Blogging will change politics…


by Sunny
27th May, 2008 at 9:07 am    

A few weeks ago I had lunch with Colin Byrne, the highly perceptive head of Weber Shandwick, along with my friend Rakhee Vithlani. Both love blogging too. Anyway, we talked again about political blogging in light of this article in the Economist which mentioned Liberal Conspiracy. Colin’s also a leftie and asked why British lefty bloggers seemed so ineffectual on the blogosphere.

Are bloggers on the political left of the spectrum really that crap compared to those on the right? I don’t believe so, but I’ll come back to this question another time. I do want to point out how and what can be achieved if we put our minds to it.

What left-wing British bloggers lack in media profile, they make up with numbers and ferociousness. And I think the abortion bill controversy was a turning point for Liberal Conspiracy. Let me explain why.

1) Group work
Much of the work in exposing the real agenda of Nadine Dorries MP was done by Unity and Tim Ireland. All I did on Liberal Conspiracy was re-package it and re-emphasise it, with added support from feminist bloggers on LC and elsewhere. That message was amplified by Justin, BookDrunk and Septicisle and many others until many left-of-centre bloggers chipped in with their views. Even Libdem and right-wing libertarians were joined in an unholy alliance of Nadine Dorries Watch.

Mark Hanson watched all this on his blog:

Sunny has got a band of brothers together to have a go at maverick Tory MP, Nadine Dorries and her campaign to restrict abortion rights for women. All seems like classic blog-bitching, good fun but not quite political sea-change stuff.

But there’s more going on here.
Sunny and other people he’s been working with, including other bloggers like Tim Ireland, have been researching Dorries and who she’s linked to. David Cameron backs her campaign as do our afore mentioned Tory A-List bloggers, Iain Dale and Tim Montgomerie.
Again, lets observe how far this gets but I like it because….

a) It shows that lefties can use the blogosphere to organise and start to achieve something. There’s implications here in how Labour might re-connect to its core vote.

b)Sunny’s been cute at getting other ’stakeholders’ on board. Think tanks, campaign groups (such as the Fawcett Society), academics and old media (Guardian, New Statesman, Red Pepper).

It’s not changed the game yet, but it shows how leftie bloggers can have an impact rather than just relying on the media to make them useful.

The major right-wing bloggers can pretend that lefties don’t exist, especially at times when we expose things they find uncomfortable, but they still ran scared.

Online tools
The tool I created to write an email directly to MPs, on the Coalition for Choice website, also worked well and several people reported hearing back from their MPs through that.

Online campaigning requires the development and usage of more such tools and this is something other bloggers seriously need to give more thought to.

What sort of tools would be helpful for people to organise themselves? What would work? What would amplify their message? And how can we build those tools?

Ideally, we need something like Blue State Digital in this country.

Update: Lynee Featherstone MP responds on her blog:

I don’t agree with all the points Sunny makes (personally I think the liberal versus authoritarian political divide is hugely important and is a better way of looking at many issues than trying to shoehorn people into left or right), though his piece does neatly follow on from some of the issues I’ve written about before:

Liberal Democrat bloggers tend to be either fairly inward or local looking. There are many blogs that really talk all about what is happening in the party, along with a smaller number of – often excellent – blogs which are clearly aimed at a particular local audience (e.g. a councillor’s blog such as Mary Reid’s, which seems to be largely aimed at her constituents – understandably enough!).

What we seem to be missing are those combative, outward looking souls who spot a story and want to help spread or extend the message or the point or the attack, as opposed to inwardly looking expressing their own views on it. So you tend to get stories not spreading, and where they are commented on, they are only commented on by those who have reservations to express. (Full piece)

There’s a challenge there for other bloggers to rise to!

Interesting how she sees the divide as being between liberal and authoritarian….


              Post to del.icio.us


Filed in: Blog,Media,Moral police






20 Comments below   |  

Reactions: Twitter, blogs


  1. Letters From A Tory — on 27th May, 2008 at 10:36 am  

    The Left don’t have the quality and the quantity of bloggers to make an impact. This will change in time, presumably after an election defeat for Labour.

    http://lettersfromatory.wordpress.com

  2. dave bones — on 27th May, 2008 at 11:07 am  

    I didn’t know there were more bloggers right than left in the UK. I don’t follow UK blogging that much. Its pretty obvious that Political bloggers in the states are making much bigger waves. I don’t really think of abortion as a left/right argument. I am sure there are thousands of sleeping lefties who would love something worth voting for.

