Nick live and online!

Well – it went relatively well – the Nick Clegg /Reuters cyber-experiment. I was in LibDem HQ – which Helen Duffett (in charge of technology on the day) had renamed the ‘grass roots green room’ from whence we submitted questions along with the rest of the country. Yes – there were glitches – there always are when you do this stuff. But I always think it is a bit like hand-held camera work – makes it real.

I remember being on 18 Doughty Street the night that Iain Dale launched his brave attempt at a proper political TV station. It would be too strong to say that nothing went right – but not far off! It still developed into a very professional show in the end. Anyway – I digress.

Hundreds of questions poured in through Twitter, 12 second TV and various other routes. The real lesson from the show was that for this media – although it might feel like a normal TV interview in that the presenters present the questions and Nick answered – it is a medium that demands soundbites rather than discursive response. Given someone had to pick the key points in Nick’s answers – best to reduce the choice of piece to reproduce by ensuring snappy relevant responses.

And example would be someone who twittered in a question as to whether Nick thought we should change our name back to Liberals – or something like that. He gave a good answer based on consideration of where we are now and why that wouldn’t be appropriate. Personally I think he should have just said ‘no’!. Short answers are good on something like this. And even on the more complex issues the shorter the better.

That would be main lesson from next time – and we (in the activists room) thought also that it might add to the show if you had a panel of MPs blogging answers to the dozens of questions that didn’t get answered so that more people felt they had played a part and more questions got answered – leaving Nick to do the selected ones!

But a good effort – and I am sure we will and should do loads more of this type of broadcast.

Do you belong to a suspicious group? It’s hard not to…

I’ve blogged a few times about the absurd lengths to which the government’s “tough on crime” rhetoric takes it, but now Helen Duffett on Lib Dem Voice has done an excellent job rounding up some of the most recent stories:

So far-fetched have been recent grounds for arrest, or for flagging yourself up as a terrorist suspect, that people keep asking me if Lib Dem Voice is running a series of hoax posts. (We’ve had lingering near street ironworks, ordering vegetarian airline meals, handing in lost property, scaring ducks, putting your bin out on the wrong day, looking at things and – easily the most heinous, in my opinion – going equipped with balloons.)

I thought I was joking (albeit darkly) when I said on LibDig that people might one day be singled out for their taste in music, but even that now appears to have happened. Home Office Watch features the terrifying ordeal of a jazz musician arrested by anti-terror police who had taken his soundproofed studio, replete with wires, as a sign of bomb-making.

You can read Helen’s full piece here. The serious point of course is that there are all examples of how keen the state is to keep tabs on the innocent and suspecting on the flimsiest of grounds – rather than concentrating on going after the guilty and genuinely suspicious activity. Each time there is one of these silly stories – remember not just the innocent victims, but also that it’s police time and resources that could have been going on something more worthwhile.

My top ten political blogs

Iain Dale’s doing his annual best blog competition, so here are my top ten political blogs which I’m sending in.

First there are the regular ‘must reads’:

1. Liberal Democrat Voice
2. Iain Dale
3. Guido Fawkes (Love Iain and Guido, or hate them, or love and hate them both – they are a pretty much essential read, frequently breaking stories that are then ones we all pay attention to.)
4. Liberal Conspiracy (The content isn’t as much of a ‘must read’ for me as the previous three, but Liberal Conspiracy has the best discussion in the comments. It’s the place where pieces from myself generate the most interesting discussion compared with the other sites where my words sometimes appear.)

(And yes – no Labour equivalent there. The Labour ‘home’ style sites aren’t quite there yet – at least for an outside like myself.)

And for the other six:

5. Labour MP Tom Harris (Frequently disagree with him – but a great blogging style and manages to be interesting and thought provoking despite also being a pretty much always on message Labour minister. Not an easy combination to pull off!)

6. James Graham’s Quaequam (A previous Liberal Democrat Voice ‘Blog of the Year’ winner and one of the best pugnacious bloggers around – showing how you can be very robust in your arguments without simply lapsing into empty insults.)

7. The Times’s Red Box (I feel it’s a bit of a cheat to include a blog that is really a newspaper online, but this is an excellent example of this genre at work.)

8. Dave Hill (Really came to prominence for many people during the London elections this year – and continues to shed light on what is happening in London government.)

9. Helen Duffett (Helen’s worked in my office helping with casework. I’ll let you judge whether that means her excellent blogging is because of or despite this link!)

10. And of course, the best blogging pink dog in the world, Pink Dog (Where else would I find out about spoon crime?)

You can cast your own votes too by sending your top ten to Modesty forbids me to include my own blog in my top ten, but don’t let that put you off voting for me!

Campaigning with Helen Duffett

Big event of the day Sunday was – no not the footie – the Centenary of Hornsey Bowling Club. To celebrate one hundred years there was a tea and a match with the Francis Drake Bowling Club.

What a great institution this is. But as the members said – they need some new and younger blood. It is such a lovely sport – with the pure, manicured bowling green. Thank heavens I wore wedge shoes – as heels are a no no!

I only had to go on the green for the ‘spider’. This is where they place a spider on a white bowl – and then everyone stands around the edge of the green and rolls their wood to try and knock the spider off the white bowl. I didn’t get mine anywhere near – so thank goodness it’s the taking part that matters.

I talked to lots of the members who were there – and it is quite clear – that for many folk (particularly those who at this stage of their life find they are on their own) that this fulfils a really important social function. Sadly – no photos – as my batteries had run out.

Lynne Featherstone and Helen Duffett inspecting street signLater I went over to Ilford and Cranbook ward to help Lib Dem Helen Duffett campaign in a council by-election.

Given that this is virgin territory for Liberal Democrats – it was very positive on the doorstep.

And as you can see from the damaged street name sign – lots of work for to take up and run with!