Thursday, 21 May 2009
Why does the establishment hate bloggers?
Never one to shy away from controversy, new Mayor of Barnet Brian Coleman used his maiden speech on Tuesday to launch an astonishing attack on the blogging community.
Coleman claimed that what he perceived to be a constant criticism of politicians served only “to reduce voter turnout and help parties like the BNP.”
You know a politician has lost the argument when he tries to shoot the messenger. Bloggers do not make the news. They report it. If voters are turning to fringe parties it is only because the mainstream politicians have proved themselves to be an abject failure in the eyes of the electorate.
But whilst it would be easy to dismiss Coleman’s remarks as simply another intemperate outburst from a politician who usually only opens his mouth to change foot, his comments are symptomatic of the growing antipathy between electors and elected, which has boiled over in recent weeks following the MPs expenses scandal exposed by the Daily Telegraph.
The problem for the establishment is that they have finally been found out. In days of yore, politicians went about their business and nobody really paid too much attention to what they were doing. There was no need to - they were respected and trusted by the public. But now, with the explosion of new technologies, a politician only has to pick his nose, and the video clip is on YouTube within minutes, available to an audience of millions.
Every word a politician says can be instantly dissected and debated on internet forums. And the public have come to realise that politicians aren’t so special after all.
But unlike medicine, law, teaching and a whole host of other professions where a qualification is required, anyone can be a politician - quite rightly so. We all have a point of view and now, thanks to websites like Blogger, we can all express our opinions to the whole world at no cost whatsoever.
And that is what really gets under the skin of politicians like Brian Coleman. They have lost their monopoly of controlling the news agenda. They don’t like the fact that we can have our say and that our opinion is just as valid as theirs. But they especially don’t like the fact that people read our blogs.
Nobody has to read a newspaper or listen to the radio. If the local newspapers are put through our letter boxes, we are not obliged to read them. But people read and interact with blogs because they choose to. And that is what scares the hell out of people like Coleman.
The political revolution which is now taking place in this country is not just about MPs expenses - that is just a by-product of the malaise endemic in the system. The public have found their politicians and the whole political process to be wanting. There is no transparency or accountability. Politicians have forgotten that they were elected to serve, not to rule.
Whilst David Cameron and Nick Clegg were both willing participants in the now discredited system, they have both come to realise that restoring trust in our democratic institutions requires far more than simply changing the Speaker of the House and booting out a few troughing MPs. The whole system of government, local and national, has to change fundamentally.
Brian Coleman, and dinosaurs like him, simply don’t get it and until they do, they will find themselves left behind.