Cylon Smith is causing a stir. Or rather my article earlier this month on Ed Miliband’s new cyber-spinner Alex Smith caused a stir. It stoked what old-time hacks would call a “right royal rumpus”.
On Thursday Sunder Katwala, Fabian chief and author of the highly respected Next Left blog, shot back with the rapidest of rapid rebuttals to my post. He wrote:
Did Alex Smith create a group of [Labour bloggers] who he keeps close? No. I have known the other two for several years longer. Does Smith send this group briefings and lines to take? Not in my case. I should have no objection if he did. Do that group agree? On some things, not others. Sunny and I collaborated on a challenge to traditional identity politics in 2006 but have quite different perspectives more generally. He did join Labour in 2010 after voting Lib Dem. [Will] Straw and Hundal are a long way apart on the deficit.
Meanwhile, Sunny Hundal, of Liberal Conspiracy, told PR Week: “You always have to take stories like this with a pinch of salt; the rhetorical flourishes and smell of conspiracy make people want to believe them. We share emails and chat to each other about events like lobby journalists would, too. That’s not a conspiracy. If Alex Smith was that good at keeping us in line, I wouldn’t have just called for Alan Johnson to go!”
Straw, Hundal and Katwala are comrades of integrity. They state they are not part of a leadership cabal. Then it is so. Alex Smith himself has also committed no crime. The blogosphere is now a massively influential medium. It crashes through deadlines, it mocks embargoes. It would be staggering for a professional political leader not to engage with the medium.
The beauty of the blogosphere is its independence. There are no or minimal financial pressures; the advertisers do not come knocking in an effort to keep angry shareholders at bay. The editor does not run a red pen through the indiscretions of his favoured circle. The circulation manager does not scream for more tits and sport.
No one has acted improperly. There are no bloodstains in the study. Honour, reputation intact.