It’s easy to dismiss blogging. Bloggers are often waved away as self-important navel-gazers talking to themselves. They’re ignored by politicians, ripped off by the media, and sneered at by activists – because while they’re happy to sit and whinge, they don’t actually do anything. Until now.
In October, a meeting was held in parliament to pressure the government into making special asylum arrangements for Iraqis whose lives had been threatened for working with British forces. It was the result of a blogger-driven campaign.
Staying with the story
The principal speaker was Mark Brockway, a former warrant officer in the Territorial Royal Engineers, who had employed a number of interpreters during his tour in Iraq, and knew of many who had been murdered as ‘collaborators’. He got the story picked up by Channel 4 news in May, after which it was also picked up by bloggers. But while the mainstream media’s news agenda moves on, bloggers don’t have to.
Campaign organiser Dan Hardie first saw the story on the blog Blood and Treasure. ‘I read it on a Friday evening and really lost my temper,’ he says. He then drafted a letter to his MP urging intervention, and initially left it as a blog comment. Hardie and another blogger, Daniel Davies, then decided to begin a mass letter-writing campaign involving as many other bloggers as possible in what was later termed ‘open-source campaigning’.
As the idea got picked up by more people, the campaign ended up with over 40 participants writing to their MP, and encouraging their readers to do the same – and many MPs had letters from constituents who weren’t bloggers themselves, but had read Hardie’s draft letter on the web.
Uniting the political spectrum
The result was a campaign involving every part of the political spectrum – from both pro- and anti-war left to the libertarian right – and, interestingly, many supporters who had never been involved in any sort of activism before.
‘It’s easier to get people involved via blogs because of the essential nature of the English character,’ claims participating blogger JonnyB. ‘One can feel strongly about something but have an abject horror of standing in the street shouting simplistic slogans. A blog allows a person to articulate his or her thoughts while remaining a private, non-aligned individual.’
One suspects that politicians are also more likely to pay attention to a group of disparate individuals than a standing campaign group.
But while there was support from all three main parties, both at the meeting and for an early day motion for a full parliamentary debate on the subject, the government still needs convincing. ‘The key is getting the government to admit that there’s a big problem here that they need to sort out,’ says Brockway.
It’s been easier than expected, however, to get the political class in general on side. While Hardie expected to have to jump through hoops to get his MP, the Liberal Democrat Lynne Featherstone, to sponsor the meeting in parliament, he found he gained her support almost immediately. ‘It’s something that pulls on your heartstrings, and doesn’t need much analysis,’ she says. ‘And something that all of us, on all sides, can rally round.’
Clear moral case
That there is such a clear moral case for a change in policy may show the limits of this kind of campaigning. Just as it’s easier to get MPs on board, a non-partisan issue makes it easier to get a range of bloggers involved, who would normally disagree on a great deal of issues.
For example, Hardie had had a long-running, strongly worded disagreement with another participant, Justin McKeating, and yet the two buried the hatchet to collaborate on this campaign, with McKeating keeping a handy log of MPs’ replies to constituents’ letters. On less neutral issues, it may be harder to get as much involvement, and a large number of high-traffic blogs are necessary to spread the word. The ‘blogosphere’ sometimes appears to be a second layer of the establishment media, with a tendency to cliquishness thrown in.
Yet in cases such as this, having such a wide knowledge base is an obvious advantage, and Hardie was first put in touch with Brockway through another blogger via the Army Rumour Service website. ‘This kind of campaigning is the best kind,’ admits the Refugee Council’s Bob Diffee. ‘You get people who know what’s going on on the ground, which we don’t.’
The three prime movers of this campaign – Hardie, Davies and David Cole, with whom Hardie spent an evening phoning hundreds of MPs – plan to publish what they’ve learned once this campaign is over. Whether blogger-led campaigning takes off or not, it’s sure to be a must-read for all campaigners.
Grassroots posters giving an alternative take on the general election
Hundreds of people surrounded the fences this weekend. Hera Lorandos spoke to women who have suffered inside.
Laying out the case for Labour's leadership of a Progressive Alliance, Jeremy Gilbert argues that far from posing a threat to the Left, the Progressive Alliance offers a golden opportunity to end Tory rule and build a 21st century government committed to social justice
The Greens have stood down in Brighton Kemptown to clear the way for Labour, and the Lib Dems won’t stand in Brighton’s other seat, Green-held Pavilion. Davy Jones, who would have been the Green candidate in Kemptown, says this shows the way forward
The snap general election represents a unique opportunity to defeat this terrible government. We believe that visual artists have a crucial role to play!
Drax is the UK's biggest source of CO2 emissions – and we're paying for it, writes Almuth Ernsting
For the past 3 years, Barby Asante and members of London-based artists' collective, sorryyoufeeluncomfortable, have been responding directly to the vision of James Baldwin. Ahead of the nationwide release of a new film about the American activist and author, they reflect on the enduring relevance of Baldwin in Britain today.
