Gordon MacMillan,  UK Politics

Draper and the collateral damage to the blogosphere

Not many tears will be shed over the departure of Derek Draper as editor of LabourList lastnight, but his exit following the Smeargate scandal leaves the Labour Party with a question that can not be easily answered.

The Today Programme this morning called the blogosphere “the Tories’ most potent weapon” and it is right, but in a identifying this it also underscored something about the nature of the blogosphere.

The best political blogs are not created by party apparatchiks, by political hacks like Derek Draper who has long had friends in high political places in the Labour Party, but by a collection of individuals outside of party structures and operations.

LabourList, Derek Draper’s effort was not always destined to fail, but it might very well do so. Death by association is not an uncommon affliction in political circles.

Look to the United States and Huffington Post on the liberal left or the Drudge Report on the right. Neither of these are organs or creations of the Democrat and Republican parties respectively.

Closer to home, look at Guido Fawkes, the conduit if not the architect of Derek Draper’s downfall. He is a blogger of the right, Tory supporting, but sits well outside the party.

Tim Montgomerie’s ConservativeHome blog, which Derek Draper looked to when creating LabourList, was not a party creation and has a critical eye when it comes to the Tory Party.

Elsewhere on the left blogs here at Harry’s Place, have Labour supporters among their ranks, but no more than that.

I am sure that is the reason these blogs have survived and grown.

Derek Draper was always too much the insider. He was not jut an insider, but the insider’s insider. A long time wheeler dealer who had been rubbing shoulders with Labour MPs and inner circles from his time as a student stalking NUS conferences.

With all of that access came much baggage and on both occasions it is this that has brought him down, both in this 2009 Smeargate scandal and in 1998 in the Lobbygate scandal where he was caught on tape boasting about how he could sell access to government ministers.

To be successful, scratch that, to be useful to a cause or party that you support it appears to me that it is obligatory to sit outside to be effective and have that necessary sense of perspective.

This does not mean you can not have links and associations with that party or cause. That’s all well and good, just don’t step into the inner circle.

With an election a year away this incident leaves Labour groping somewhat digitally in the dark lacking the “potent weapon” that the Tories have (I think stumbled upon). This is not a pretty situation to be in.