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Friday, September 15, 2006

Taking blogging seriously

It is nice to see that the Liberal Democrats are treating bloggers seriously. So much so that those of us who have been shortlisted for Liberal Democrat blogger of the year are virtually being treated like lobby journalists.

We have all been offered access to the party's press conferences for next week, plus the opportunity to interview Liberal Democrat campaign supremo, Ed Davey MP. Alas, I will be back in Cardiff when the aforesaid interview will be taking place and I have already passed up the option on the press conferences on the grounds that the Welsh Party have plans for me to feature in some of their events.

There is also a quite intensive campaign going on to get the Tax Commission's proposals through Conference unamended. So much so that I was contacted a few days ago to ask if I minded a quote from one of my blog entries going on a leaflet being produced by the party establishment for distribution to conference representatives. I agreed, despite the fact that I am one of the sponsors of the amendment to add onto the proposals a 50p tax rate for those earning in excess of £150,000 a year, because I genuinely believe that, even as it stands, the tax paper is a good thing. The proposals are fairer because they tax unearned wealth and take 2 million of our poorest citizens out of tax altogether, and they are greener because they switch taxation from income to pollution. The 50p rate for the highest earners will improve the proposals further but it is not the end of the world if that amendment fails.

I have now been contacted directly by our Shadow Chancellor, Vince Cable, who is keen to be interviewed by all the shortlisted bloggers about the tax proposals. Clearly, he sees an opportunity to get his message across and why not? I have though declined his offer for two reasons. The first is that I have already had the benefit of a meeting with him last month when Assembly Members were fully briefed on the proposals. The second is that I do not see myself as a journalist, but as a commentator.

Blogging might be more mainstream but it is not a substitute for television, radio and newspapers nor for other on-line news resources. In the realm of current affairs and news our added value is in the insight we can offer and in the messages we convey. Most of us are partial in one way or another and our readers are aware of that and come back because they are interested in our viewpoint and the way we communicate it. In my case there is the added dimension of the access, transparency and accountability that a blog can offer an elected politician. Provided that we remember that role then we will not overreach ourselves nor allow others to turn us into something that we are not.
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