I've been out and about this weekend so have not yet commented on the arrival of Labour List, the new Derak Draper initiative to propel comment on Labour piolitics into the Internet in the way Conservative Home has done in the UK.
Firstly, I am thoroughly ashamed of myself for not thinking to put the word "list" after Labour in my little scripts that monitor the whois records for any new domains. Derek, well done, good choice, you kept it secret until it was ready. As a lesson learned from the IT failures of massive waste of money spent on Government websites that is a good thing.
On a more serious note though I think it will be interesting to see how it develops. I said before that the key problem that Draper and Labour in general will have with any initiative is that if they create a site that appears in anyway to be centrally controlled they will have problems in producing anything more than echo chamber.
The same goes for the manner in which comments from readers are managed. The word "troll" is often bandied around these day in the realm of political blogs with the word "Labour/Tory" in front of it in order to denote anyone commenting on a site who is clearly against the political angle the site wishes to take.
However, such a catch-all pejorative is probably not wise because, on both sides, there are people who are willing to have a discussion, say the other is wrong, and are not doing it in order to simply start a fight for fun. Labour List must be careful to (a) both allow comments that they might consider "trolls" and (b) not be seen to be denying anyone that disagrees with them the ability to speak.
Conservative Home does this very well, as well as having without a doubt a number of infiltrators in its comments section. Here I am thinking of the "I'm a lifelong Tory but..." type comments which are all too often picked up by mainstream media outlets. If Labour List is too succeed it is going to have to have the courage to allow that sort of thing through however much it might be concerned the comment is fake or potentially bad for PR.
The site has some heavy hitter Cabinet people who will be writing for it. I can see the value in this although I fear that everything that they submit will of course be sanitised through the party heirachy first. The real challenge will come for Derek when, as editor, he agrees and sanctions a piece that has the potential to damage the Government but upon which he feels it is his duty to publish.
This is actually where Conservative Home has always come into its own as a site that is associated to the Tory Party but is equally willing to be a thorn in the side of CCHQ. Take for example the Alan Duncan stuff this week where Tim Montgomerie did not care to post that anonymous briefing was taking place against Duncan from a source in CCHQ creating, not for the first time, a mini-storm of speculation and stories that politicos lapped up.
It's going to take some time to assess the impact of the site, but if I was Derek Draper I would be having a chat with Tim Montgomerie for some advice on what to do and what not to do in order to make it a success. If you take a look at Conservative Home it spends the vast majority of its time talking about the Tory Party, Tory policy, and Tory media hits. It does not and not set itself up as an attack blog in anyway.
Currently, and this is perfectly understandable in its early day, Labour List appears to have three main postings, one about top-up fees (policy) and two that are attack posts. One of those can be discounted I guess because it is about Boris and he is in a position of power, the other is about Tory, or right of centre reaction to the formation of the site.
Derek is going to have be careful that the political attacks on those non-Labour supporting elements don't just flow constantly from the site. Leave that to individual bloggers out there like Bob Piper, Alex Hilton, Sadie and others. Link to them, like Tim links to many of us on the right, but avoid making the site have a constant stream of its own pieces of vitriol.
Remember, that for the most part you are preaching to the converted who will be far more interested in discussing how and what Labour need to do to win a fourth term. As I say, Derek needs to talk to Tim Montgomerie and do lunch. Yes, they are poles apart politically, but right now he has a site that, because of his own influential position, can become something that works for Labour supporters on the scale that Conservative Home does for the Tories.
The question Derek Draper has to ask himself is "what do I want Labour List to become and how can I achieve that?" and to do that the best way is going to speak to your opposite number and find out exactly what he and the others at Conservative Home did in the early days that (a) established their position and (b) made them be accepted as a trustworthy site that whilst associated heavily with the party were stil able to maintain their independence from it.
Good luck. Have added a link.