Tuesday 28 September 2010

Social media, and Ed and the new politics

Why blog? Well, I've tried Facebook in the past and found it unsatisfactory, intrusive and too trivial. Lumping all the people in your life, of different interests and none, together in one place, and expecting them all to be interested in the same things, is plainly stupid and indeed potentially dangerous. Then there is the childish Facebook concept of "the friend" - including the way people want to be your "friend" when maybe they once had something slightly to do with you, and when you don't actually want to be in regular contact with them, but it seems rude to reject them. There are many people from my past, and I expect yours, for  whom it is true that, though we bear no animosity towards them, there is just no benefit in being in any way in contact with them again, for anyone. There is no reason to hear from them. Some people, of course, you would like to hear from, but I found it seems characteristic of Facebook that it leads to no action in the real world. It's all people who you knew once saying "Must get together some time" but there is no real strong urge there on anyone's part, and it doesn't happen, because the connections are typically too weak and things have moved on too much. Facebook tend to be all talk and trivia. For influencing action in the real world, interest forums and Yahoo! groups tend to be more effective, in my experience. Then there is the uncomfortable mixing in within the Facebook system of those who are just there to advertise whatever their thing is. No thanks.

I haven't actually tried Twitter, but it looks like a terrible idea to me. "One side of a disjointed phone conversation" someone described it to me as, and that's how it looks. It looks to be the ultimate in triviality and the degradation of proper English prose. The limitation on length would not suit how I think and write.

I have a blog in the Brent Cyclists website, but I think that is expected to be only about cycling, preferably in Brent, which is a pretty limited-interest area, so I thought I needed one to say whatever I wanted.

So what is there to say at the moment? There is the right-wing media all laying into Ed Miliband, calling him "Red Ed" and saying Labour has voted for a "generation in the wilderness". Parallels with the past, in particular with Michael Foot's period of Labour leadership, may be misleading, however. Everything could change with a new voting system. New systems for electing both the Commons and Lords are likely to be in place before the next General Election, and these are likely to cause a general realignment of British politics the like of which has not been seen, not just recently, but ever. Power is likely to start drifting from the three old, big parties to extremists on both the right and left, to other groups, such as Greens, and new parties of the centre. We have seen some of this in the Scottish and London Assemblies already, which are elected by PR. It will become fundamentally, institutionally, harder for the media to polarise, simplify and dumb-down British politics in the future. I have some time for Ed Miliband (as the only candidate for Labour leadership I have encountered personally). He was a progressive and appropriate Environment Secretary. I see it as eminently possible that, in five years time, in a wholly transformed political system and landscape, he could put together a Labour-led coalition of left-of-centre and liberal parties in the Commons with a majority to govern. This is because the British people always vote predominantly for left-of-centre parties. The Conservatives, of course, know this, which is why they have always tried to stop constitutional reform. If Nick Clegg's plan works, it is they who will have to change most to have a chance of power after 2015.