Housing campaigners' gains in Bristol are spurring on a national movement to build a renters' union, writes Stuart Melvin
A new Espionage Act threatens whistleblowers and journalists, writes Sarah Kavanagh
We need an anti-austerity alliance, not a vaguely progressive alliance, argues Michael Calderbank
On the narcissism of small differences
In an interview with the TNI's Nick Buxton, social scientist and activist Susan George reflects on the French Presidential Elections.
Why Corbyn’s ‘unpopularity’ is exaggerated: Polls show he’s more popular than most other parties’ leaders – and on the up
Headlines about Jeremy Corbyn’s poor approval ratings in polls don’t tell the whole story, writes Alex Nunns
The media wants to demoralise Corbyn’s supporters – don’t let them succeed
Michael Calderbank looks at the results of yesterday's local elections
In light of Dunkirk: What have we learned from the (lack of) response in Calais?
Amy Corcoran and Sam Walton ask who helps refugees when it matters – and who stands on the sidelines
Osborne’s first day at work – activists to pulp Evening Standards for renewable energy
This isn’t just a stunt. A new worker’s cooperative is set to employ people on a real living wage in a recycling scheme that is heavily trolling George Osborne. Jenny Nelson writes
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 24 May
On May 24th, we’ll be holding the third of Red Pepper’s Race Section Open Editorial Meetings.
Our activism will be intersectional, or it will be bullshit…
Reflecting on a year in the environmental and anti-racist movements, Plane Stupid activist, Ali Tamlit, calls for a renewed focus on the dangers of power and privilege and the means to overcome them.
West Yorkshire calls for devolution of politics
When communities feel that power is exercised by a remote elite, anger and alienation will grow. But genuine regional democracy offers a positive alternative, argue the Same Skies Collective
How to resist the exploitation of digital gig workers
For the first time in history, we have a mass migration of labour without an actual migration of workers. Mark Graham and Alex Wood explore the consequences
The Digital Liberties cross-party campaign
Access to the internet should be considered as vital as access to power and water writes Sophia Drakopoulou
#AndABlackWomanAtThat – part III: a discussion of power and privilege
In the final article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr gives a few pointers on how to be a good ally
Event: Take Back Control Croydon
Ken Loach, Dawn Foster & Soweto Kinch to speak in Croydon at the first event of a UK-wide series organised by The World Transformed and local activists
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 19 April
On April 19th, we’ll be holding the second of Red Pepper’s Race Section Open Editorial Meetings.
Changing our attitude to Climate Change
Paul Allen of the Centre for Alternative Technology spells out what we need to do to break through the inaction over climate change
Introducing Trump’s Inner Circle
Donald Trump’s key allies are as alarming as the man himself
#AndABlackWomanAtThat – part II: a discussion of power and privilege
In the second article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the silencing of black women and the flaws in safe spaces
Joint statement on George Osborne’s appointment to the Evening Standard
'We have come together to denounce this brazen conflict of interest and to champion the growing need for independent, truthful and representative media'
Paul O’Connell and Michael Calderbank consider the conditions that led to the Brexit vote, and how the left in Britain should respond
On the right side of history: an interview with Mijente
Marienna Pope-Weidemann speaks to Reyna Wences, co-founder of Mijente, a radical Latinx and Chincanx organising network
Disrupting the City of London Corporation elections
The City of London Corporation is one of the most secretive and least understood institutions in the world, writes Luke Walter
#AndABlackWomanAtThat: a discussion of power and privilege
In the first article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the oppression of her early life and how we must fight it, even in our own movement
Corbyn understands the needs of our communities
Ian Hodson reflects on the Copeland by-election and explains why Corbyn has the full support of The Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 15 March
On 15 March, we’ll be holding the first of Red Pepper’s Race Section open editorial meetings.
Social Workers Without Borders
Jenny Nelson speaks to Lauren Wroe about a group combining activism and social work with refugees
Growing up married
Laura Nicholson interviews Dr Eylem Atakav about her new film, Growing Up Married, which tells the stories of Turkey’s child brides
The Migrant Connections Festival: solidarity needs meaningful relationships
On March 4 & 5 Bethnal Green will host a migrant-led festival fostering community and solidarity for people of all backgrounds, writes Sohail Jannesari
Reclaiming Holloway Homes
The government is closing old, inner-city jails. Rebecca Roberts looks at what happens next
Intensification of state violence in the Kurdish provinces of Turkey
Oppression increases in the run up to Turkey’s constitutional referendum, writes Mehmet Ugur from Academics for Peace
Pass the domestic violence bill
Emma Snaith reports on the significance of the new anti-domestic violence bill
Report from the second Citizen’s Assembly of Podemos
Sol Trumbo Vila says the mandate from the Podemos Assembly is to go forwards in unity and with humility