To get to the Grand Committee Room of the House of Commons, you walk through Westminster Hall, parts of which date back to 1097.
A considerably younger crowd milled around Westminster Hall before seven yesterday evening, waiting for the VoxPolitics discussion on weblogs and politics to start. According to blogging MP Tom Watson, most discussions in the Grand Committee Room — on weighty matters of state — get an audience of three men and a dog. Last night, well over 100 people crammed into the seats and standing room.
For the first time in the House, a Wi-Fi network had been organised for eager bloggers. Maybe it’s my lack of nous, but I found the signal to be too weak to do anything with. Others had more luck.
Truth to tell, the fact of the event was far more significant than anything actually said on the evening. An important discussion was started, and for Britain at least weblogs emerged from a slightly weird, fringe activity into a kind of political limelight.
I’ve already written extensively about Tom Watson, but he announced his plan to use 26 July as a 24-hour political brainstorming through weblogs. He is certain that it will produce more valuable ideas than the gathering of 300 of the great and good with Tony Blair, Bill Clinton and Gerhard Schroeder over the weekend. I suspect he’s right. (Incidentally, as discussion organiser James Crabtree pointed out, type labour MP into Google and Tom now comes out number one. He’s only the 68th Tom, however.)
Richard Allan, the other blogging MP, was also there. One important comment from him: “What I think is good is that weblogs will replace ordinary MP websites. On those, we’re all supermen and superwomen, with pictures of us saving the universe. On a weblog, you see a real person.”