The consensus on the ongoing Smeargate debacle is that politics has lost out, its reputation further tarnished by this fresh evidence that politics is a dirty game. One voice that stands against this is Conservative MP Douglas Carswell who writes on his blog quite rightly that "Politics in Britain is fundamentally broken. The Internet is merely helping to expose the bogusness of what we currently have to put up with" - in other words this is really little that is new. However he makes the further assertion that: "The web will break the predominance of corporate party machines, the corporate media and corporatism - each of which helps currently sustain the SW1 class. Politics will have to become "open source" and more democratic"
I found this a really interesting argument, and one that would be a very positive development, but I worry if this really will be the case. My problem is that I doubt that currently the right people are influential in the blogosphere to hold SW1 to account. My take, disagree if you like and I am sure some will, is that Smeargate is a symptom of something that is endemic in modern politics, that campaigns are as likely to be fought on negative grounds and what often predominates is the personal attack. And perhaps Smeargate provides evidence that rather than being a feature of party machines it is actually spilling over into the blogosphere. Smeargate is the latest instalment of a battle between two egos. This was not a revelation exposed by a blogger wishing to scrutinise the actions of those in politics. It appears to be more the case that the underlying desire was that of Paul Staines to did dirt about Derek Draper, to undermine Labour's rather brash and artificial attempt to have a grassroots online presence and to score party political points.
The blogosphere seems to currently reflect the pattern of the mainstream media. What predominates is bias, with even the BBC being accused of favouring parties and ideologies (usually those in government). Bloggers have no regulation and so, rightly, we can say what we like, that is the idea after all. But if it is biased opinion following party political lines, whether this can encourage democracy in anyway is a very big question. What seems very rare is good, objective political blogging that is not out to score points or cheerlead for one party or another (not a call to read my blog by the way but an observation of what is available). The problem is that much also purports to be independent, both from parties and politically. Thus I share the despondency and am much more pessimistic than Douglas Carswell I'm afraid. Evidence suggests that petty squabbling and point scoring does not encourage engagement in politics, if this is to spill over into the blogosphere then it will keep it as a forum for the few and not the many. Just my humble opinion!