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Gordo returns to website in crisis

This blog storm could be what finishes him

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The Prime Minister has returned from his holiday to find his £100,000 blog, which launched last week is taking a bit of a shoeing in the press. Downing Street has learned that running a high tech, interactive, multimedia Nu Meeja operation* isn't as easy as El Reg makes it look.

First, there's been a round of open sourcey blogosphere handbags over whether the site's developer New Media Maze used a Wordpress theme without attribution, which was required by the theme's author Anthony Baggett under the Creative Commons 3.0 licence. Baggett said the government owed him a credit on the site, after he saw traces of his "Networker" theme code in an altered CSS file.

The copyright spat drew a shuffle of feet from the Downing Street press office, while New Media Maze denied any wrongdoing, explaining that traces of Networker had indeed remained in a properly-attributed CSS directory, but the rest of the code was original. You can read the firm's lengthy take on the affair here, if you're into that sort of thing.

Things did get a bit testy between Baggett and New Media Maze for a while this week, with accusations of theft, libel and publicity whoring flying. Happily though, yesterday everyone apologised to each other, and there's even talk of lovely cups of tea being exchanged, which seems apposite for this particular storm.

A more tangible snafu has been identified in the new Downing Street site's failure to meet the government's own accessibility standards. Tests carried out for More 4 News said not a single page of the site was up to snuff for browser cross-compatability. The videos don't have subtitles and the layout is poorly designed for those with cognitive learning difficulties. The developers have ensured they've got a web2.0tastic beta get-out clause plastered next to the site's masthead however, so we imagine such kinks will be ironed out.

Next came Pratgate. News-starved political hacks trawling the Prime Minister's new site picked on some relic pages that described former Tony Blair spinner Benjamin Wegg-Prosser as a "prat". According to the page, Wegg-Prosser's crime within Downing Street was being the father of the e-petitions sub-site. When it began accepting submissions the e-petitions swiftly caused discomfort for the transport secretary by attracting more than two million signatures against road pricing.

The now-removed "prat" page prompted The Guardian's zeitgeist-surfing Comment Is Free to ask "Benjamin Wegg-Prosser: 'prat' or pioneer?". Perhaps a contest for the most signatures between Downing Street e-petitions stating "Benjamin Wegg-Prosser is a prat" and "Benjamin Wegg-Prosser is a pioneer" would be the best way to settle this great question of our age.

Finally in our rundown of Gordo's bloggy weekus horribilis the Tories couldn't resist an open goal over the allegedly humourous Number 10 communication team's response to the "Clarkson for Prime Minister" e-petition. A party spokesman was woken up from the traditional summer snooze to huff and puff that "while the British public is having to tighten its belts the government is spending taxpayers' money on a completely frivolous project".

The conclusion we draw from all this? It must be August. ®

* Yes, we know.

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