Analysis: Pressure on LabourList

LabourList: independent from Labour?
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Analysis: Labour making all the mistakes

By Matthew West There is a point in time in the life of any government when they start getting things seriously wrong.

Labour are making one mistake after another

Tuesday, 14, Apr 2009 01:21

By Ian Dunt

LabourList, the website designed to provide a home for Labour bloggers, is under unprecedented pressure as the after-effects of Damian McBride's emails are felt across British politics.

Former deputy prime minister John Prescott today made clear he wanted editor Derek Draper - who received McBride's email - to resign his post as unpaid advisor to the government on 'new media'.

"I understand one man has left his job at No10 - and quite rightly so. I believe Derek Draper should now follow him too," he said.

Draper was a government advisor after Tony Blair's 1997 victory, but thereafter disappeared to the States to study psychotherapy. His return to the political front-line in the form of editor of LabourList brought up serious questions about the website.

Designed to compete with the popular ConservativeHome, Draper and his colleagues had a hard time convincing people the site wasn't just another Downing Street soapbox. It was therefore unfortunate that the website launched from Labour's London headquarters with several government ministers in attendance.

The fact Draper was the man receiving McBride's emails makes his claims of independence harder to believe.

He has now apologised for the incident but it's unclear whether that will be enough for him to keep his job. There are posts on LabourHome calling on Draper to go. And this morning, Laurie Penny, a writer for LabourList itself, reiterated those calls, saying: "Mr Draper needs to step back from editing LabourList and let some of the young guns who've been doing the bulk of the legwork take a more prominent role". Ironically, the posting does go some way towards countering those very accusations of lack of independence.

The position of LabourList's funders, such as the union Unite, is being watched intently. The association of their brand with the emails' gutter politics could scare many of them away. This afternoon, however, Unite was still unavailable for comment. It's understood that Charlie Whelan, the union's political director and a a former Brown aide, was copied into some of the emails.

The pressure will probably force Draper out, but recent events have far more important repercussions for internet journalism. Whether it's true or not - and there are very good reasons for thinking it is - LabourList is now viewed as hopelessly 'on-message'.

Downing Street has fatally misunderstood the new wave of internet journalism, and the democratic vitality of the blogsphere. With any luck, the long-term repercussions of the McBride email could be a newfound acceptance in the halls of power about the extent to which information can be controlled on the web.

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