Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Political Parties & Their Relationship With Bloggers

Just because you are paranoid, it doesn't mean to say we're not out to get you...

THIS story on Labour Matters (and THIS one on New Direction) just about sums up why so many Labour supporting blogs are dismissed by manypeople as 'not worth the effort'. Apparently, I am being used by the Tories to "fake an election". If only I had the power to influence when an election was called! Believe me, I wouldn't hesitate to use it to get this lot out of office.

These Labour supporting blogs live in a paranoid world where they truly believe that the likes of Guido, Tim Montgomerie and me cannot make a move without a morning phone call from Andy Coulson at CCHQ giving us our daily marching orders. Even Polly Toynbee alleged that we were all in the pay of the Tory Party. I used to get mildly irritated by it. Now I find it deeply hilarious.

Anyone who reads our blogs can judge for themselves how independent we are. I don't hide the fact I am a Conservative supporter and if the Conservatives do something I agree with I will obviously applaud it. But equally, readers know that when I disagree I also say so (eg Theresa Villiers on a third runway, tax policy... I could go on). Guido (who is not a Tory anyway) and Tim Montgomerie are also not known for their reticence in critiquing the Party's approach when they feel it necessary. We all do it in different styles. I have also praised other parties when I think they are doing something right (eg Nick Clegg on tax, Lynne Featherstone on Baby P). I'd love to think of a single occasion Alex Hilton, Sunny Hundal etc have ever been open minded enough to say, yup, the Tories are right. As far as I know, they never have, but I stand to be corrected.

Would my readership grow every month if my readers thought I was just Andy Coulson's bitch? I think not. Why would people waste time reading Tory propaganda? If they want to do that they can visit the Tory Party website. The fact that more people visit my blog every day than visit Conservatives.com ought to demonstrate several things. I'll leave you to draw your own conclusions what they are.

But just in the spirit of openness let me details the hundreds of three (yes, a massive three!) occasions when I have spoken to Andy Coulson since he became Director of Communications in mid 2007...

  • July 2007, twenty minutes over coffee
  • August (?) 2008, he phoned me to clarify the Tory approach to the internet after a Telegraph article in which I had criticised it
  • September 2008 a phone call which was obviously so significant I can't even remember what it was about.

I cannot recall ever attending a Tory press conference. Yes, I do get their press releases, but it's not often that I quote from them. I'm not seeking to compete with ConservativeHome as a news service. Although this is an openly Conservative supporting site, my "mission" is not to spread the gospel, it is to give my views on what is going on in the political world. Sometimes those views coincide with those of the Party hierarchy, sometimes they don't.

Contrast all this with the way the Labour Party is reportedly seeking to control its bloggers - mainly with the aim of slagging off the Tories. I have no idea how far Derek Draper has got with his blog initiatives, but if you look at Labour blogs at the moment all they do is slag off the Conservatives. That's fine. It's their prerogative. But let's not have any holier than thou nonsense from them about how Tory bloggers' strings are pulled by CCHQ, when the opposite is true. If any strings are being pulled, it's our friend Derek wanting to pull the strings of the Labour blogosphere.

In fact, I think it would be in the Conservative Party's interests to interact far more with a wide range of right of centre bloggers, but I have given up whistling that particular tune.

Interestingly the LibDems centrally have embraced bloggers and regularly interact with them. LibDem Voice, although it started off as independent of the party, is now co-ordinated by Mark Pack, its Head of Innovations. It still carries the odd article which probably makes the Party hierarchy wince, though. LibDem blogs, perhaps understandably, feel they have more of a mission to explain and promote their party's policies because they feel the MSM has a tendency to ignore them.

Having said all this, I do think that there are far more left of centre blogs out there now which are worth a read, which is why I regularly include them in the Daley Dozen. Blogging is still a distinct community, which, despite partisan political differences, can still be a place for reasoned argument and debate. Tom Harris, Luke Akehurst, Paul Linford, Kerron Cross (who seems to has rediscovered his blogmentum), Jon Worth and even Bob Piper are all blogs I like to read regularly and they always have something to say which is worth listening to, even if you don't agree with it.

The reason I read them is that they all have a certain independence of mind which means that they speak out when they feel their own Party may gave got it wrong, on occasion. I'd like to think that's part of the reason why most of my 80,000 readers read my blog. And to those that read me because they think I am Andy Coulson's bitch, I'd ask them why they bother if they think that! The fact is, that they don't really think that, but it suits their propaganda needs to blog it. That's politics, and I make no complaint about it!


Kid Eternity said...

