In January 2008 the National Party-aligned Kiwiblog reported that The Standard blog was being hosted on server space paid for by the Labour Party.
Kiwiblog went on to argue that The Standard's expenses could well be considered party advertising under the rules set down by the Electoral Finance Act.
This post provoked nearly five hundred responses.
One of the first responses came from a regular Standard contributor. 'Tane' wrote:
We set The Standard up as an independent left-wing blog in August last year. As you probably remember by about November our traffic had got so large our server was crashing every day, sometimes for hours at a time. We put out a call and at the end of last year someone from Labour emailed us and offered us some temporary server space until we worked something out.
It’s not the ideal solution I admit, but as a temporary measure it sure beats having your site down for hours at a time during peak hours. We’ll probably have some new hosting sorted some time within the next month.
He also added:
'Blogs are exempt from needing authorisation under the EFA.'
'Tane' is Neal Jones. He is the Communications Advisor for the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union (EPMU)
Interestingly, The Standard was sharing server space with the websites for former Labour MP Tim Barnett, Young Labour and Rainbow Labour. As well Tony Milne, a well known Labour Party activist, also has his website on the same server paid for by the Labour Party.
The Standard moved its website offshore in July this year.
What stuck in the claw of The Standard's critics, admittedly many of them being National Party supporters, was that The Standard had presented itself as an 'independent left wing blog' when it clearly had close ties to the Labour Party and the trade union bureaucracy. Questions were also raised about who was paying for the blog's substantial traffic bandwith.
Political science lecturer Bryce Edwards got it right when he commented:
Since the cat seems to be out of the bag, I think that The Standard should just come clean about themselves and make an honest declaration on the blog. While I see nothing inherently wrong with a trade union putting resources into a political party that they support, some transparency is probably a good thing - especially since The Standard has been such a strong supporter of the Electoral Finance Act and its requirement for commercial blogs to make a declaration.
The Standard though has chosen not to declare its party and union affiliations. Instead it vaguely claims that its contributors '.. come from a variety of backgrounds and our political views don’t always match up but it’d be fair to say that all of us share a commitment to the values and principles that underpin the broad labour movement and we hope that perspective will come through strongly as you read the blog.'
As the blog's contributors all post anonymously, we have no way of knowing if they do actually 'come from a variety of backgrounds.'
Judging by the recent content of The Standard, I suspect that its claim of political diversity is well wide of the mark.
Rather than showing a commitment to the labour movement The Standard shows little more than a grindingly relentless commitment to the Labour Party and the Labour-supporting trade union hierarchy.
The blog is dominated by posts attacking John Key and his National-led government. Day after day we are 'treated' to a litany of complaints about the government.
The Standard has even sunk to the level of attacking Key for looking untidy and not shaving!
Of course the present government needs to be held to the account but the problem with The Standard is that rarely trains its guns on the Labour Party or the trade union hierarchy. You will have to search long and hard to find anything other than minor disagreements with Labour and union policy - and even these have largely vanished since Labour lost the election.
The Standard cannot claim to be 'independent' when it consistently avoids criticising Labour and the trade union top brass.
Labour suffered a massive electoral defeat yet, under Goff, is still intent to continue down the neoliberal road to nowhere.
One would have thought that The Standard would have begun a debate about economic policy but, no, it is intent on toeing the party line.
Having supported Labour's neoliberal policies while it was in government it is no position to attack National for its neoliberalism and, like the parliamentary party, can only nitpick. The Standard is like some petulant schoolboy at the back of the class.
Similarly the meek surrender of the trade union hierarchy to the neoliberal offensive is resolutely ignored by this so-called mouthpiece of the labour movement. The fact that thousands of workers are losing their jobs and the CTU and its affiliates have not launched any kind of industrial fightback appears to be of no consequence to the The Standard bloggers. This is simply unacceptable.
The Standard might think its doing right by its political masters but at a time when truly independent and critical journalism is urgently required, the blog is nowhere to be seen. The Standard may of not yet arrived at that point when it can be considered to be nothing more than Labour Party propaganda but it is moving rapidly in that dismal direction.