After many trials and tribulations the Lords have got a blog site – thanks to the Hansard Society and the Lords Library and Information Department (and me!)
The following will appear on the Guardian ‘Comment is free’ site on Monday:
In 2003 I started a blog as an MP. I regarded it as a success and it certainly attracted some interesting debates.
It was important for me because it enabled me to talk direct to people without first finding a media outlet. I saw it as a meeting room without walls. There are problems for an elected representative however. The more successful your blog is the more time consuming – and time matters for MP’s! You also have to decide whether to answer all the points or just those from constituents or just let the blog run itself with occasional inputs from the MP
Over the last 12 months I have let my blog drift into gentle decline with only occasional posts. But down in the Westminster forest something was stirring. I had talked to the Hansard Society and to the House of Lords Library and Information department. The result? A new Lordsoftheblog has emerged blinking into the daylight! The Hansard Society has been a good midwife!
Nine Lords are participating and I think that number will grow. The idea is, in effect, a group blog. We all make (hopefully!) two posts a week and no doubt each Peer will decide how and when to respond to comments. I hope it will give people a greater insight into the working of the House of Lords and enable Peers to inform people of their views and their actions, their votes and their policy aims.
MP’s and Peers need to find new ways of engaging with the public. A blog is not the complete answer to the feeling of alienation from the political system that many feel today but it is part of the answer. In the 1950’ trade unions and the church played a bigger role in informing people about their political rights and duties. That has gone and the conventional media has been unable to replace it
There is no shortage of opinion today – almost everyone with access to the internet can have their shout but Peers and MP are legislators and what they think and do is more than opinion – it is also news. So we now have one more way of telling people what we are doing and why. Hopefully it will also give the public a chance to talk to us more directly even if we can’t promise to answer all their comments or to do everything they would like us to do.