Some excitement in Westminster (apparently…I’m in New York with the hack pack following the PM) about Labour’s new plan for an online rebuttal unit.

This idea was floated at a fringe seminar in Manchester in Sunday at which Derek Draper – along with myself and two people from LabourHome and Liberal Conspiracy - discussed how the party can use blogs to improve its communications. Draper (pictured) is now advising the general secretary and his ideas are at an early stage.

I said I had no interest in helping either the Tories or Labour win elections, given the neutrality of this blog. But I made a few obvious points.

1] New Labour people who tried to control the media in 1997 – when there were relatively fewer commentators – are now facing a very different world. The blogosphere, by definition, is full of people whose independent views can’t be manipulated so easily.

2] The party could do more to rebut FACTUAL inaccuracies on blogs. But this will take a huge amount of time and money, which Draper himself admitted “we don’t have”. Incidentally, government press officers don’t seem to take much interest in online content – although that’s a different story.

3] Labour and/or the centre left needs to be ready for losing power, at which point left-wing blogs could become much more interesting than they already are. Defending government is always more “boring” – to the general public – than attacking them.

In theory Labour could hire an aggressive investigative journalist to do this. If it could afford one. But in practice it might be better off letting an independent (a sort of anti-Guido of the left) to arise without being hampered by pro-Labour bias.

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