Monday, 13 April 2009

Winners and losers from McBridegate

As the McBride row rumbles on this morning, leading all the national dailies and the BBC's radio news, the big hitters are all throwing in their tuppence worth. Alastair Campbell says he wouldn't have been as inept (his smears had the sting of a poison viper; releasing David Kelly's name to the press with a description of him as a 'Walter Mitty character' led to a death). William Hague demanding Gordon Brown's personal apology, knowing absolutely that it will not be forthcoming. But when the fallout settles, who will have won and who will have lost?

WINNERS

Paul Staines, and the Guido blog. Not only increased traffic and increased influence, but even more leaks will now be directed towards Paul's blog. He has proven he can protect his sources and handle leaks effectively. More scalps to come.

Iain Dale. Iain has cemented his position as the nation's number one commentator on the blogosphere in print and on the airwaves. If this was the US, he would now be running blogging masterclasses for politicians at $10k a pop.

George Osborne. The row is the best thing that could have happened to George in advance of his response to Darling's budget. He's not seen as a hard political hitter, and has kept his wife carefully out of the public eye. Picking on him was like hitting a boy with glasses. The suspenders and corset image also brings to mind Labour's Paul Boateng attired in such fashion in reality, rather than in McBride's twisted imagination - Boateng now being returned from being HM's Ambassador to South Africa to some rumoured electoral role. I'm sure those images will make a reappearance.

UK Blogosphere. Following so shortly after UK bloggers led the agenda by making Dan Hannan's youtube vid a worldwide hit, the blogosphere will be increasingly important in the run up to the general election. As TV and print media are losing more professional journalists the boundaries are being blurred as the MSM is increasingly taking the tip from the web as to the current news agenda.

LOSERS

Gordon Brown. Not for being behind the McBride affair - he wasn't - but for being web illiterate. Gordon doesn't get the web. He's stuck in information 'push' mode when the entire online nation is comfortable in 'pull' mode. This blog competes directly for traffic on equal terms with Gordon's 'official' push-blog, funded with shedloads of cash and the words of Labour's great and good, against one blokey in his study who has never spent a penny on this. When Labour ministers advocate teaching Twitter and Facebook at school it demonstrates how little they understand the way in which this Web 2.0 thing works - it's viral, not curricular.

Ad agencies, spin doctors and political consultants. If there is one thing more obvious than a professional spin campaign, it is a professional spin campaign pretending to be genuine grass-roots or 'yoof' or popular output. Web users are incredibly savvy, and can spot a real from a fake as competently as a Sotheby's assessor. Draper's sheer, utter, unmitigated incompetence in mastering the medium stands for a small army of professional spinners unable to manage a 'pull' information system.

The political class. No-one imagines the Tories are innocent as the driven snow when it comes to quiet smearing of their opponents. The whole world of the political class, the special advisors, the tame journos, their apologists and party HQ managers has been mired in association with this doomed attempt. The political class as a whole will suffer an even further loss of credibility in the eyes of the ordinary public.

And what of voters? What of 'democracy'? Has their lot been improved or worsened by this affair? Well, in the long term this greater permeability, this enhanced access and participation, will be of tremendous benefit to democracy. But it's a Pandora's Box. Beyond all the evils released, all the burdens, all the chaos, there lies right at the bottom of the box something that outweighs all the rest - hope.

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