I was lucky enough to spend some time this afternoon with the ‘Valiant Official’ who looks after Cabinet minister David Miliband’s blog. It was an informal, off-the-record chat over a coffee, and I won’t be divulging any juicy secrets here. But I was struck by the extent to which Miliband himself is driving the project.
I’ve seen evidence that he is writing the blog himself, even when technology conspires against him; and I understand it was his own express wish to take the blog with him to Defra from ODPM.
So why is he doing it? OK, let’s face it, it clearly doesn’t do his public image any harm. But I’m told he’s a very strong public performer, and very keen on engaging with the people. As such, I guess the dialogue inherent in a blog (with comments enabled) is natural territory.
Inevitably, it exists in something of a grey area – between official and personal, Civil Service and party politics, definitive policy and nascent opinion. But perhaps this is actually a good thing, giving him a space free from the historic and procedural baggage of other, more traditional platforms.
I’m more persuaded than ever that blogs represent a very powerful publishing model. But today’s chat was a useful reality check. The channel is nothing without having someone willing and able to talk to (and with) us.
So yes, I’d like to see more blogging in government… but as a symptom of a more communicative and proactively accountable public sector. That’s the real culture change we need.