Wednesday, 26 November 2008

The Labour Blogosphere: Blogorama I

I believe that Labour is the best party to lead Britain. I'm sure that a lot of people reading this agree with me. However, not everyone does. That's why communication of ideas and campaigning are so important in politics. The ability to reach out and affect the thinking of voters, and to persuade people to support you is key to any political campaign. During Barack Obama's year long campaign for the White House he was supremely successful at building up a grassroots network of supporters and fundraisers using the internet.

At the next general election, and especially as time goes by at future elections, the internet will play a far greater role in informing people about the policies of the Labour party, what we have achieved in office, and what we plan to do in the future. And that is what this post is about; using the internet to transmit ideas, mostly via blogging but also through e-mail and video.

At the Labour homepage you can access membersnet the homepage for members of the Labour Party. Here you can browse a directory of members' blogs. I think that the widespread involvement of members in actively discussing politics is something to be encouraged. So every Wednesday from now I intend, conditions permitting, to introduce the readers here to a new Labour blog. This new weekyl segment is to be called Blogorama.

For the inaugural Blogorama we are going to visit the remote, rarely travelled reaches of darkest West Lancashire, specifically the town of Bickerstaffe. The blog in question is the Bickerstaffe Record, which is written by the local Labour Councillor, a man whose supreme intellect and refined tastes are shown by the fact that he has read posts and commented on this very blog. ("One month on" and "Why do we do it?" for those who are curious.)

In particular I wish to draw your attention to a very good post he did in the last few days about unemployment figures. A topic which may seem very dry, but is of the utmost importance not just to those who have unfortunately lost their jobs, or are in danger of unemployment, due to the current global economic problems, but also to those of us that wish to refute the untruths propagated by the Tories and others. Specifically that the current economic situation is as bad as, or getting to be as bad as, it got during Thatcher's time in office.

"IT ISN’T! THE WAY UNEMPLOYMENT IS MEASURED HAS CHANGED, roughly by the same proportions that we changed from inches to centimetres, but which didn’t mean we suddenly got people who were 20 feet tall."

That quote from the blog links back to a previous post he did on the subject which explains what the problem is with regards to the reporting of unemployment figures:

"The BBC, then, carries as it’s headline figure the unemployment total (end of September) of 1.82 million. Responsibly enough, it also quotes the latest claimant count at 98,900, but this latter figure is likely to get less coverage in days to come as the media focuses in on the higher figure.

It’s important first to make the difference between the two figures clear. The unemployment figure (1.82 million) is based on the International Labour Organisation definition, which the incoming Labour government said it would use when it came into power in 1997. It is measured by the Labour Force Survey of (from memory 57,000)households, and even though it is based on a sample and there open to samplinig differences, it is generally reckoned to give a more accurate representation of unemployment because it measures the number of people who ‘want to work, are available to work, and are actively seeking employment’, whatever their benefit status (including those not claiming benefit).

As such, it is generally considered more accurate than the ‘claimant count’, which is simply the number of people seeking unemployment-related benefit, as well as being comparable internationally. For a summary of the differences between the two measures see here.

The important point is that the Conservatives used the less accurate claimant count when they were in government. Thus, when we talk about the ‘1 in 10′ jobless figure of the mid 1980s, we are referring to 3 million people on the claimant count alone. The ILO figure was much higher."

The Tories would like people to believe that Labour's strong record on the economy (In large part thanks to our extremely capable Chancellors) is not as solid as it seems. They aim to do this by their manipulation of statistics to make labour's record seem as dismal as their own, but as this post so ably demonstrated that just isn't the case. One of the major differences between Labour and the Tories as I noted in the post yesterday is the manner in which we react to unemployment and insecurity in the job market. We do something about it, the Tories simply close the shutters and sit snugly in the warm whilst those left in the cold have to fend for themselves.

Recently when John Prescott was in Aberdeen he gave an excellent speech about campaigning which was attended by members of the Labour Club. One of the things he stressed was getting the truth out about Labour's record in government. That's what this post from the Bickerstaffe Record does. It may not have the readership of a national newspaper but it is directed and engages with local people. All we need is a blogger in each constituency providing direct and accurate information about all that Labour has achieved and all we can achieve and to refute Tory and SNP misinformation, and we can make sure that we are ready for 21st Century campaigning, and we can make sure that we are ready to Go 4th and win again.


  1. I am of course deeply honoured to be your no 1 blogorama subject.

    I keep meaning to add AULC to my blogroll when I work out which buttons to press to make that happen, as I really like the way the blogs developing (and I note some local stories starting up now). I think you may already be starting to outdo the more established Birminghan one, and the Cambridge one seems to have died.

    In fact, I must do a post referencing all of the Labour clubs and saying how you're my current fave student blogsters despite being newbies - nothing like a bit of healthy competition.

    It also links into some stuff that Dave at Though Cowards Flinch (another one of my faves and well worth a blogorama post for the breadth and detail of coverage) has been writing about the link between blogging and campaigning.

    Keep up the good work.

  2. I'm glad you liked it, and thanks for the suggested reading. I'll certainly spend some time looking at Though Cowards Flinch and Birmingham Labour Club's blogroll should be especially useful when it comes to widening my collection of Labour blogs (Which reminds me that we should probably get a blogroll ourselves.). One problem I've found with diversifying is the usual internet problem of trying to find the few relevant high quality sites in the vast tangle of blogs.

    As far as local stories go it helps that I've added the BBC's North East Scotland feed to Google Reader plus next week I'm campaigning with Anne Begg so I'll use the oppurtunity to see if I can't open up an information stream.

    I hope you keep enjoying our output and thanks again for commenting.