Saturday, March 31, 2007

Am I a Biased Hypocrite?

Several people have tried to goad me into commenting on Sir Philip Mawer's report which rapped David Cameron over the knuckles for using his office for party political fundraising. I suppose by even writing that sentence they have succeeded. But it does raise a wider question about the role of blogs like this. The fact that I didn't write a post on the subject seemed to some to question my 'independence'. To others it rendered me a hypocrite as I am only too keen to point our the errors of politicians outside my own Party. I'd like to make a couple of observations.

Firstly, I am not, and have never pretended to be, an 'independent' observer of news events. I have always made my political allegiances quite clear and anyone reads this blog reads it through the prism of me being an active Conservative supporter. That does not blind me to the failings of my party, but it does mean that I don't feel it necessary to always highlight them. There are plenty of other people on left of centre blogs that do that. Regular readers will know, however, that I do not hesitate to criticise on issues I feel strongly about (c.f Quentin Davies on the Incumbency allowance).

Secondly, I am not a news journalist and this is not a News Blog. It is primarily a vehicle for me to comment and spark a debate. I do not write about every development that takes place in politics, or every issue that comes up. I do not spend every waking hour writing this blog. I spent less than an hour a day on it, generally. I write about things which are of interest to me and on which I have something to say.

Thirdly, several people have said it was hypocritical of me to criticise Stephen Timms HERE while not criticising David Cameron. Of course, if you read the story you will see that I wasn't having a go at Stephen Timms at all - I was questioning why London for Business were not more upfront that they were a 'front organisation' for the Labour Party.

Readers may like to note this comment from Rob Fenwick, the editor of LibDem Voice HERE where he says...
I have to say (I also said this on Norfolk Blogger’s blog this
morning) I agree with Iain on this. We’re party political bloggers, not
impartial news agencies.

Finally, I did actually comment on the Cameron issue in a Comment thread. I said that I deplore anything which has the slightest hint of cash for access and I was glad that David Cameron had issued an immediate apology - something which several Labour MPs have failed to do in similar circumstances.

39 comments:

Anonymous said...

I agree you can be 'partly political' but it just makes you look rather silly if you slate someone on the Labour benches if they do something which is identical to what the Tories are doing.

By all means expose what you think they may be doing which is worse or different to the Tories, but if it is very similar you just run the risk of looking rather foolish, that is all.

Anonymous said...

You have to attack behaviour, not just a party. A classic example of this was [and I'm relying on a 2nd rate memory here] when you slated Brown for putting up Air Passenger Duty. I think you did blow a bit of a fuse when Cameron suggested the same.

Had you overlooked that in the way you concede you glossed over another 'little local difficulty' then you would just have had 'egg on your face'.

No one is expecting you to focus exclusively on the deficiencies of the Tories, but if you totally ignore them, is isn't hypocrisy you would be accused of, but stupidity.

And you certainly aren't stupid - in fact I'd go so far as to say that you are 'smarter than the average bear'...

Iain Dale said...

I think that ought to go on my blog header - smarter than the average bear... Thank you boo boo!

Anonymous said...

showing your age there, mr dale, showing your age..!

Anonymous said...

It's not the bias that is the issue, it is the hypocrisy

Laurence Boyce said...

Are you a biased hypocrite? I think not. I can’t easily explain why I’m drawn to this Blog. I’m not a Conservative and I don’t fancy you! I guess I just have a strong feeling that “unbiased” news and current affairs is a bit of a busted flush as per the Robin Aitken analysis. And I can hardly find the energy to lift up a newspaper these days. So I suppose it’s the combination of this Blog and 18 Doughty Street that makes this an interesting place to hang out for now.

Tom said...

Iain,
West Ham did rather well today I hear, you must be chuft, why don’t you celebrate with an Ovaltine and an early night in.

With regard to (wrt) your post, err what’s all that about? It is your blog, what you chose to post or not is entirely up to you, if people complain-ignore them! they are simply trying to dictate or coerce you into doing their agenda. Accusations of biased reporting or a hypocritical stance are entirely motivated by the same group that use racist and xenophobe slurs to stifle debate and advance their cause.

Don’t explain or apologies, tell em to naff off.

Iain Dale said...

Tom, good idea - are you all listening? Naff off! (cue sound of tumbleweed...)

Mike, I can think of a couple of possible candidates for exclusion!

Benedict White said...

Anonymous, "A classic example of this was [and I'm relying on a 2nd rate memory here] when you slated Brown for putting up Air Passenger Duty."

If memory serves the issue with the duty was not its increase but the fact that it applied to tickets already brought and that the legislation required to make it legal had not been laid before parliament as all tax raising measures must.

verity said...

How very interesting. Five comments. Four from Anonymous and one from Iain.

I don't even bother to read entries from the ubiquitous Anonymous any more. I just skip over them. Lively reading? I think not.

