Two new Labour blogging sites to report here in the North East. Firstly, Malcolm Clarke from Lanchester has just started up a blog which looks like it will provide some interesting reflections on both local and national politics. You can see his blog here.
Then my colleague Cllr. Simon Henig, Leader of Durham County Council, has also started up a blog - perhaps the only council leader in the country to do so?
It's a brave and welcome development - not least because Simon has been fairly scornful of the potential impact of the internet in politics, and blogging in particular. As a ward councillor in Chester-le-Street, he's told me in the past that he receives no complaints/comments from residents via email. Separately, the Echo's Pete Barron reported on Simon's aversion to blogging here.
I guess that as the new leader of a big rural council with diverse communities, Simpn has calculated (correctly in my opinion) that a blog will promote transparency, allowing residents to see what he has been doing on their behalf, but also provoke some debate too. It's a great way to communicate directly with the people he represents without the sometimes distorting filter of the press or the propaganda of other parties.
Since the blog started at the end of October, the blog has received several messages. Simon's also taken the trouble to reply to some of the queries (and received some appreciative feedback in response).
Simon has floated the ambition of all 126 Durham County Councillors blogging. And if only a fraction take up the idea, then that will represent a massive stride for online politics here in the North East.
My only reservation would be that Simon is using an "official" County site, rather than something under his own direct control via the likes of Blogger or WordPress. No doubt this has the benefit of handing over some of the site admin to officers, rather than fiddling with technical stuff as the rest of us do. It severely constrains what can be blogged about however, and renders impossible any debate between parties, which can be very enlightening for residents confronting new or unfamiliar issues.
Still, at a key time for the County, as the lingering districts disappear, it should be a valuable source of information for residents straight from the horses mouth. I wishSimon (and Malcolm) all the best.