Monday, February 05, 2007

How do we stop blogging from being abused by the opposition?

I have been wondering all week whether I should stop telling people in the ward I represent, in Liverpool (and the rest of the blogging world for that matter) what I am up to in terms of various campaigns, by using my blog.

There is proof that the "other side" are exploiting my entries for their own aims.

I am a firm believer in using as many forms of communication as possible to reach out to my constituents. I have weekly advice sessions (surgeries), I knock on doors, I phone voters for their views, I visit local businesses, I issue newsletters, I write letters, sometimes political ones on Labour Party paper, sometimes straightforward information briefings on very local issues, using Council paper and I blog.

Lots of people are not comfortable about leaving comments on the blog, although I dont know why, but I do get stopped in the street sometimes by someone who has read about a story they want to know more about, and I get emailed regularly by people who have had similar experiences. I had quite a long series of emails with a whole variety of councillors from all over the country on the item about licensing laws and regulations, although very few comments left.

A few weeks ago a regeneration officer took me to one side at the end of a meeting to say a friend of hers in another part of the country had alerted her to the existence of one my stories about our local police.

And on Friday night a mate phoned me from the pub in Wavertree all excited. He was talking to a mutual friend who lives in Preston but who occasionally comes to Liverpool to socialise with family and friends. The Preston friend told the Wavertree friend that when he mentioned to a Preston colleague at work that he was coming to Liverpool on a night out, the Preston colleague said he used to live in Kensington, Liverpool and knew the area well. They then googled for images of Kensington Liverpool to show each other and there was a photo of me at the market.

My Preston friend said to his colleague "I know her" and much amazement followed.

(I was slightly less amazed myself as I come very high up the list on Google for an awful lot of searches involving Labour, politics, Liverpool, regeneration, decline, decay and Kensington to name but a few).

Anyway, all this is proof to me that blogging works as one of many different forms of communication and that I should keep it up.

However, and this is where the point of the post begins - not sure why it has taken me so long to get there, but I wanted to give you some background - there is proof that other parties are taking advantage of the detail of some of my campaigns, to instruct officers and agencies to take action and steal my thunder.

In some ways of course that is a very good thing because it means the residents will get the result they want, but it is also very galling and sneaky and underhand on their part (nothing new there then).

I have discussed this with my agent and others, and some think that I should stop providing information that can be nicked and used against us, but others say that it will be a crying shame if such a good example of best practice is stopped.

I dont want to get into specifics and finger-pointing because that is not the purpose of this debate, I would like to hear views about blogging, the opposition, case-work and campaigning, should I stop doing it or stand up to them?

And lets have the debate in here for a change, instead of out on the street and by email - you can post anonymously, I wont mind.


Ian Lewis said...

We have the same problem in Wallasey; I just post the story/article AFTER I've asked for the officers etc to act and make sure the residents are told before the Oppo.

But then, we come cheap in the Wirral. Apparently!

Paul Brighouse said...

Hope you're well??

From my time as a Cllr in Salford, I found that you need to be as honest and open with people as possible. Local people aren't daft & will see through people who 'try it on' or try to take credit where it's not due. They'd rather you be upfront & tell them if you can or can't do something.

It sounds like you've got a good relationship with groups & people on the ground in Kensington & they 'll know who is responsible for getting things done locally.

Be consistent with your message, take credit where its due & continue to develop relationships with local people & officers.

I fought through some hard campaigns in Langworthy in Salford, I managed to increase my vote 2 years after my bye-election whilst every other Cllr lost hundreds of votes. This was due to the relationships I had built up, delivering what I said I would & being honest about what was beyond me.

Good luck!
Paul Brighouse

JIM said...

Keep blogging. By putting it up here you can show you are addressing the issues.
Forget those who seek to undermine it and seek to exploit what you write. There is a widespread idea that it is the first person who speaks of something who gets credit but to those who matter it is usually the person who carries it through - the one who delivers - that is ultimately praised.

Suzanne said...

An interesting debate Louise and one which is repeatedly being raised wherever I go at the moment.