Anonymous said...

it is re-assuring to know that I can call a verity a vituperative vitriolic vixen with impunity as she will not read any anonymous posts !

Sounds like a 'win-win' situation, as she might say..

Ted said...

Had a scan of 10 labour blogs and do you know how much prominence they give to the Gordon Pension Grab story? That's it no mentions at all. That's not hypocrisy, I didn't expect them to. They all had a Cameron dinners story but nothing about Timms, the Smith Institute and so on.

The hypocrisy comes from the posters who saying it's not the bias - yes it is, you don't like the fact Iain Dale is a Conservative and his blog is considerably more widely read than anything Labour publishes.

Benedict White said...

Anonymous at 10.01, You might think that, I couldn't possibly comment!

Anonymous said...

All forms of media have some form of agenda. 'The Times' will not slate Chinese policy because Murdoch is worried about his satellite telly interests over there.

'The Mail' and 'The Express' usually have a code of d├ętente to avoid nasty smears about executives of competing papers deteriorating into a flame war.

'The Sun' always has a particular take on stories involving Ross Kemp...

'The Mirror' has a clear left-wing bias, but at least it is up-front about this.

Strangely 'The Guardian', which has the most ability to be independent as it is not owned by a proprietor, still has a few tricks up its sleeve. It used to give huge amounts of coverage to 'Big Brother' though I could never work out if this was related to Guardian Media Group having a stake in the 'Endemol Television' company which churns out this crap...

'Private Eye' does at least alert you to such 'gaps' - especially in its 'I-Sky' column about plugging across platforms.

I guess at least with Mr Dale, you know what you are getting - which isn't always the case with the Main Stream Media outlets which often claim to be balanced and impartial.

Benedict White said...

Ted, I have to say I do hope no one accuses my blog, ( A Conservative's blog) of being biased!

I just would not know what to say!

tom_r said...

What next - is someone going to start a campaign against the Guardian for not splashing anti-Labour news all over their front pages?

Anyone who reads a daily newspaper or watches BBC News is being misled or misinformed to some extent about particular issues, so why criticise blogging for precisely the same behaviour?

Guido 2.0 said...

"Am I a Biased Hypocrite?"

Manic would love to answer this question for you, but he feels that he must refrain until you deliver on some the many questions that you have left unanswered.

Some of those unanswered questions lurk in this thread. Some lurk elsewhere.

At the risk of going 'off-topic' (i.e. mentioning anything you would prefer to keep from your readers):

1. Is linking to your website link spamming?

2. Manic thanks you for comment timestamps that (finally) include time and date, but he feels he must remind you of the need for permalinks in threads that are often as long as your impossibly-long blogroll.

3. For months Manic has been asking for improved timestamps. Why introduce them now... and without any announcement?

4. Why introduce them at all? Only Manic has been asking for them. And you don't respect Manic as a blogger. You said so.

[PS - Newcomers should be aware that it would be a mistake to look purely for party-political bias; to do so would be to rule out Iain's own personal ambition and prejudice.]

Laurence Boyce said...

I’ve only just noticed the full timestamps – long overdue. Don’t you think the gap between paragraphs is also too big? I would do “br {line-height:0.8em}” or something. (Doctype has to be “transitional” or this won’t work in Firefox for some reason.)

dark avenger said...

Verity 9.57 pm (our time)

In the past few days, I've seen a few postings under your semi-anonymous name that may or may not be the real you.

Even if you chose not to share your profile, wouldn't it be a good idea to create a profile that would show your name in underlined blue?

Just a thought...

Iain Dale said...

I shall now reply to points made by Tim Ireland (sigh). It may or may not be the last time I do so. Ever.

1. I introduced full timestamps when I worked out how to do it in Blogger Settings.

2. I will happily introduce permalinks in comments if someone tells me how to do it. I have looked in Blogger Settings and it is not obvious to me how to do it.

3. I refer the dishonourable gentleman to the answer I gave above. And an announcement? Oh be serious. Do you really think my blog readers need an announcement about fucking timestamps? Get real.

4. You suggest I do something. I then do it. And still you are not satisfied. And you wonder why most of the blogosphere thinks you're nuts.

As for your PS, just be thankful that due to a West Ham win I am feeling in a benevolent mood. Mind you tomorrow that might change, so it might be deleted then.

Guido 2.0 said...

I shall now reply to points made by Tim Ireland (sigh). It may or may not be the last time I do so. Ever.

What... forever and ever?

1. From now on, when you are introduced in the MSM as a blogging expert, Manic expects you to correct your host(s). Manic would also like to note that - as illuminating as this response is, your #1 answer does not correspond to his #1 question. You are at risk of going off-topic.

2. Manic already told you how to do this via email, over a month ago. Manic would repeat it here, but it is not his job to act as your research assistant.

3. Manic will ignore the insult that your clearly stated moderation policy says requires deletion. You bring us all sorts of updates about changes such as moderation (*cough*) policy, so - by your own standards - you think that your readers deserve an announcement. This vital change places well-overdue (yet still evasive) responses such as this in their true context.