  3. MaidMarian — on 27th May, 2008 at 11:42 am  

    You are looking at this too hard – it’s much simpler than this suggests.

    The reason that the right seems better at this is that it is far easier to spew polemic that is ‘against’ rather than ‘for.’

    That is that it is easier to kick at government and tag any type of government action, regardless of party, as ‘leftist.’ In doing this the logical end-point of the argument comes that rightist/small-state thought is de facto correct as everything government (and the conflated left) does is irretrievably malign.

    For as long as what can broadly be termed ‘the political class’ is seen as the be all and end all of everything, this status quo will remain. Whilst government and hardly anyone else is the target of internet ire how can a leftist approach get any traction? Think of it this way. A junior clerk in Newcastle puts two CDs into the hands of a private sector courier which then loses them and bloggers blame the Prime Minister.

    Put simply – what was that last positive blog about government you read? Given the climate of debate is any of this a surprise?

    Part of this is the left being its own worst enemy and it walks into every right-wing trap too easily. By blaming ‘right-wing government’ it is effectively talking the code and language of ‘it’s the government’s fault.’ That is exactly the territory the right-wing writers want to fight on. In this sense Iraq became a gift to the right bloggers because every blog became about every government action being seen through the lens of Iraq.

    Had blogs been around at the time, Clem Attlee would have been an internet hate figure.

    Blogging has just descended into who can kick hardest and screech loudest. The right has established ‘government’ as an easy target. Anyone can bitch, but being positive is hard. Right-wing blogging is the politics of kicking – the left has just made it easy for them.

  4. Jess — on 27th May, 2008 at 11:51 am  

    Frankly, I don’t think this is an issue to do with bloggers, I think it’s an issue to do with the left in this country more generally. And particularly the makeup of the press.

    Left-wing bloggers actually have a reasonable profile – within the left wing press. But the trouble is that the press is not really particularly left-wing. We get inquiries all the time, but of course the Daily Mail isn’t exactly jumping with glee trying to get hold of our bloggers and write about what we’re doing.

    And where is the interest from the (mainstream) political parties of the left? We certainly don’t see much of that at all.

  5. Jennie — on 27th May, 2008 at 12:09 pm  

    The reason the left wing blogosphere SEEMS smaller is that it’s not. We don’t have a big focal point like Iain Dale because there are so damn many of us, moving in our own circles.

    I actually think the Casting the Net thing on LC provides a useful function in this regard – it introduces lots of us to stuff we would not otherwise read, and helps to foster something of a sense of community.

  6. Bishop Hill — on 27th May, 2008 at 12:45 pm  

    I agree with Maid Marian. It’s the being in opposition which gives lots of juicy material for blogging.

    If you follow the implications of it through though, it also means that the libertarians are always going to be at the forefront, because they will throw stones at all of the political parties.

  7. bananabrain — on 27th May, 2008 at 1:22 pm  

    maid marian’s post #3 could be rewritten, substituting “left” for “right” and vice-versa and still say exactly the same thing. it reminds me of all the i/p partisans arguing about whether the bbc is more biased in favour of the israelis or the palestinians. nobody’s ever going to be happy, are they?

    b’shalom

    bananabrain

  8. Tim Ireland — on 27th May, 2008 at 1:54 pm  

    Once again, Letters From A Tory shows complete ignorance of blogging history (or perhaps determination to rewrite it).

  9. MaidMarian — on 27th May, 2008 at 2:04 pm  

    bananabrain (7) –

    I disagree that you could simply substitute left and right as you suggest, but I take the point. What I was getting at is that ultimately blogging is about polemic and evermore that has become anti-government polemic. That has played into the hands of the right.

    Debate is not the same thing as polemic and polarised left and right screaming at each other is not debate.

    Bishop Hill (6) – Interesting thought, I admit I had not thought of that.

    Jess (4) – Yes – ‘big media’ still calls the tune.

  10. Leon — on 27th May, 2008 at 2:46 pm  

    Once again, Letters From A Tory shows complete ignorance of blogging history (or perhaps determination to rewrite it).

    Indeed, he’s well on track to becoming the new Praguetory…

  11. Sunny — on 27th May, 2008 at 4:24 pm  

    MaidMarian, this wasn’t an attempt to explain why left-wing blogging lags behind right-wingers… I thought I’d leave that for another day.

