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Peter Mandelson exerts party discipline in cyberspace

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The Labour Party has let loose a virtual Peter Mandelson at the same time as the real Mandelson has kicked off the party's new online talking shop.

The Daily Mail has warned its readers that the digiMandy will be stalking Second Life, campaigning against the Tories and dripping poison into the ears of virtual hacks writing for virtual middle England.

Or perhaps, they're simply confusing Second Life and Labourlist.org, the much-trailed site that is being captained by longtime Labour spinner-slash-psychotherapist-slash-media-darling Derek Draper.

Mandelson, in the flagship blog entry on the site, reassures readers that he is doing all he can to mitigate the effects of the economic downturn, with some help from two blokes called Gordon and Alistair. While that in itself might bring scant cheer to the country's legions of unemployed bankers and potters, he then goes all out to brighten our day by laying out his experience in the digital world.

Burnishing his party's effort to foster innovations in areas such as environmental technology, high-tech manufacturing and the creative industries, he says he is glad the Labour party itself is now moving to the forefront of new media and online campaigning.

“I am glad to be a part of that,” he purrs, “even if it is with my tongue in my virtual cheek.”

Tongue still in cheek, he points out that “I have blogged before... and I enjoyed it.”

He goes on to say, "Now, no-one has been more identified with message and campaigning discipline than myself, something that makes me rather proud, I have to say, because, during the 1980s, I saw the Labour party repeatedly let down its voters by failing to win the battle with the Tories and the media.

“This must, of course, never happen again... but when it comes to new media we have to recognise that the days of command and control are over. Instead we need to learn to embrace and engage. That is why I am writing this blog and will be at LabourList's launch blogger’s breakfast on the 12th February...So, in the spirit of openness and, dare I say it, comradeship, let the conversation continue!”

As for the rest of the site, it seems to be a work in progress, with plenty of 404 messages sprinkled around – a bit of a worry as the official launch was apparently supposed to be today, before a clash with Gordon Brown's jobs summit pushed the date out till next month.

And as Guido Fawkes points out, this close association between the blog and the government is going to be a problem, if the site really wants to be a forum for ideas. For its part, Labourlist lists Guido in its Z list of other sites, alongside conservativehome. ®

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