My view is you should have seperate campaigning and political attack blogs.

I think campaigning blogs for a local area / candidate should be focusing on the positives what they are doing, what is being delivered in the area by labour and a little bit of oppo attack where relevant.

However if you make it too political and back biting it turns community readers who aren't as political off so best to separate where possible.

A while back I asked a similar question related to blogging on my site. Your response was one of the few replies I got, which was a little disappointing as I contacted directly some blogging Labour Cllrs who promised a reply. This is a debate we need to develop in the Party esp amongst activists.

Anonymous said...

Just keep doing the good things Louise, the voters will thank you for it..

LouiseB31 said...

Thanks for the comments, especially the kind and supportive ones!

Suzanne - I have enough trouble keeping up with one blog, in all honesty I cannot see my running two, although I can see the sense in it. Perhaps that is okay for MPs with staff but for us DIY politicians, I cannot see how it can be achieved.

Paul - Blog aside, I do find it interesting that I am regularly stopped in the street or addressed on the doorstep by people keen to tell me that the LibDems are trying to take credit for things they know I have done. I think the message is getting through. So thanks for the encouragement.

Jim - I think you are right, the people of K&F are not stupid. If I had a pound for everyone who told me that Cllr X or Cllr Y (and we know who they are) had failed to address their problem or failed to write back or failed to ring back or just generally failed, we wouldnt have to fundraise for ages!

Ian Lewis - we should stay in touch, we can learn so much from each other and make some capital. I know Cllr Steve Munby is proving a bit of a thorn in the side of Wirral Tories as he exposes them for stealing his Labour motions in Liverpool and submitting them in their own names on the Wirral, you couldnt make it up.

And finally to Anonymous - thank you, I am not facing an election for another 3 years or so, but I intend to build up a sizeable majority between now and then by delivering on the things I promised. Now isnt that refreshing as one cider advert used to say?

Ian Lewis of Leasowe & Moreton Conservative Action Team said...

Louise - I'm not sure that Steve Munby isn't actually more a thorn in your Party's side than mine ;-) As long as he's happy for us to use his NoMs, we will continue to consider them. We are THAT inclusive! What could your Party learn from mine? Well, how to spend within the legal limit for starters...

I am particularly keen to see Cllr. Marbrow defeated and only regret that it's not my Party that will be doing it.

By the way, a 'ward issue' - someone has complained about the trainers that have been wrapped around an overhanging phone cable on the Phythian estate and are now dragging the cable down, apparently. Leave that with you councillor...AND IF YOU'RE READING THIS CLLR MARBROW, go and find your own issues!

LouiseB31 said...

Thanks Ian, I am rather bemused to find that I am taking casework from a Tory on the other side of the water but hey, if it affects my residents I will get on to it.

No danger of Cllr Marbrow taking up any casework, Cllr Doran left their surgery after 15 mins on Saturday morning this week so wasnt there when a distressed resident turned up, Cllr Marbrow doesn't attend surgeries at all according to my spies.

LouiseB31 said...

(Wish I had realised Ian was a Tory before making the comment about Wirral Tories....slinks away sheepishly hoping nobody notices)

Paula said...

It is a problem when you blog, or do a lot of writing, that opponents can steal your stuff and pretend its theirs. This has happened to me several times.. to my great annoyance. There is of course then a dilemma about whether you cut down on the communication or not. I decided not - and to just grit my teeth when it happened (as it continues to over and over again).

I shouldn't think you will post this Louise, as the people doing the stealing in my case are labour activists.

LouiseB31 said...

There is no point in a debate if you dont let the contributions get published.

I mainly only reject the ones trying to sell viagra. I dont think anyone has ever been so rude that I wouldn't publish what they said, not so far.

Let's make a pact then Paula, we will both keep doing it and keep gritting our teeth, because in the end communication is too important to be curtailed.

LouiseB31 said...

Apologies to Cllr Doran, it was Cllr Marbrow that left the surgery early and thus missed a constituent who has now come to me with her problems.