He's not entirely wrong, though I'd point out that his predecessor resigned after insisting that the front page photos of British soldiers urinating one Iraqi prisoners were true - which they weren't - so much for competence and truth. There are loons here, and I've been known to get stories wrong too - only the other day Paul Uppal contacted a third-party to correct them about something I said on here (which is a bit weird - check the comments section). But bloggers do have a legitimate space in the public sphere, and in a way, it's connected to my pursuit of Uppal.
My local paper is the Express and Star, a paper so astonishingly bad that it's named after the two worst national newspapers on the planet. It gave racist MP Enoch Powell a long-running column, it briefly employed Boris Johnson, it repeatedly demonises ethnic minorities, and it has never knowingly said anything critical of a Conservative. Local newspapers are essential to democracy. As well as providing a platform for the unhinged, they're meant to hold power to account, but this is a function they've largely abandoned. Local journalism is expensive, so the Express and Star has replaced it with publishing PR releases. In any case, it's got no interest in analysing Uppal's behaviour, because it supports the Conservative Party above the needs of the community.
Which is where I fit in. As an amateur, I've got no editor telling me not to bother with the story. Nor do I have financial constraints, because I've got no costs, and my resources are a sarcastic vocabulary and the fruits of my brain, such as they are.
There are downsides to this position of course: I don't have the time to really delve into Uppal's behaviour, nor do I have the skills or resources to track down documentation, interview people and generally get to the heart of matters. This means that I may be inaccurate at times. I also have a lower legal standard, which is what the Mirror editor is getting at: there's no PCC to tick me off (not that it's any good), but then again, I'm economically defenceless if Uppal decides to sue me. All I have to rely on is that it wouldn't look very good for an MP to sue a constituent, particularly as he never deigns to clarify matters here.
For the record, these are his 2010-2011 expenses in summary - I can't find any reference to website hosting, despite WHOIS listing Pinehurst Securities as the registered owner of his site:
DIRECT PARLIAMENTARY EXPENSES
Travel and Subsistence
Total: £80,673.09Am I a cowboy? Certainly the blogosphere is a kind of Wild West, which is why corporations and governments are getting twitchy: they don't like criticism. I'd love to leave scrutiny of Uppal to the professionals, but they don't want to do it. Until they do, you're stuck with me.