Sunday, 18 January 2009

Why Labour struggles with the Internet

The creation of LabourList has seen much debate over why the Labour party and left wing generally have such a weak presence on the web. It seems to me there are several reasons. 

First, the Labour movement has always been a protest movement ever since Keir Hardie et al. It has never, until Blair, truly been the established party of Government. This means that every Labour activist has 'attack dog' etched on their heart. The only way they have to define themselves is to attack the Conservatives and nobody really wants to read nasty little attacks to the exclusion of positive debate (I call the Labour Home blog as evidence).

Secondly, the Conservatives have always been a broad church but Labour are actually broader. They encompass champagne socialists to eco-warriors to some of the most racist, narrow minded people in the country. Blair overcame this with 'the message'. By forcing activists to work to 'the message' holding out the horror of Conservatism as the penalty for not doing so, Blair created a party that is deeply respectful of its leadership. Most Labour activists simply dare not be anything other than yes men and this makes for an uninteresting read. The level of debate on Labour blogs about Labour direction is far less fruity than on equivalent Tory blogs.

Thirdly, Labour is in power. This makes a big difference because they want to hold onto it. The Tories are engaged in a debate about how to win power and, to an extent, anything goes in that debate. But Labour cannot afford to do that because if Labour MPs start blogging comments like some of the Tory MPs do then they fear what may happen at the next election. This fear is of course compounded by the opinion polls.

So, they're fearful, 'on message' attack dogs who after a decade in power still philosophically act like an opposition attacking the Tories at every turn. It's no wonder nobody wants to read their nastiness.

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