Monday, May 25, 2009

A publishing policy change for Liberal Bureaucracy - you break it, you pay for it...


The events of the past week, and the response of a significant chunk of the Liberal Democrat blogosphere appear to have made my current publishing policy untenable. Accusations that I am merely 'a lackey of my wife', and suggestions that my comments somehow presage the opinions and plans of the Party President have demonstrated that, whilst we collectively talk a good game in terms of freedom, democracy and opposition to conformity, when push comes to shove, nothing beats a good mob scene. And as for the right to hold and espouse an opinion, that appears to depend on who you are.

There is clearly a price to be paid, and in this instance, it's a price I pay with a heavy heart but a sense of relief. So, until the time comes when a new Party President takes up his or her office, I will refrain from comment on the following:
  • anything to do with the activities of the President
  • anything to do with the internal workings of the Party
This means that, unfortunately, my offer to report for Liberal Democrat Voice on English Council and English Candidates Committee must be withdrawn (much to the relief of the latter body, I suspect). Sorry about that, Alix...

11 comments:

Jennie said...

* snuggle *

Probably wise, but depressing none the less.

Love you. And your missus. Don't let the barstuds grind you down.

Mark Valladares said...

Jennie,

Thanks for the kindness. It comes to a pretty pass when even your own side punish you for trying to be honest and transparent.

But, apparently, some of us have become so busy trying to be 'real politicians' that they've become cynical to the extent that they assume that everyone else is that cynical too. Not everyone is...

Richard H said...

:-(

Alix said...

Boo! Sorry to hear that. The world would be a much better place if there wasn't so much politics in politics.

Mark Valladares said...

Alix,

No, the world would be a better place without the arrogance and selfishness of those who believe that the world revolves around them. Politics remains, in my belief, an honourable pastime engaged in by those who wish to serve a civil society.

Discuss...

Oranjepan said...

Ooo, I see a pool of controversy, d'you mind if I dip my toe in?

Mark, you're clearly in a privileged position with unsurpassed access to the party president, possibly unjustified by your own official capacity, so there is a fine line to be trod. I'm all for transparency and accountability, but honesty is a slightly different word which takes on political connotations - do you want the whole truth, or just those bits which are relevant and digestible?

I think this problem could be resolved with a clear disclaimer and scrupulously dispassionate reporting, but obviously this would place a commensurate restriction on personal discussions at home to prevent any suggestion of influence. If you were happy to bear those restrictions, I'd say fair enough and welcome the insight you offer, but this isn't always possible. The usual way to get around this is to provide multiple perspectives, so perhaps an edited version of reports to the committee, rather than a more analytical commentary is appropriate and could be acceptable.

Mark Valladares said...

Oranjepan,

Back in the real world...

Check the blog. Disclaimer in place, self-denying ordnance well established. I already had a policy of discussing only items that were in the public domain.

But no, the concept that a husband and wife might not share every detail of their life with each other, or that they might understand the notion of privileged information? Far too unlikely...

I find the presumption that I had not already considered the ethics, morality and politics of my unique position somewhat insulting. But then, we Lib Dems would never be so hypocritical as to tell people how to live their lives, would we?

Oranjepan said...

Well, please let me apologise if you thought I was being presumptive.

Your diplomatic and measured style courses through your blog and I take it as given that you give a consistently high level of consideration to your posts - which is just one of the reasons why I like reading it. However I feel you should maybe have given yourself a bit more credit (like the party more generally perhaps...).

I actually thought it was necessary to try to be clear, so maybe rounding up what measures you had already previously taken would have obviated my agitation.

Your anger at the snub is perfectly understandable, but I was trying to add that I don't think the restriction placed on you was necessary, whether or not it was helpful. I'm suggesting that a bit of creativity in the structuring of reports would have mitigated against any perceived or real bias. The question about what honesty actually means is IMO the important issue at stake in this instance: so, is full disclosure the only defence, or is this about engagement as much as it is about information?

I'm intensely embarrassed if you feel I insulted you, as my intention was to be a touch provocative and elicit a response about what the purposes of such reporting are.

Mark Valladares said...

Oranjepan,

* calms down a little *

Long before my current position became a reality, I consulted fairly widely on what kind of approach might, or might not be appropriate. In the end, I compromised. A little freedom for me, a lot of restraint where there was potential for conflict.

Every day, in most blog entries, I have struggled to balance the contradictory demands for discretion and openness. Occasionally, I have failed in one direction or the other.

My mistake was to assume that I was dealing with an informed, liberal audience. It seems that, to some extent, I was wrong. The concept that two people might not be presumed to share the same mindset, that natural justice was essential and that due process was a given have taken a thorough kicking in the past fortnight from the Liberal Democrat blogosphere.
When principles really mattered, they were rather too easily discarded in the rush to judgement.

Your mistake was to poke a hornet's nest with a stick, and to look as though you were doing it for fun. The only reason that I have restrained myself from expressing genuine anger to date is because someone I care deeply for asked me to...

Mark Valladares said...

Oranjepan,

Oh yes, before I forget, apology accepted. No matter how angry I am, there is no excuse for ignoring common courtesy...

Oranjepan said...

I've slept on this problem and it still strikes me that the two sides are reconcilable.

We clearly agree that there is a need for widening the availability of reports from the committees - personally speaking I would love to be able to read more about their workings as they sometimes feel a bit distant and mysterious.

So how does the party get round refusing your generous and civic-minded offer to volunteer for the job (IMO you'd do it admirably and I have no doubt in your ability to rise above any partial motives, but that's not the real issue)? If we're talking about accountability and the perception of accountability (and I think we are) then it still remains incumbent on committee members to respond positively.

With the Rennard issue and similar I think there is a case that all the party's federal committees have a responsibility to be more communicative to the wider membership.

In my occasional capacity as a blogging evangelist I see no reason why the responsibility to publish some 'official' blog couldn't be delegated to a member of each committee (secretary perhaps?) as part of their duties in the role. It could easily be a 'closed' blog for invitees and members only and would be the ideal place to publish committee reports and decisions. Such a site(s) would be an invaluable resource to engage and educate a wider audience about the committees' functions as well as giving members a means to participate more fully (it sometimes feels more like navigating a labyrinth).

Is committee blogs worth running on as part of the ongoing campaign for party reform? It would seem to fit with Ros' mandate...