Thursday, 17 March 2011

Lords of the Blog

I was honoured to be invited last night to a reception celebrating the third anniversary of the 'Lords of the Blog' blog. It is a single blog that is regularly contributed to by 12 Peers of all political persuasions, along with guest posts from others. No other legislature in the world benefits from such a cross-party blog.

I have been reading the blog for two and a half years, although admittedly I have only commented on a couple of occasions. Media coverage of politics is poor at best, and the House of Lords only receives mainstream coverage when something spectacular is going on, such as the recent shenanigans concerning the AV vote. This is a shame, as the work of the house is absolutely vital to our democracy. Lords of the Blog provides a valuable resource on what is happening in the Lords, from the mouths of the people who work there.

I may not agree with everything that is said on the blog, but I have little doubt that the views expressed are genuinely held. Unfortunately I cannot say the same for many blogs run by MPs. Perhaps the presence of cross-benchers in the Lords makes this blog appear much less partisan (and therefore more useful) than those written by individual MPs.

The reception was held in the River Room in the Lords. I found it hard to draw my gaze away from the spectacular views along from the Thames, despite the typically dreary London weather. I have a certain fondness for architecture, and the Houses of Parliament (and especially the Norman Westminster Hall) always make my spirits soar. It may not be to everyone's taste, but there can be no doubt that the buildings provide a suitably impressive setting for any meeting.

The intricate nature of the architecture means that my eyes are always searching out the details: an ornate cornice here, an inlaid plaster ceiling there. There was plenty of such detail visible in and from the River Room. I had a glass of wine and a couple of snacks from the buffet as I waited for the speeches to start.

The speakers made many interesting points about the way they think that their blog represents a link between the house and the public, and the way they would like to see it head in the future. Lord Soley made the point that political hustings were common before the seventies, with church halls and clubs filled to the rafters with politically active people. This phenomenon has died off over the years, killed in part by television. In many ways the Internet is starting to fill that gap, enabling conversations between speakers and the population.

In my opinion the best points of the evening were made by PoliticsHome's Paul Waugh, who talked about the way that fewer MPs are blogging now, and on the rise of twitter in political debate. This was particularly interesting as I take a diametrically opposed view, that being that twitter is worse then useless for political debate. It is superb for soundbites and terrible for real, solid information.

Some questions were taken from the floor after the speeches. Unfortunately I did not get the opportunity to ask my questions, but there was plenty of time to chat afterwards to various people as I stuffed my face with the rather delicious cake. In particular I had a fascinating chat with the immaculately-dressed David Leakey, the recently-appointed Black Rod.

All in all it the evening was informative as well as interesting. It is good to see so many Peers using the Internet to get their message across, and to use such events to reach out to their readers. It also gave me a good excuse to dust off my suit!

I would like to thank the Hansard Society, the Lord Speaker and the other honourable lords and ladies for a fascinating (and filling) evening.

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