Friday, June 16, 2006

Whither Labour blogs

My first (and probably last) mention in Tribune and it comes at the hands of a Tory. How shameful is that? A couple of weeks ago, Iain Dale asked for comments from his regular readers about the left/right split in the blogosphere and I sent a brief email, which I've expanded on a little.

I suspect that there are a lot of reasons for LD/Tory bloggers outnumbering leftwingers - although there is a sizeable leftist community and Tom Watson was the first MP to blog that I know of.

There may be an argument that Tory/LD supporters tend to be wealthier and have the time to blog and the technological knowhow to do it, but I'm as unconvinced by that as I am by the suggestion that we're too busy governing to bother with blogging.

I suspect that the real issue is a simple accident of history - that Labour is currently the party in power. Blogging has only really taken off over the past few years and I think it is natural for the polemicists and commentators who inhabit the blogosphere to want to oppose whoever is in power at the time. Opposition is always more fun than the hard graft of government, as you can let your ideals run away with you, whereas government is about practical solutions. I've always held the view that Labour members are bound to be disappointed by their government, as the essential idealism that powers us can never be fulfilled by the pragmatism that bedevils any administration. If we'd had the blogging revolution starting during the 1980s, I don't doubt that you would have seen a huge number of anti-Tory blogs. If you look at the US, I would posit that the situation is reversed, so that most bloggers are anti-Bush, although there is a substantial and developing community of conservative commentators over there as well.

Not only is the focus on you if you are in government, but you are also going to make mistakes and offend people - that's simply something that comes with the job. Those you offend will be only too glad to leak any of your problems to the media - just look at how the government has been affected by the problems of the Home Office in the past months. There's always criticism to be made against any government.

There's also the issue of age. The political leaders and thinkers currently running the country tend to come from the last generation to regard computer illiteracy as a badge of honour, so they aren't attuned to the growing importance of the internet. As the political wheel turns and the next generation of MPs comes to office, I'd expect them to be more comfortable with the power of the net and the blog for direct communication with voters without the media-imposed filter.
The only other thing I would say is that the medium is still young - there aren't that many top-line bloggers out there with any significant audience. Guido and Iain Dale are probably the two best-known and most-visited blog sites, with a fair chunk for RecessMonkey and the crossover journalists like Adam Boulton, who blog as an adjunct to their main media output. The rest of us just compete for the crumbs from the table and tend to be pathetically grateful for a mention from one of the topline operators.

Incidentally, should I be flattered or insulted by Iain's inclusion of my link under 'Media' rather than 'Labour Blogs' on his sidebar?


Simon said...

Mostly good points, but I don't think this is right:

If you look at the US, I would posit that the situation is reversed, so that most bloggers are anti-Bush, although there is a substantial and developing community of conservative commentators over there as well.

I'd say a majority of bloggers in the US were pro-Bush Republicans, though they've found success by taking a similarly oppositionist stance - not against the government, but against the mainstream US media (CNN, NYT, etc), whom they consider to have an outrageous 'liberal' bias.

On the other hand, is there really a particular LD/Tory bias to the party-affiliated UK blogs? Of the ones I read, I haven't especially noticed that. There's definitely a noticeable Tory bias on forums like Vote 2006, but I don't think that's necessarily a good reflection of the World of Blogs.

PoliticalHack said...

There is a significant left-wing blogging presence, but if you judge importance by readership, then the market leaders are the Tory blogs.

I'm interested in your comment though - I keep a weather eye on the bigger US blogs, but I don't claim great expertise in that particular field. I am well aware that the right-wing in the US has a particular bee in their bonnets over the 'liberal bias' in the media - although I'm not aware of any media outlet as blatantly far to the left as Fox is to the right.

Mike Ion said...

Can I apologise for not including you in my poll to find Labour's favourite blogger. I will update my blog roll in the next few days and make sure that you are mentioned.