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.
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 thereâ€™s more going on here.
Sunny and other people heâ€™s been working with, including other bloggers like Tim Ireland, have been researching Dorries and who sheâ€™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 becauseâ€¦.
a) It shows that lefties can use the blogosphere to organise and start to achieve something. Thereâ€™s implications here in how Labour might re-connect to its core vote.
b)Sunnyâ€™s been cute at getting other â€™stakeholdersâ€™ 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.
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 â€“ often excellent â€“ blogs which are clearly aimed at a particular local audience (e.g. a councillorâ€™s blog such as Mary Reidâ€™s, which seems to be largely aimed at her constituents â€“ 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….
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