As signalled in a previous post, I’m having a bit of a re-think about Red Alert. In particular, how to build on its strengths and address some of the issues that have arisen in the last couple of years.
In the last term of parliament, Red Alert was a bit of an experiment in how NZ Labour politicians could communicate directly with the public and have some honest conversations about policy, issues of the day and expound our thoughts in general.
It was a bit ad hoc, which was largely a strength as the blog is pretty widely acknowledged as being real and honest. The voices on Red Alert are MPs. They aren’t paid staff. That should continue.
However, there’s always room for improvement and here’s a few preliminary thoughts from me. I welcome your constructive input.
I’ve been given a new portfolio called Open Government, perhaps a first for any major political party as a formal portfolio. I’ve been doing a bit of research and will write a piece in the next couple of weeks about the portfolio, its importance and what it can achieve. It’s unusual to have an opposition portfolio which doesn’t match up to a Government Ministry. It should be noted that the National Government is most unlikely to actively promote open government, despite Bill English doing some good work in pushing for more open data in the public sector. Red Alert will be a vehicle for demonstrating how a Labour Government would promote Open Government.
Red Alert is no longer an experiment. It’s now part of the fabric of political discourse in this country. It may have also changed things a bit. I’d like to see Red Alert and Labour’s strong presence generally in social media become more focussed. As I see it our purpose is two-fold.
First, to continue to engage in direct conversation with New Zealanders about our thoughts and ideas. Second, for the medium to be a tool to build campaigns.
I’d like to see us concentrate more on the second. It will require more effort to work collaboratively across the political spectrum with those we can work with. It requires building more skills. And tolerance of differences.
However, there are some challenges. The biggest, as I see it, is those who would deliberately use underhand and hostile tactics to undermine attempts to demonstrate open-ness and a different way of engaging with New Zealanders. Red Alert’s tolerance will not extend to them.
Honest debate and disagreement is one thing. It’s an important part of democracy. Personal attacks, abuse and pack behaviours designed to destroy new voices and new ideas and a different way of engaging are another.
Red Alert is a vehicle for Labour’s caucus to communicate directly with New Zealanders. We know and welcome the scrutiny and sometimes criticism from the mainstream media. We also welcome the engagement with bloggers and commentators in the new media environment provided by the internet.
I believe that there should be consistency with new media in the rules and protocols applied to mainstream media. Red Alert is just one of those new mediums. We are not journalists. Nor should we ever presume to be. But we have responsibilities in how we communicate. And we can show an example.
The voices on Red Alert are of elected politicians. People who believe that the only way to make change happen is to make it happen. I believe that that if politicians are seen to do things differently, then New Zealanders can begin to have more faith in us.
It’s worth considering that around a third of eligible New Zealanders didn’t vote in the last election. For any party. That’s something we should all be grappling with.