Which blogs do you love or hate?
I leave reading blogs to my special advisers! I’m told Luke Akehurst’s is good. Plus Hopi Sen. It’s a shame that LabourHome never really found its voice. There’s a definite gap in the market for a left-wing Iain Dale.
And yet a week later she makes a full blown speech on political disengagement, citing how those awful right wing blogs are contributing to it by being, well, just plain corrosive and negative. She seems to judge all 1,600 blogs by what she imagines Guido's blog to be like. Let's look at her actual words, because it's important to see what she actually said, rather than what some think she said. Her speech was not all about blogging, even though that section got all the headlines - which is interesting in itself, and an indication of who the media think is making the political weather.
And I would single out the rise of the commentariat as especially note-worthy. It is within living memory that journalists’ names started to appear in newspapers; before then, no name was attached to articles. And in recent years commentary has taken over from investigation or news reporting, to the point where commentators are viewed by some as every bit as important as elected politicians, with views as valid as Cabinet Ministers. And if you can wield influence and even power, without ever standing for office or being held to account by an electorate, it further undermines our democracy.
The commentariat operates without scrutiny or redress. They cannot be held to account for their views, even when they perform the most athletic and acrobatic of flip-flops in the space of a few weeks. I can understand when commentators disagree with each other; it’s when they disagree with themselves we should worry.
There will always be a role for political commentary, providing perspective, illumination and explanation. But editors need to do more to disentangle it from news reporting, and to allow elected politicians the same kind of space and prominent for comment as people who have never stood for office.
This brings me to the role of political bloggers. Perhaps because of the nature of the technology, there is a tendency for political blogs to have a ‘Samizdat’ style. The most popular blogs are right-wing, ranging from the considered Tory views of Iain Dale, to the vicious nihilism of Guido Fawkes. Perhaps this is simply anti-establishment. Blogs have only existed under a Labour Government. Perhaps if there was a Tory Government, all the leading blogs would be left-of-centre?
There are some informative and entertaining political blogs, including those written by elected councillors. But mostly, political blogs are written by people with a disdain for the political system and politicians, who see their function as unearthing scandals, conspiracies and perceived hypocrisy.
Unless and until political blogging ‘adds value’ to our political culture, by allowing new and disparate voices, ideas and legitimate protest and challenge, and until the mainstream media reports politics in a calmer, more responsible manner, it will continue to fuel a culture of cynicism and despair.
Well, we're with her on the Commentariat. If Jackie Ashley and Polly Toynbee read those words they probably winced in embarrassment.
Some have had a go at me for not being aggressive enough with Hazel Blears on PM yesterday. Well, I agree with her up to a point on the issue of positivity. I do think it is easier to blog against rather than for. And I think I also fall into the trap on occasion of doing this. However, to say all blogs are negative and fail to come up with positive ideas and conversation is fatuous. Quite how she would know when she admits she doesn't read blogs is at the very least rather odd. She seems to think all blogs are like Guido's. The fact of the matter is that bad news is news and good news is advertising. Newspapers operate under that maxim and are never happier than when they have a scandal to write about. Why should the new media be any different? Guido makes no secret of the fact that he has a mission to root out political wrongdoing. That is his niche. Mine is different. So is Alex Hilton's. So is Tim Montgomerie's.
It is very dangerous to indulge in gross generalisations, as Professor Jean Seaton found out on Woman's Hour this morning. She was trying to assert that women were in some way a superior species of blogger as they didn't concentrate on gossip and were more interested in issues. The truth of it is that some are, some aren't. Some men are, some men aren't. If you'd like to listen to the discussion I had with Professor Seaton and Jane Garvey click HERE. It's about 6 mins 30 secs in and lasts ten minutes.
I'm not sure I have anything else to say which others haven't said before me, but I do urge you to read Alix Mortimer's take on Hazel Blears's speech. It's a great rant! Apologies it has taken me so long to get around to writing this. The last two days have been very busy at work.