I've watched the deabte unfurl with interest started by Chatlotte Gore the other day about why she sees her blog as a hindrance to her being an effective Lib Dem PPC that could be elected to be an MP. I've no doubt that Nich Starling who at one point was being talked about as a potential candidate for the Norwich North by election as I myself, another approved candidate and blogger, read this with interest.
Charlotte says that her blog would cause an hindrance as her candidacy 'could be derailed very quickly by finding a few choice quotes'. Remember the story that some poor Tory staffer was charged with reading Nich's blog.
No admittedly a lot of our politicians and PPCs shy away from blogging after the misadventure that was our PPC's blog in the Hartlepool by election. One just should never publish anything that could be seen as a slur on the people who you hope are going to vote for you. But that shouldn't prevent you from putting your opinion on policy across. The fact is our party does allow our people to think for themselves and formulate, debate and then vote on policy is one of the things that does actually set us apart from the other two. In fact I dare anyone to find me a regular voting rep at conference who has voted for every piece of policy that our party has ever passed in their time with that crucial word 'VOTING' in large letters on the obverse of their badge.
Now those that know me would know that I sit almost on the opposite side of our party's Kirk from Charlotte on many issues but that doesn't mean that I don't think that her views can't be represented within the party, even at Parliamentary level. The thing is that on the core issues the things that make us Liberals and Democrats we see things in pretty much the same light. How we choose to implement and balance our economic and social responsibilities can at times differs but the fundamentals of freedom, fairness and openness are there.
Mr Quist has already posted an counter-point in which he states that the current FPTP electoral system and our state of democracy encouraged 'safe and homogeneous candidates' and that it 'isn't that other people don't have interesting opinions'. He has a point out of the thousands of people that vote in Linlithgow and Falkirk East only a few hundred actually heard that all five of the candidates disagreed to some extent with their party's position on something*. The fact that there are more public declarations and statements by me (approx 15o0 over the last 4 years) on a wider range of issues by me that the sitting MP is not in my opinion a hindrance it shows that I think about such things.
I don't expect everyone to agree with everything that I say and write that would be craziness and I'd probably have to start executing those that thought for themselves to keep the status quo. But I do expect people to see that I have an opinion and to know that they can approach me about a topic and expect and answer not to hide behind a wall of silence and inaction as from what I've been receiving correspondence about recently which shows that there is some discontent with the MP which stretches beyond expenses but to the effectiveness of the job he is doing.
My experience from campaigns is that sometimes someone who is prepared to say something that is broadly in line is better than someone that you worry about saying the wrong thing every time they open their mouth. Of course the latter often doesn't have an impact in the safe seats where any buffoon can wear a Labour or Tory rosette and often get in. Lib Dem candidates do tend to be thinkers for the simple reason that to get our message across we have to be smarter, have to be clearer in our message, have to find some way to impact. Sometimes we have the smartest and best suited candidate but the media doesn't like to portray that.
In the classic West Wing episode just before the debate for the second term the team decided to 'Let Bartlett be Bartlett'. The same applies to Charlotte or any other candidate that is worthy to put on the Lib Dem rosette, blogger or not, we have to let them be them. By doing so the true liberalism (whatever the individual means that that truism) of our message comes across in all that that means.
*At least at the first hustings at the second the Conservative was toeing the party line to the letter watch out East Lothian he's heading your way.