I don't think I'm alone in arguing that the blogosphere is not very good when it focuses on the court politics of Westminster, or on party-political bunfights. Invariably, its like being in a room full of tedious Rory Bremner impersonators.
But we are good when we campaign on, and try to develop an intelligent policy discussion. The achievements of Slugger O'Toole, for instance, speak for themselves. Slugger has created a serious and civil space for the discussion of policy in Northern Ireland. Anyone who can read without moving their lips in aar wee pravance is no longer discussing the next election solely in terms of the question "are there more Catholics than Protestants yet?"
If anywhere needs its democracy rescuing in this way, its Northern Ireland.
Now, while our democracy may not the the sick old man that we are often told it is, there are plenty of improvements that could be made. Take the question of Thames Gateway. The government are planning to build upwards of half-a-million new homes there over the next twenty years. These will not, by the way, be the palaces of the wealthy. Words like 'affordable' and 'key worker' are regularly used. The latter term may be replaced by 'sink' by 2025 unless we're careful.
If ever there was a case for consulting people, this is it. Hana has touched on this on her old blog and tells me she may return to it on her new one. But meanwhile, as the government chuck £Squillions at fruitless 'e-democracy' exercises and projects designed to get 'social entrepreneurs, 'community activists' and 'volunteers' to take on the role of the state, the lack of real belief in this kind of decentralisation is evident.
Because most people aren't in a position to comment on big policy issues - and certainly not in the terms that Government will ever discuss them in.
But they are very good at planning how their schools should be rebuilt, how their neighbourhoods should be designed and developed and so on. Cllr Brown's experience in Lewisham shows what can be acheived here:
We - the blogosphere - should be demanding that the planners should be obliged to develop a lively and constructive conversation with the millions of people that they are going to move in the new massive Thamesmead planned for the Thames Gateway. It is something that we - the blogosphere - would be good at fomenting.
This is what Civil Blogging and Citizen Journalism should really be about. And we should do it before its too late, because the consequences for millions of people could be terrible.
If anyone can get this kind of conversation going, it is the collective blogosphere.