The British cabinet minister who blogs

Looking for something on one of the British government websites, I came across this – the blog being written by David Miliband, Minister of Communities and Local Government.

Not only a government minister but also a member of the Cabinet, the committee at the center of the British political system and the supreme decision-making body in government.

In the about page, Miliband sets out his goals:

This blog is my attempt to help bridge the gap – the growing and potentially dangerous gap – between politicians and the public. It will show some of what I’m doing, what I’m thinking about, and what I’ve read, heard or seen for myself which has sparked interest or influenced my ideas. My focus will be on my ministerial priorities and I will be sticking to the ministerial rules about collective responsibility.

I will read and respond to people’s comments on my posts. So please use this site as a noticeboard for new thoughts.

[…] I don’t know of a similar experiment – so let’s see how it goes.

As far as I can tell, Miliband is the only British government minister at any level who is blogging. And he’s actually been doing it since the 2nd of January (internally – first public post on the 16th of March).

This is a great initiative in transparency. Hopefully the start of a trend.

Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.

  1. Simon Collister

    Morning Neville.

    Miliband isn’t just a cabinet minister… but in fact someone hotly tipped to be prime minister one-day! There’s even talk of him facing off Gordon brown in a couple of months/years(?).

    I must admit I’m torn: I want to like the idea but he’s a politician so my cycicism immediately comes into play!

    Having said that, Stuart bruce posted recently about PR and politics having a lot in common and I think Miliband’s efforts will be hugely beneficial for him… and who knows, perhaps even the Government.

  2. Terry Fallis

    Excellent initiative! We have a few blogging politicians in Canada. One of them, Monte Solberg, blogged regularly while in opposition but regretably ceased his blog when his party formed the government this past January and he was appointed to the Cabinet. I applaud the British minister. We need more transparency in government and I regret Solberg has stopped his blog. I think he could respect the strictures of Cabinet confidentiality and still give Canadians the closer look at the inner workings of government and politicians the voters deserve.

  3. Stuart Bruce

    At the moment it is just David who is blogging but others have looked at it and are considering it. One of the issues that needs to be solved is using government facilities for political publicity. Basically you can’t, but in order to properly respond to comments and reflect your personality and thoughts then you need to say political things.

    There is also the question of cabinet reshuffles. My money is on David getting a better job very soon but the blog is part of the ODPM web site and thus tied to the position. Will David start a new blog and will the new person keep his blog going? You’ll notice the address is ministerial_blog.

  4. Stuart Bruce

    Dave is being somewhat cynical and has fallen for what I KNOW is a deliberate Tory-orchestrated attack on the blog. They are attempting to compare the costs of David’s blog with that of flamboyant shadow minister (note not even shadow cabinet) Boris Johnson’s blog which is free. The cost of David’s blog was mainly down to the need to integrate it into the ODPM’s website. The government maintains millions of websites and the content management implications are complex (hence expensive). I suspect the cost of doing a fully integrated blog on any large corporate would be similar.

    It’s a shame that Boris has allowed himself to become embroiled in this as he has an absolutely fantastic blog – cracking, whizzo – as Boris might say!

  5. ProPr

    Cabinet Ministers Who Blog?…

    Neville Hobson tells us that David Miliband, Britain’s Minister of Communities and Local Government, has started to blog. His blog is tied into his Ministry’s website. So, he is clearly posting as the Minister, not as a Member of Parliamen…

  6. neville

    I’m not cynical about Miliband’s blog, Simon, nor his blogging efforts. I’d like to see more politicians at his level doing this.

    Here in The Netherlands, Gerritt Zalm, the deputy prime minister, has been blogging for years. Many other government ministers also blog. There’s the Canadian example Terry mentioned. Then you have EC commissioners like Margot Wallstrom whose posts regularly attract loads of comments (including all the EU skeptics who come out of the woodwork each time) many of which she does address in ongoing posts.

    Say what you will about a) the quality of any politican’s writings and b) the level of engagement they may or may not have with interested readers, the fact that political leaders are using this medium is, generally speaking, a good thing. Transparency – I’m all for it.

    Inevitable that someone would look at the cost, Dave and Stuart! And inevitable that someone else would say they’d do it for less. One comment in the Guy Fawkes post suggesting Miliband use Blogger. Good grief! I agree with you, Stuart, re integration/cost comparisons with a corporate blog.

    And that’s a very interesting point, Stuart, re would Miliband continue if he moved jobs. Time will tell of course, but I’d be very surprised if he didn’t. His thinking style as expressed in his posts indicate to me that this is a man who’s a natural and open communicator. I bet his efforts prove to be a stimulus for others in central government to do something themselves. I’d bet others are already, privately and internally, just as Miliband started out.

    As for Boris Johnson’s blog, it’s quite a wheeze even though he doesn’t write much of it himself.

    Podcasts are next, if the Blair/Cameron experiments in January are any indicator.

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