The Foreign Secretary who blogs


So the change has begun, following yesterday’s handover of power from Tony Blair to Gordon Brown, with the announcement this morning of the new Cabinet that Prime Minister Brown is forming.

A huge change, it seems, in personalities and styles compared to the types of people Tony Blair would have included. I’ll leave it to other, more politically-seasoned pundits to offer views and opinions (and there are plenty of opinions).

Some good conversations going on at BBC Political Editor Nick Robinson’s blog. Some of the comments to posts are very predictable but some interesting views nevertheless.

What I’m interested in is what will David Miliband do with his blog now that he is Foreign Secretary? Will he continue as the most senior British politician writing a blog, or will he give it up? Heaven forbid ghost blogging!

He did post a brief commentary a short while ago about his changing role, with this conclusion:

[…] Thank you for reading, commenting and arguing over the last 15 months. It may take some time for new service to be resumed, but please watch this space.

I hope he does continue. Since he started the blog in early 2006, he has demonstrated a clear understanding of social media and the impact it can have on communication in politics.

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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. Chris Marritt

    Yes – it will be interesting to see what happens here. The note across the top is careful not to promise anything, so I hope that’s not a sign of things (ie closure) to come.

    To be perfectly honest, part of me hopes the new Foreign Secretary does consider ghost blogging.

    It needs somebody of his profile, and who understands social media as he appears to, to show that bloggers can enlist help without delegating all responsibilty and therefore compromising transparency.

    What do you think Neville. So many people chipped in the last time this kerfuffle was resurrected that I can’t remember where you stand on this. (It depends?)

  2. neville

    There are a lot of opinions out there on ghost blogging, Chris. In the online PR community, opinion seems to be quite divided on whether it’s a Good Thing or not.

    I think it’s a bad thing. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone who is keen to write a blog as a means to genuinely engage with others.

    For me, the key word here is ‘genuinely.’

    Here’s a simple example. I read your blog (and your Twitter channe)l. I think I’ve gained a sense of who you are, so to speak, from reading what you have to say over the past months. Even though we’ve never met, I feel as though I know you.

    However, if your blog posts were written for you by someone else, well, it would be that person I’d get a sense of, not you. That’s not what I want from reading your blog.

    There’s nothing wrong with ghost blogging per se as long as it’s wholly clear that the content of a blog is written by someone other than the owner of that blog. Whether a ghost-written blog is an effective means of communication is another matter entirely.

    Where I think it becomes a serious issue of truth and honesty (lack of, rather) is where a blog is ghost written and that fact is not disclosed. That’s deceitful, in my view, and I would not trust anything about the person on whose behalf content is being written when the inevitable discovery is made.

    In the case of David Miliband’s blog, I really do hope that, if it does continue, it continues with him writing all content, not a ghost writer. But I think he clearly understands the value of the blog with him writing it and would not want to do it that way.

    I see the ‘About‘ text on his blog has been updated to include this:

    […] Further information will be available about the future of this blog in due course.

    Here’s hoping that it does continue with Miliband as the blogger. Maybe there might be additional writers there – now that would be very interesting – but he’d still be there as one of the bloggers.

    I guess we’ll find out soon enough.

  3. Chris Marritt

    Thanks Neville, and I think I agree with 99%, if not all, of what you say.

    My only gripe with the ghost blogging debate that has raged a couple of times is that very few people – Sallie Goetsch being one of them, I think – recognise that people can get help, without asking somebody else to write it for them.

    If Miliband phoned through his blog posts to somebody who transcribed them and posted them for him, then perhaps notified him when there was a conversation that he should be getting involved in, then I’ve no problem with that. That, as far as I see it, is still Miliband, but is ghost blogging also. If that needs a disclaimer saying that “My secretary typed this for me” then fine, but I’m not even sure that’s necessary.

    My worry is that the whole ‘Ghost Blogging Always Bad’ approach that a lot of people take will put some people off and instead of us getting a blog which is no more than transcribed by somebody else, we actually get a void and no blog at all. Or worse, people will see the cultural ‘rules’ as being too cumbersome and reject them, and the spirit of blogging, altogether and simply use blogs as a tool in any way they see fit – which may be written entirely in somebody else’s name without any disclosure or honesty, etc.

    Thanks for your response, by the way, and apologies for bringing this issue up yet again here.

  4. neville

    Chris, if Miliband phones in his blog posts, I don’t see that as ghost blogging at all. If someone else types out the content, it would still be Miliband’s words.

    Ghost blogging is where someone else creates the content on behalf of someone. Nothing inherently wrong with it, as I mentioned, as lon g as it’s disclosed but I think it’s bad communication.

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