Anna’s extremely interesting dissection of the intersections of politics and social media is very timely, as I’ve been meaning to write about the fact that a long time commenter and one time Guest Poster on Larvatus Prodeo, Tim Watts, is running for Labor preselection for Nicola Roxon’s old seat of Gellibrand. Readers may recall that Tim led an initiative in online mapping of racist incidents against Indian folk in Melbourne and blogged here about the issues raised in the furore over violence against Indian students. Those who’ve been around the blogosphere longer might recall Tim’s blogging when he was doing a Masters at LSE. More recently folks may have seen his work at The Chifley Research Centre blog, his personal book blog, his Modernising Labor blog and his contributions to parenting blog Tot: Hot or Not.
Tim’s worked as a lawyer, a senior advisor to John Brumby and Deputy Chief of Staff to Stephen Conroy. He’s currently managing a government affairs team at Telstra. He was intimately involved in the negotiations that led to Telstra’s agreement with the NBN.
There have been rumours that Senator David Feeney may nominate for Gellibrand. I’m not sure if that will transpire, though it possibly does indicate that Labor’s very pessimistic about its upper house chances in Victoria. Feeney is Parliamentary Secretary for Defence, and probably best known for his participation in the overthrow of Kevin Rudd. He was on Q&A last night, but I’m afraid watching that show for more than ten minutes is usually too much for me, so I’m not able to give you an overview of his performance.
So what’s interesting about Tim’s candidacy?
I think he’s the first prolific political blogger to run for preselection in any party. Perhaps Andrew Leigh is an exception, but I’d argue that Leigh’s blog was more of an offshoot of his academic specialisation in economics. Secondly, Tim’s contributions to public debate around Labor’s values, identity and future have been wide ranging and influential. For instance, his article in Labor Voice had a big impact in the debate last year about Labor’s positioning with respect to The Greens. He hasn’t been afraid to argue his case in public, and has demonstrated his commitment to a multicultural society and to rethinking Labor’s ends openly and transparently.
To my mind, it’s precisely that sort of transparency, contribution to intellectual and political debate, and willingness to engage that we need in politics, as opposed to identikit figures readied to recite talking points of the day. There’s an irony here – it might be that Tim could be assailed for having worked as a political staffer. But his record should demonstrate that it’s far too simplistic to argue that anyone who has worked in such roles is automatically ‘part of a narrow gene pool and part of the problem’ or whatever. There are also some really interesting questions about the degree to which the political system, and political parties, are able to digest the contribution of someone who’s not been backward in engaging in public debate. I’ll be watching with interest.
Disclosure: I’ve known Tim since 2009, and he’s a friend of mine, so obviously I wish him well.