Opinion: Ming should face down blog critics

Nice as it was to chew the fat with our esteemed leader, with the other LibDem blog of the year shortlisters, in the Margaret Thatcher Near-death Experience Suite on Sunday, it was all a bit too cloistered for my liking.

All right, fair enough. Dear old Ming gave up 30 minutes of his time and was very friendly, charming and, when pressed a bit, animated. As Mark Webster, LibDem communications confirmed, Ming is best when he is under pressure.

So, let’s have him head-to-head with Laurence Boyce, Nich Starling and Linda Jack then. (With acknowledgements to James Graham, who has written this several times – I added Linda).

Those are three of his most vocal detractors in the (yuck!) blogosphere.

You see, I have this theory.

A vast amount of keypad bashing in the world is completely pointless. If only some people would actually just talk to each other, then endless millions of words written wouldn’t be necessary.

The LibDem blogosphere is a case in point, bless us. I am sure I am just as bad as anyone else. Many of one’s theories and rants are probably completely unnecessary. If only we were able to talk to the object of our ire we would probably have a completely different, no less interesting, view. In some cases, we would still fire off that rant, even having spoken to the object of our ire – in which case, fair enough.

But, really, it is sad, pathetic, not to pursue all possibilities to have engagement with the leader while ranting away at him.

So how to engage?…. Well, one way not to engage successfully is to hold an “interview” with four or five bloggers every 14 months (which is what has happened with Ming so far). To give Ming and Mark Webster their due, they have both cheerfully encouraged further engagement opportunities.

There are a few options. My own preference is for a completely open online Q&A to take place regularly – I would suggest bi-monthly. There are plenty of examples of on-line live chat software. The BBC have regular “live chats” with stars.

The attraction of this method is that everyone can offer questions and ask supplementaries. Getting Ming to do a “live chat” would be an excellent way of opening him up to everyone with an interest (although that would include Grant Shapps using one of his 1234 password accounts, I am afraid), If last Sunday was anything to go by, Ming would thrive in such a forum.

Another option would be a live phone conference call, although this doesn’t immediately leave an accessible transcript (unless someone writes it down – obviously).

Whatever method is used, it is clear that Ming and Mark want to expand and regularise Ming’s contact with the blogosphere. It is in the party’s best interest that this is followed up.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Laurence – Yes, I do remember that VI epithet attached to you – although I never called you that. I want to have your babies – remember?

    As for voting for Ming – I assume Ming voted for himself and I voted for him (Number three) but apart from that I have no idea.

  • Vanessa Pine 19th Sep '07 - 7:19pm

    Doesn’t it depend on what you think is the purpose of the leader of a political party? Is Ming’s time best spent explaining himself to the party who voted for him (he did have a clear majority afterall) or trying to represent our principles and ideas to the people we want to vote for us?
    I’m not saying I think that greater interactive engagement with party members is a waste of his time, clearly not, but that maybe good leaders have to see a bigger picture and not get caught up in internal factionalism. As you say Paul, you’re probably going to write your hypothetical rant anyway, so I wonder, would his attempts to connect with his detractors actually succeed in furthering debate about our direction and aims as a force for political good?

  • Geoffrey Payne 21st Sep '07 - 5:52pm

    In politics you have to take responsibility for when you are being misunderstood, at least when it applies to a significant number of people on your own side. The blogs give you that feedback that you would not otherwise get.

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