I may be missing something, but as far as I can see, the government’s agreement to “review” the asylum cases of 91 interpreters who have worked with British armed forces in Iraq marks the first successful, or at least partially successful, British political campaign begun in the blogosphere. I first came across the campaign via a Daniel Davies post at Crooked Timber, but as far as I can see it was kicked off by one Dan Hardie, on July 22nd. Both Davies and Hardie made reference to a Channel 4 News report produced in April, but it wasn’t until the campaign spread across the blogs, and eventually into the press, that the government began to pay attention.
The interpreter asylum case was a perfect campaign for the blogosphere—it had clear, well-defined aims, and it cut across partisan pro-war/antiwar lines to provide a cause behind which almost everyone could unite. Meanwhile, the government has much to lose by standing firm—it will appear bureaucratically mean-spirited and pedantic, not to mention ungrateful—and little to lose by giving in—the 91 interpreters would be a drop in the asylum ocean, and the slippery slope argument doesn’t really hold, as it’s easy to argue that this is a special case. Assuming that the review does result in the interpreters being granted asylum, it’ll be interesting to see where the campaigning energies of British blogs turn to next.