    This was about how the left can make an impact. But saying that I broadly agree with your points:

    The reason that the right seems better at this is that it is far easier to spew polemic that is ‘against’ rather than ‘for.’

    well, you can do both, but there’s little point in criticising an opposition that can’t do anything.

    Part of this is the left being its own worst enemy and it walks into every right-wing trap too easily. By blaming ‘right-wing government’ it is effectively talking the code and language of ‘it’s the government’s fault.’

    I agree completely.

    Agree with all of what you said Jess, particularly:
    And where is the interest from the (mainstream) political parties of the left? We certainly don’t see much of that at all.

    yup.

    Jennie, yes, also agreed.

  12. dave bones — on 27th May, 2008 at 4:56 pm  

    Part of this is the left being its own worst enemy

    Too right, and I’d put my own hand up as guilty. The frustrating thing is that its obvious that Politics is so bland and uninspired at the moment that I think almost any centre left vision could take hold very quickly. Maybe its a generational thing. I hope something is coming.

  13. cjcjc — on 27th May, 2008 at 5:38 pm  

    Left blogs are no less effective than right.
    But Labour blogs are much less effective than Tory blogs.

    Though I am still laughing at the supposed “leftiness” of the head of a PR firm whose clients include Exxon,the Chinese Olympics and Japanese whalers!

  14. Leon — on 27th May, 2008 at 6:26 pm  

    Left-wing bloggers actually have a reasonable profile – within the left wing press. But the trouble is that the press is not really particularly left-wing. We get inquiries all the time, but of course the Daily Mail isn’t exactly jumping with glee trying to get hold of our bloggers and write about what we’re doing.

    I think this is a key thing the rightwing blogger neglect to mention when they’re gloating about the influence of their blogs.

    Rarely will you see them admit that media wise that the left has its work cut out with a hostile media which is hugely dominated by the right.

  15. MaidMarian — on 27th May, 2008 at 7:38 pm  

    Dave Bones and Sunny – Many thanks for your thoughtful replies.

    I’d really like to believe that any centre-left vision could take off, god I would. I’ll commit the heresy and say it – I even think that quite a few aspects of New Labour were/are positive.

    The stark reality is though that Britain is a conservative country with a conservative press that calls the tune. In terms of how to make in impact, all we have seen from left blogs is a masterclass in how not to go about it.

    I hate having to set the bar so low and I hate the bland, uninspiring politics we see. I hate the thought that New Labour c.1998 is about as progressive as we are going to see in my lifetime.

    Perhaps the more interesting time will be in years to come when the bloggers get their fangs into a Conservative government. If New Labour suffered death from a thousand website cuts I struggle to see how the Conservatives are not vulnerable to the same fate.

    My point though is that this should not be the case, politicians should not have to face a drip-drip of polemic. Debate is not the same thing as polemic and screaming – it has just become conflated with those things.

    But to my mind there is no doubt that it is a climate that suits the right.

  16. Rumbold — on 27th May, 2008 at 8:19 pm  

    Jennie makes a rather good point:

    “The reason the left wing blogosphere SEEMS smaller is that it’s not. We don’t have a big focal point like Iain Dale because there are so damn many of us, moving in our own circles.”

    Alos, most libertarians are simply herded into the right-wing camp, and there are plenty of libertarians in the British blogosphere, so the strength of the ‘right’ is probably overestimated, as most libertarians are only right of centre because most of the lefties are at present so illiberal.

  17. Sunny — on 27th May, 2008 at 9:22 pm  

    And you think the Tories are less illiberal Rumbold? :)
    What happened to the Tory outcries when Boris banned booze on the tube?

  18. Rumbold — on 27th May, 2008 at 9:35 pm  

    Sunny- I wasn’t thinking so much about the Tories as about ‘the right’ generally. I will write more on the Tories illiberal policies soon enough.

  19. El Cid — on 27th May, 2008 at 11:00 pm  

    There’s implications here in how Labour might re-connect to its core vote.

    Hmmmm. This simply lacks credibility. Blogging has a growing role in politics but don’t get all bourgoise and delusional about it. There’s more to labour than just teachers, hippies, and do-gooders.

  20. cjcjc — on 28th May, 2008 at 8:21 am  

    If banning drinking on the tube is the worst the Tories do I will certainly be drinking their health!

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Pickled Politics © Copyright 2005 - 2010. All rights reserved. Terms and conditions.
With the help of PHP and Wordpress.