I have been impressed with the Labour Party group blog
Red Alert, which opened for business earlier this year.
Under the guidance, it seems, mainly of Trevor Mallard
and Clare Curran, it has become a way for Labour MPs
to talk to people on the record but without the relative
formality of a media release or a speech. The tone of
most of the blogs is direct, chatty, idiomatic; foibles and
faults are freely admitted to, by Mallard anyway: he
seems to have found a fresh lease of life in this mode of'
communication, nattering on about everything from
serious policy issues to his personal fitness. The general
effect is to humanize the politicians, make them seem
more like you and me, and from Labour's point of view
that can't be bad. It's a great outlet, too, for new MPs
wanting to make their mark: Curran and Grant
Robertson, in particular, have seized their chances in
that regard. Party heavyweights tend not to contribute
or only occasionally, but at least half the caucus seems
to have weighed in at some time or other, so that sooner
or later virtually every major issue gets commented on,
The site's shortcomings have been cruelly exposed in
recent days, however: not one comment has been
published about Phil Goff's infamous 'nationhood'
speech. Into those murky waters no Labour MP dares
dip even a toe, not on the party's own blogsite anyway.
Just when it would be great to see some healthy debate
about Goff's disinterment of the foreshore and seabed
hatchet, or should that be taiaha, a forbidding silence has
descended on Red Alert.
I'm being disingenuous, I know: a political party can't
afford to look disunited, and it's clear that, after a few
mumurings of unease about the Goff speech, notably
from party president Andrew Little, the wagons have
been drawn in a tight circle again. But it remains ironic
to hear Robertson say, as he has just now on Checkpoint,
that the speech raised 'important topics' that should be
debated, yet find none of that debate on Red Alert.
Which may, on this evidence, turn out to be not red
enough and not all that alert either.