There is a striking irony in the fact that the launch of Derek Draper’s new Labour website has already been disrupted by the story leaking out on to blogs such as Iain Dale, Guido, Spectator and others.
The Draper operation is fascinating because it shows Labour trying to get to grips with the online media world – which tends to be harder to “steer” than much of the conventional political press. Back in 1996 it was not so hard for a team of Labour spin doctors - led by Alastair Campbell – to intimidate a handful of print and TV journalists. In broad terms the trick was to offer treats (access and information) to hacks who toed the line and a cold shoulder to those who refused.
That’s no longer so straightforward. Partly, of course, this is because goodwill towards Labour is no longer in abundance after more than a decade of government. But it also reflects the fact that there is now a kaleidoscope of online comment and opinion in the blogosphere. Keeping tabs on this ocean of content - with its hundreds of authors - would be no mean feat, let alone trying to control it. Plus, unfortunately for Labour, the existing leftwing blogs tend to be more dreary than their rightwing counterparts (another debate in itself).
Draper claims that his team is not engaged in rapid rebuttal and online PR, contrary to reports elsewhere. Instead, he says the main focus is the website, a forum for Labour thought and comment.
The announcement of the new site was organised to appear exclusively in tomorrow’s Observer and Mail on Sunday with other dailies (FT included) reporting it on Monday morning. And now it’s effectively everywhere. You could barely imagine a more vivid sign of the times.
Incidentally, here were my thoughts on the original initiative back in September. More to follow on Monday.