There is a new blog called LabourList which claims to be “Labour’s biggest independent grassroots e-network” and “where Labour minded people come together”. There is scepticism that this Labour site will be as popular and influential as its rival ConservativeHome. I fully agree. The Tory site wins hands down: it has more content and more interactive in nature. It has its own personality and idiosyncracy becuase of its distance from the Conservative Party, which makes engagement easier. In short, it does what it says: “Comprehensive coverage of Britain’s Conservative Party”.
LabourList is crammed and in some instances it is difficult to distinguish links from text. Colours used in the blog don’t work for me either ... But those things are easy to fix. There are other practical questions such as how the site will be funded and how many staff can be on call to respond quickly. Money is important and very few political blogs and web sites can raise sufficient revenue from advertisements. Books and recordings of speeches may sell, but it’s a bit difficult to think of everyday products that could be sold with politics. Vote Labour, buy a washing machine? Cheaper car insurance? A blog needs a lot of tending, especially like this one and at the beginning, and therefore committed individuals willing to work very hard.
However the main problem at the moment, as pointed out by both Iain Dale and Daniel Finkelstein, are its identity and aims. The site has “trashed” a lot of comments, some quite unjustifiably in my view, if it really aims to be independent and grassroots. It has moved to a system of pre-moderation (People have called for us to experiment with tighter moderation...) without giving the numbers and blaming it all on the trolls (or saboteurs). A prominent piece by Lord Mandelson titled In new media command and control doesn’t work: we need to embrace and engage would raise an ironic eyebrow or two. I am not sure how the Labour-minded people will “come together” in the current set-up. At the moment, two main functions of the blog seem to be: (i) sending out top-down message (‘this is the party line, and you’d better follow it’) and (ii) rubbish Tories. So much for independence and grassroots.
LabourList is still in beta so it may have a bright future. Politics will be richer when there are more places, more coffee-houses of the 21st century, where one could discuss the imporant matters of the day, sometimes with like-minded people, sometimes with those who do not share the same opinion or orientation. However, LabourList needs to establish an identity that really reflects what it claims to be: the biggest independent grassroots e-network where Labour minded people come together.