One of the things that’s bugged me for a long time is how difficult it still is to get to the raw data that (hopefully) lies behind much of the decision making in politics*. For all the talk of the internet empowering ordinary people**, the data most of us have easy access to is usually processed, spun, misinterpreted and misunderstood by a whole array of wonks, hacks and wannabe wonk-hacks before we ever get sight of it.
If we do ever want to track back and find the report that was the source of a particular story, it’s not usually easy going. Big news organisations tend not to link directly back to source material (presumably because they’re worried about losing their valued role as interlocutor for the public good). Even if you can find the relevant report through dedicated googling, usually the table you’re looking for will be embedded in a 1000 page pdf document somewhere. It won’t leap out at you and encourage you to make informed decisions.
So while we may be in a uniquely privileged historical position in terms of empowering individuals to share opinions, we haven’t done nearly as good a job at sharing facts. The net result of this, I think, is a political blogosphere in the UK that emits far more heat than light, and one that I regularly want to give a collective slap to.
I’m of the view that the internet has enough opinions for now. If you’d like to hear my opinin about something, buy me a drink. I have loads to go around.
What I will instead be trying to do here is post factual resources that I think are useful for people interested in left of centre politics. Obviously this is a voluntary project, so posts will tend towards what I find interesting, what I come across in the course of an average day and what I have time to sift through. But hopefully, in a matter of ice-ages, I’ll build up a useful bank of stuff that might actually be vaguely useful.
And if this doesn’t work out and fact finding turns out to be too demanding or dull, well, there’s always Comment is Free!
* to be entirely fair, briefing notes from the House of Commons Library, which are parliamentary researchers’ best tool for appearing far more informed and savvy than we have any right to be, are now available for everyone, here: Research Briefings, UK Parliament. This is a Good development.
** ordinary people with a smartphone. And a twitter account. And who have basic literacy. And a decent internet connection. And friends.