and I wish more MPs and groups were able to arrange such things, but merely stated stated my belief that taking regionality in to account where possible is the right thing to do.

Where exactly I suggested in this statement that you guys *don't* ever think about it I don't know, but then the comments in this thread aren't about reasoned discussion about what Nich brought up, ultimately however he brought it up, but about sulking so perhaps I shouldn't be surprised.

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