This issue goes to the heart of all that democracy holds dear. How to engineer freedom systemically so it engenders a sense of corresponding responsibility.
The British left, I think, has to take heed from the American leftwing blogosphere. They didn’t set up their own smear sites and spend all their times ranting like the rightwingers (Michelle Malkin, Little Green Footballs, Townhall, Faux News etc) - because they knew that it would lead to an even more degradation of politics. Instead they organised, spent their time building websites and blogs that were news resources (Huff Po), did proper investigative journalism (TalkingPointsMemo), were meeting points for activists (Daily Kos), focused on electoral strategy (FiveThirtyEight, SwingStateProject), did rapid-response policy proposals (ThinkProgress) and published news video (Crooks and Liars).
If you’re pissed off by this whole episode - and everyone involved - then it’s obvious what the task ahead is. There’s no point complaining about it. If we want the left to succeed and not be killed off by the libertarians, conservatives or New Labour, then we have to do it ourselves. Otherwise the likes of Derek Draper and Guido Fawkes will end up dominating the conversations.
Fairness should play its part, clearly absent in the current scandals over MPs' expenses, but education - where this is not an awful Chinese water torture of political brainwashing - must also figure somewhere. And as a society, we must agree on what education we wish for, what social engineering we wish to carry out, if we would wish to create a sustainable society which outlasts successive political administrations.
Are we asking to change the essential functioning of human nature here or do we believe that humans, when left to their own devices, will tend to goodness rather than petty evil? I only know that when I talk to my political opponents at grassroots level, I find myself in the company of people I can easily communicate with and comprehend. It is only those who reach the stratosphere of media notoriety I cannot understand.
There is a lesson in all of this.
The lesson is that we need not a devolved government - because that implies we sit back and wait. Rather, we must grasp our opportunities and demand that such a government be given back to the people; and where this is not forthcoming, steal it back without shame or intellectual embarrassment.
Alex Hilton's suggestion that we legislate for proportional representation in order to make deselection of sitting MPs easier is a brilliant idea - and should be given more traction.
In the meantime, those of us who would wish to expand the reach of progressive publishing and distribution must seriously consider what we can add to the existing landscape instead of focussing on how we may most aggressively detract from our opponents.