It's a memory I treasure to this day. His face reddened with rage, Derek Draper confronted me close up & roared, "You don't believe in democracy!"
It was in the bar of a hotel during a North West Regional Labour Party conference a little over 20 years back. We were all "tired & emotional", our differences lubricated by the contents of the hotel bar. My mistake, if mistake it was, was to shove a copy of the Militant in his direction as I made a point about accountability & adherence to conference decisions.
The rest is, of course, history. Militant left the Labour Party & Derek played a significant role in the creation of New Labour during the Kinnock years.
Well now he's back, in a manner of speaking. Derek is spearheading the launch of LabourList (http://www.labourlist.org/ ), a site which has been touted (perhaps by Derek, perhaps not) as a UK version of the Huffington Post (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ ). Just take a moment to check out both sites by way of a compare & contrast exercise.....yep, me, too.
Draper trumpeted the arrival of the site on the Guardian's Comment is Free site yesterday (http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/feb/11/labour-media ) & spoke of the web with all the zeal of a new convert:
"Although far from a techie, I had long been aware of the power and reach of the internet after an incident that occurred while I was retraining as a psychotherapist in California a few years ago. It was a sunny morning, as they all seemed to be in California, and my new best friend approached me in class. 'You know,' she said, 'you need to be careful. Last night I was really bored so I Googled you -- and there is another Derek Draper in England who is a complete jerk!' I couldn't bring myself to tell her that it was me for about six months."
Well, Derek, you have related that anecdote at your own expense, but you know how things are on the web, it'll be quoted ad infinitum from this point onwards.
However, I digress. Back to LabourList, of which he writes:
"And in the spirit of what we are setting out to achieve -- providing a platform for genuine debate on progressive issues -- our contributors have come from across the broad spectrum of the Labour movement."
Really, Derek? I've checked the list of contributors & it's about as varied as New Labour itself (one of them is employment minister Tony McNulty, who pathetically flanneled his way through a Newsnight discussion on the latest jobless figures last night).
There's also some unintentional hilarity ("as Peter Mandelson pointed out in his first LabourList post, the key to modern politics is not to command and control, but to embrace and engage").
The response to Draper's post among the CiF posters has been deliciously carnivorous, a veritable feeding frenzy, in fact.
Sunny Hundal also takes a dim view of LabourList's much-vaunted, self-proclaimed mission on the Liberal Conspiracy site (http://www.liberalconspiracy.org/2009/02/11/thought-on-new-labours-blogging-operations/#more-2459 ):
"Let's start with LabourList. Derek Draper's past indiscretions aside, my main problem here is that all the top names seem to see it as a medium to publish bland rubbish that sounds similar to a press release. It's boring and lame, and will end up like the far more abysmal Tory effort: The Blue Blog. Hell, that's so bad even Iain Dale doesn't plug it anymore."
Where the Huffington Post is diverse, innovative & irreverent, LabourList is stodgy, Pravdaesque & poorly designed. Unimpressive, Derek, very unimpressive.