This is the fifth year of the Total Politics Blog Awards and more people than ever took part. Bloggers and blog readers were asked to rank their top ten or top five blogs and them email them to Total Politics. More than 120 blogs from across the political spectrum promoted the contest on their sites and people voted for a total of 903 different blogs, compared to 940 in 2009 and 540 in 2008.
There were 17 new entries in the top 50, compared to 18 last year, with the top 20 contains many familiar faces along with seven new entries. They are FT Westminster, Left Foot Forward, Next Left and Liberal Conspiracy from the left; and Iain Martin, James Delingpole and Norman Tebbit from the right.
Dropping out of the top 20 are Devil's Kitchen (now renamed Devil's Knife), Tory Bear, Archbishop Cranmer, Old Holborn, Douglas Carswell, Ben Brogan and Obnoxio the Clown - every single one of them on the right. The most spectacular fall has been experienced by the now defunct People's Republic of Mortimer, down from 75 to 300 - a real shame for its talented and funny writer Alix Mortimer. The biggest climber is Al Jahom's Final Word, which climbs 182 places to 108, just missing the top 100.
The highest new entry will not come as much surprise. It is Will Straw's Left Foot Forward, which goes straight in at number three, above both ConservativeHome and the Spectator Coffee House. This is a considerable achievement and is indicative of the strides made by left-of-centre bloggers as a whole in this year's list.
Left-of-centre blogs take up four of the top 10 places and seven of the top 20. Last year there was only one left-wing blog (Tom Harris) in the top 10 and four in the top 20. So does this indicate the inevitable ascendency of the left and the retreat of the right? It's possible, but if you judge a blog by quantity of readers I understand that even Left Foot Forward is still only getting about a third of the traffic levels of ConservativeHome.
LabourList continues to be the preeminent left-wing group blog now that LabourHome seems to have become almost an irrelevance. Tom Harris continues to entertain and inform in equal measure, while Hopi Sen is a consistently excellent writer who deploys humour to often devastating effect.
It is always said that it is more difficult to blog if the party you support is in government. That was always the excuse given for the weakness of the left in the blogosphere. People believed that once the Tories got into government, the boot would be on the other foot, but I'm not so sure. In my own case, and indeed I think the same can be said of ConservativeHome, I don't believe my style of blogging has changed at all since the advent of the coalition government. If I have critical things to say, I still say them.
The comparative decline of the right is not because existing right-wing blogs have been performing badly, it is because there has been no new blood. Norman Tebbit apart - and he has taken to blogging like an unemployed person takes to a bike - there are very few notable new right-of-centre blogs. Even those who showed great promise last year have now fallen by the wayside. My colleague Shane Greer seems to be spending more time on his hair than on writing his blog, True Blue Blood, Tory Politico, Donal Blaney and Nadine Dorries have all departed. Tory Bear seems to have become distracted by other things, falling 18 places to number 29 in the chart.
But on the left, Political Scrapbook has pretensions to becoming the Labour Guido Fawkes, although the precedents for that aren't great. Remember Derek Draper? The New Statesman triumvirate of Mehdi Hasan, James Macintyre and the group blog, The Staggers, are doing very well after a comparatively short time in the blogosphere, while John Rentoul has also become a must read if you want to test the Blairite water.
And what of the Lib Dems? Plus ça change really. Mark Pack doubles as co-editor of Lib Dem Voice and the author of his own eponymous blog and is their highest new entry in the chart at 56, but there is one real sadness, and that is that Mark Thompson of the Mark Reckons blog has decided to give up blogging completely. He had risen to the dizzy heights of 34, and is the second highest Lib Dem blog and will be a real loss to the political blogosphere. He had also established himself as a valuable commentator on the radio.
Newspapers, radio and TV are all now using bloggers as regular commentators on political affairs. The breakthrough was really brought home to me on the evening of David Laws' resignation. Who did BBC News have as their studio guests for 90 minutes? Mark Pack from Lib Dem Voice and myself. This seemed completely natural to them. There was a time when they would have instantly called on a newspaper political editor. They still do of course, but they now regard bloggers as suitable equivalents.
Bloggers have left the subs bench and are now playing on the main pitch. You can probably name or recognise just as many bloggers who now perform on TV and radio as newspaper reporters or columnists. Go through the list of the top 20 and virtually all the bloggers listed now appear regularly. One of them has even got his own radio show on LBC 97.3...
This article was first published in Total Politics magazine.
The 2010-11 Blogging Guide is now available for purchase HERE.