Around the web: Reclaim web space

Phil Hamilton continues his journey around the websites of the Labourite left with a visit to Labour Left Briefing

Our journey though the Labour left this week takes us to the website of Labour Left Briefing, which (alongside Tribune) is a key forum for socialists remaining in the Labour Party.

I last visited the website a couple of years ago and remembered a relatively well designed and competent home page. Since its revamp and switch to a new server in the meantime, I am sorry to say that the result does not compare favourably with the previous site. As with Tribune (see Weekly Worker July 17), the aesthetic appears rough around the edges, but at the end of the day it is content that counts.

The screen is divided in two. A navigation bar runs along the top, beneath which the LLB legend dominates the page, followed by three drop-down menus that provide the main navigation pathways around the site. In contrast, the bottom half comes across as unnecessary. A photo of militant firefighters commands this section under the slogans, “Stop the war on public services” and “Now take on Blair!” This is offset by a scrolling list of events - or rather event. At the time of writing the July 19 demonstration outside USAF Fairford remains the only action advertised. There is one original feature though. As you scroll up and down the screen, the navigation bar follows you around, demanding that you click on one of its four links. I duly obliged. ‘Stop the war’, ‘May Day’, ‘News’ and ‘Firefighters dispute’ dropped down more menus, linking articles, reports, diaries and photo collections from a variety of websites. Taken together, a half-hour exploration of these links provides a snap introduction to Labour left politics.

Turning to the ‘Current issue’ navigation menu, the content is self-explanatory, if something of a mixed bag. An editorial is there in full, but is unsigned and undated. Only one other article makes the transition from print to internet intact - George Galloway’s special feature on the Blairite “hijacking” of Labour. The rest are extracts, previews, summaries and very short pieces. Most sections end with subscription information, and the date of the update. Sadly where the latter is concerned, LLB was last uploaded on March 28! This sclerosis might have been passable during the long slumber of the Labour left, but certainly not now.

‘More about LLB’ seeks to avoid the vacuum that afflicts Tribune’s website, and just barely manages to. First of all, it heads off with another ‘Current issue’ (this time taking us to a bare contents page of April’s edition!) ‘Next issue’ gives the copy and distribution dates for the May edition, but gives useful submission/contribution requirements. ‘Where we stand’ is a short introductory preamble and is followed by the LLB AGM 2001 statement on September 11, and a more general piece on objectives. The latter is very general but nonetheless marks the journal out as a non-sectarian and democratic labour movement publication. ‘Subscribe’ seems a pretty redundant page, considering the details appear almost everywhere else. Adverts, submission and technical information follow. Finally, the ‘Back issues’ link turns out to be broken.

The ‘Action’ bar at least suggests a few sparks of life remain. ‘What’s on?’ begins with RAF Fairford and lists a handful of recently past and upcoming labour movement/anti-war activities. ‘Things you can do’ was something of a surprise. The title implies activism in the Labour left and/or the union movement. Instead a mixed bag of Cuba solidarity, anti-missionary, Free Tibet and Fair-trade banana links greeted my eyes. The ‘Grassroots Alliance’, ‘Network of Socialist Campaign Groups’ and ‘Labour Party conference’ pages are so old that they are almost moth-eaten. The GA page lists the candidates LLB is supporting for the 2002 NEC elections, and the conference page previews last September’s fringe meetings.

The next page ‘outtakes’ provide a little light relief from “the LLB cutting room floor”. ‘Readers’ quotes’ carries three short (positive) comments and is largely superfluous - it will remain so unless it takes on a comments function similar to that operating on the Tribune site. ‘Links’ holds a fair selection of campaigning, union and socialist links (inside and outside Labour). To round it off, there is an option to join the high-quality LLB­ discussion list and the magazine’s supporters club.

As a tool for promoting LLB and the Labour left generally, this website fails on both counts. The design is very basic, the content poor and the lack of updates does LLB no favours. Activists aiming to ‘reclaim the Labour Party’ would do well to consider reclaiming their own web space too.