Not Bright's Blog III - Guido j'accuse!

Bright hands over his blog to Chicken Yoghurt who accuses fellow blogger Guido Fawkes of hypocrisy a

British political blogging saw an outburst of internecine strife in the last few weeks as two of blogging’s biggest names trained their artillery on each other.

Campaigning blogger, Tim Ireland of Bloggerheads fame, broke a fragile ceasefire by opening a front on the notorious Westminster gossip peddler Guido Fawkes. Tim’s beef with Guido is largely a charge of rank hypocrisy. For all his calling of politicians on sleaze, corruption and cover-ups, Guido isn’t prepared to practice what he preaches – refusing to give a right of reply in his blog’s comments and deleting those comments that shine a light on Fawkes’ less than straight dealing. That transparency, fair dealing and freedom of information are concepts that don't apply to him.

Guido has not been too far away from some big political headlines in the last year or so and is seen by some as one of Britain’s most powerful bloggers. He made a false start last January when he made a squalid attempt at claiming some credit in the outing of Mark Oaten. He then proceeded to pick over the bones of John Prescott’s sex life and running with unsubstantiated allegations about Gordon Brown’s connections with think tank, the Smith Institute.

You’re probably asking yourself, why is this important? Well, blogging is an emerging medium beginning to directly challenge the mainstream media, particularly in the area of expressing opinions that newspapers and television news can’t or won’t find room for. Tony Blair’s former senior policy adviser recently accused ‘hostile’ bloggers of creating a ‘shrill discourse‘. Press Complaints Commission director Tim Toulmin has called for a voluntary code of practice for bloggers. What Toulmin fails to realise is bloggers already have a code of practice. It’s called common decency and the vast majority of us abide by it. Ireland and his supporters don’t think that Guido Fawkes does and that is why we called him on it. And Guido being the most prominent blogger right now means the rest of us are painted with the same filthy brush.

Predictably maybe, the bloggers that backed either Tim or Guido were split along political lines. Ireland pursued the matter with a series of blog posts and a spoof ‘Guido 2.0’ blog which Guido has so far refused to address in any serious fashion. Indeed, Guido has been content for his side of the argument to be fought by his proxies and flacks on other blogs who decided shooting the messenger was the way to deal with the issues highlighted by Tim. He was variously described as a stalker, an obsessive, a bully and other epithets not suitable for a family magazine.

Self-styled blogging guru and Tory A-lister, Iain Dale, described Tim as a ‘nihilist’ on his 18 Doughty Street webTV show. Now, at this point it’s necessary for me to declare my interest (this is how it’s done Mr Dale). Tim Ireland is a personal friend of mine. That might make me biased, but taking a look at the various campaigns that Tim has run over the past few years in order to foster positive political engagement – building blogs for MPs, organising tactical voting campaigns and protesting against the Parliament Square protest ban – and ‘nihilist’ is the last word you would use to describe him.

He’s certainly far less nihilistic than Guido with his self-confessed urge to ‘slash and burn’ the political establishment. Tim’s driven, yes, tenacious also, but a stalker, an obsessive and a bully? Well, these words are always tossed about by those who’d rather not discuss potentially embarrassing matters. It’s easier to smear your opponent (or better still, get someone else to smear them for you) than debate with them. It’s understandable that Fawkes and Dale and their hangers-on would take the path of least resistance. It’s indicative of the mire that politics in general currently squats in.

There are many of us who are passionate about blogging, its potential and the longer term concerns about freedom of speech. We’re not happy about the medium’s growing reputation being dragged through the gutter. Why not join the battle? Blogging needs YOU!

Justin blogs at Chicken Yoghurt and is the editor of 'The Blog Digest 2007, 12 months of words from the web'.

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Richmond is a victory for hope - now let's bring change across the country

The regressives are building their armies. 

Last night a regressive alliance was toppled. Despite being backed by both Ukip and the Conservative Party, Zac Goldsmith was rejected by the voters of Richmond Park.

Make no mistake, this result will rock the Conservative party – and in particularly dent their plans for a hard and painful Brexit. They may shrug off this vote in public, but their majority is thin and their management of the post-referendum process is becoming more chaotic by the day. This is a real moment, and those of us opposing their post-truth plans must seize it.

I’m really proud of the role that the Green party played in this election. Our local parties decided to show leadership by not standing this time and urging supporters to vote instead for the candidate that stood the best chance of winning for those of us that oppose Brexit. Greens’ votes could very well be "what made the difference" in this election (we received just over 3,500 votes in 2015 and Sarah Olney’s majority is 1,872) - though we’ll never know exactly where they went. Just as importantly though, I believe that the brave decision by the local Green party fundamentally changed the tone of the election.

When I went to Richmond last weekend, I met scores of people motivated to campaign for a "progressive alliance" because they recognised that something bigger than just one by election is at stake. We made a decision to demonstrate you can do politics differently, and I think we can fairly say that was vindicated. 

There are some already attacking me for helping get one more Liberal Democrat into Parliament. Let me be very clear: the Lib Dems' role in the Coalition was appalling – propping up a Conservative government hell bent on attacking our public services and overseeing a hike in child poverty. But Labour’s record of their last time in office isn't immune from criticism either – not just because of the illegal war in Iraq but also their introduction of tuition fees, privatisation of our health service and slavish worship of the City of London. They, like the Liberal Democrats, stood at the last election on an austerity manifesto. There is a reason that we remain different parties, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn't also seize opportunities like this to unite behind what we have in common. Olney is no perfect candidate but she has pledged to fight a hard Brexit, campaign against airport expansion and push for a fair voting system – surely progressives can agree that her win takes us forward rather than backwards?

Ultimately, last night was not just defeat of a regressive alliance but a victory for hope - a victory that's sorely needed on the back of of the division, loss and insecurity that seems to have marked much of the rest of this year. The truth is that getting to this point hasn’t been an easy process – and some people, including local Green party members have had criticisms which, as a democrat, I certainly take seriously. The old politics dies hard, and a new politics is not easy to forge in the short time we have. But standing still is not an option, nor is repeating the same mistakes of the past. The regressives are building their armies and we either make our alternative work or risk the left being out of power for a generation. 

With our NHS under sustained attack, our climate change laws threatened and the increasing risk of us becoming a tax haven floating on the edge of the Atlantic, the urgent need to think differently about how we win has never been greater. 

An anti-establishment wave is washing over Britain. History teaches us that can go one of two ways. For the many people who are utterly sick of politics as usual, perhaps the idea of politicians occasionally putting aside their differences for the good of the country is likely to appeal, and might help us rebuild trust among those who feel abandoned. So it's vital that we use this moment not just to talk among ourselves about how to work together but also as another spark to start doing things differently, in every community in Britain. That means listening to people, especially those who voted for Britain to leave the EU, hearing what they’re saying and working with them to affect change. Giving people real power, not just the illusion of it.

It means looking at ways to redistribute power and money in this country like never before, and knowing that a by-election in a leafy London suburb changes nothing for the vast majority of our country.

Today let us celebrate that the government's majority is smaller, and that people have voted for a candidate who used her victory speech to say that she would "stand up for an open, tolerant, united Britain".  But tomorrow let’s get started on something far bigger - because the new politics is not just about moments it's about movements, and it will only work if nobody is left behind.

 

Caroline Lucas is the MP for Brighton Pavilion.