[Note - The individual comment permalink above will work at some stage in the future... one hopes.]

4. Something you repeatedly fail to understand, Iain; it is not necessarily what you do, but the way that you do it that is a major cause for concern. Again, Manic will ignore the insult that your clearly stated moderation policy says requires deletion... it is enough that your response was sufficiently illuminating (but he reserves the right to make a point of the timing of this well-overdue measure).

As for your response to Manic's PS, you have again confirmed that your moderation 'policy' is subject to your whim(s) at the time. Well done.

petty said...

Tim , seek help. Seriously.

normal norman said...

Oh FFS.

This is Iain's blog and we all attend and post at the mere whim of its owner.

If you don't like it please stay away.

tory boys never grow up said...

Yes

Anonymous said...

Tim - you are such a bore. Can you post your geeky rants elsewhere (perhaps up your ar*se

Anonymous said...

Iain, good post. Your are certainly not a biased hypocrite, and of course you should write what you want on your own blog. Be party political, but remember the difference between party political and party propaganda...

Anonymous said...

what are permalinks ? why are they important ? am i alone in thinking that if something isn't broke, why fix it ? do some people have too much time on their hands ?

Mark P said...

Iain - I think you've missed the thrust of the hypocrisy question - at least to my mind - which is that in some cases you are very keen for parties to pay back money and in other cases you are, err..., not.

You present the "pay back the money" argument as being a principled one, so it should then be applied across the board shouldn't it?

And that means if a party leader, even your own, has had their fundraising operation ruled out of order, then you should be saying "pay it back" or (agreeing that we're all political bloggers) saying nothing, rather than saying an apology is enough.

Iain Dale said...

Mark P, please point out when I have said that if found guilty of a criminal act a party shouldn't pay the money back?

I would certainly have preferred the Polly Peck money to be paid back at the time, even though no rules had actually been broken.

On the Michael Brown issue we'll see what the verdict is, but I do think there is a real danger for the LibDems that they will be forced to pay it back. I don't think anyone accepted it actually knowing it was dodgy money, but I do believe that the requisite checks were not carried out properly, but let's wait to see what the Electoral Commission says.

judith said...

AS I understand it, DC was judged to have transgressed against the 'spirit' of not raising funds in the House. He made a mistake - he did not commit a criminal act - and like a gentleman, he apologised.

To try and equate this with the Cash for Honours debacle, or Brown's involvement with the Smith Institute smacks of desperation.

Iain, it's your blog, do what you like with it, and if we don't like it, we won't visit anymore.

Mark P said...

Iain: you might think the Liberal Democrats didn't carry out the necessary checks, but the Electoral Commission has already decided the party did carry out the necessary checks which is why they have said in public they will not be reopening that question:

"It remains the Commission’s view that the Liberal Democrats acted in good faith at that time, and the Commission is not re-opening the question of whether the party or its officers failed to carry out sufficient checks into the permissibility of the donations."

In other words, they investigated the checking procress and they cleared it.

Iain Dale said...

Mark, I am afraid that's not quite true. While they did initially take that stance they have reopened the files but are waiting for the conclusion of a Police investigation before saying anything else. I know that because their press office told me when I called to ask why they hadn't issued their promise statement at the end of last year.

Guido 2.0 said...

Iain, you are hiding behind your sock-puppets again.

Iain Dale said...

Oh FFS change the record.

Guido 2.0 said...

Learn some new tricks.

Ian Appleby said...

Iain: Mark P, please point out when I have said that if found guilty of a criminal act a party shouldn't pay the money back?

You're not asking Mark P to provide research facilities, are you?

Jherad said...

You may claim to value debate Iain, but the hordes of anonymongs do little to to promote a conducive atmosphere. Whether you subscribe to Tim's views or not (and it is obvious you do not), whilst you are perfectly within your rights to run a politically biased blog - and heaven help us, the internet would be a boring place if every blog article was objective, the comments should remain a place free for unbiased discussion.

Anonymous mongrels, and a heavily weighted moderation policy (everything attacking lefty-of-the-week gets through, the rest to whim) devalue this blog. I used to enjoy the odd visit here as a source for once interesting articles/debate. Real debate has been driven out by the anonymous bullies.

Keir Hardie said...

One man's 'goad' is another man's polite request.

Still you've finally done it, albeit grudgingly. Not sure that Old Baldy's apology really makes a difference though.

Carl Eve said...

So, the whole "political blogging for adults" should, in the interest on un-biased non-hypocrisy should actually be "political blogging for... the Conservative Party and similar affiliates".

Then, perhaps, I'd be able to take you seriously.

And frankly, it's shameful you say you hail from Essex. You're giving my home county a bad name. Saying that, you do have a striking similarity to Brentwood MP Eric "Peniel Church" Pickles.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/mpdb/html/91.stm