I'd love to think of a single occasion Alex Hilton, Sunny Hundal etc have ever been open minded enough to say, yup, the Tories are right. As far as I know, they never have, but I stand to be corrected.

You've obviously never read Pickled Politics then. Sunny's agreed with the Tories on more than one occasion on there. Even to the point of advocating BME people voting Tory over Labour!

Anonymous said...


I dont think you are being used by the Tories to 'fake' an election although it seems clear to me that they do want one; probably because they know Brown will dither in calling one and thus lose his self-confidence. Speaking personally I read your blog for pretty much the reasons you outline, i read Guido in a voyeuristic sense.

Political parties are always going to have a complex relationship with bloggers but it really never should be direct because that would take something off the edge of blogging.

Speaking personally again as a Lib Dem blogger I feel no particular pressure to use it to promote party policy but hey-ho maybe that is just me....

Letters From A Tory said...

It is so tiresome to read lefty blogs that either expend their efforts slagging off the Conservatives or expend their energy slagging off Iain Dale.

In short, they don't contribute to the political debate.

Kid Eternity said...

In short, they don't contribute to the political debate.

And you think you do with tedious generalisations about 'lefty' blogs?

Sue said...

I think your blog is entertaining, well written and a great read!

When Labour feel threatened, they tend to insult and demean. Many of them would like political bloggers silenced... they know the power of the written word and your growing readership proves that the disatisfaction of the electorate with labour is growing.

This sort of fiasco only serves to increase your readership and make you more popular than ever!

dizzy said...

Sod the Tory Party, I get my cheques from the CIA.

strapworld said...

you really are far too honest!

You should have said you had been rumbled and that the last thing the tories wanted was an election NOW!! That may have been what Brown wanted to read and he may have called an election!

then you could have said IT WAS DALE THAT DUN IT!

michaelmph said...

The whole point of ZanuLabour is CONTROL - they're a bunch of obsessive control freaks. The idea that political bloggers could be independent of central control is something they just can't get their heads around. They expect all leftie bloggers to be 'on message', all spewing out the same centrally-controlled childish drivel. Which is why no-one reads them.

Dick the Prick said...

Would if you could influence when an election was called.

Apols for the generalisation but I've tried to get into lefty blogs, read the Huff a fair bit but the ones over here just lack entertainment value. Not sure if it's earnestness, sinking ship, lack of a sense of humour - the arrogant worthiness they exhibit.

It doesn't have to be politics all the time and taking the mickey saves time rather than thrashing out the relative benefits of Strategic Health Authorities and their impact on health inequalities - far easier to call them a muppet and get some jaffa cakes.

Graham Jones said...

I'd never read Labour Matters until seeing the link to it in this blog post. Neither had I ever been to Conservatives.com. Having taken a quick look at both it's obvious to me that neither party understand the Internet - or perhaps the "real world". Labour Matters seems to be full of attack-mode material saying how nasty the Tories are. And Conservatives.com is just full of navel-gazing. Both are seemingly out of touch; is it any wonder you get more readers?

Blackacre said...

Dick the Prick, if you do not find Tom Harris mildly amusing (especially in some of his repsonses in comments threads to right wing commenters) then I fear for your sense of humour. He also occasionally supports a Tory position (see recent post from him re IDS).

Man in a Shed said...

Labour are certainly busy trying to control "the message" on Brown's last chance to avoid crushing defeat early next year.

New Labour just doesn't do independent thought. Fake hate is all they have to distract them from the mounting evidence of their unforgivable betrayal of this country, plunging us all into the financial abyss.

Dick the Prick said...

Blackacre - mae culpa but not really explored but will do. Done CiF, Kerry McCarthy, Chris Paul a bit but yeah, any recommendations greatly appreciated.

Chris Paul said...

But Iain, you are protesting too much.

The February Election Scoop was big soiled pants and you should admit that. Whether someone in the Cons high ups put you up to it or you thought of it all by yourself you were plain wrong.

PS LG Test Blog. Sunny didn't really believe that. He was kidding. I know, humour of a left of centre blog, very deranging for Cons.

Anonymous said...


Oh come on; and Conservative blogs never attack Labour or Lib Dems at all do they??

Chris Paul said...

I'm loving the "I make no complaint about it!" sign off after the 100-word complaining rant. I really think you are protesting too much. You're wrong and whoever's idea it was doesn't really matter. That's the fact. I for one celebrate that. It is why you remain the LPFTB, undisputed.

Chris Paul said...

100-word, oops, 1000-word.

T England. Raised from the dead. said...

I'd say the more Labour attack puppies that try to run you down the better you're doing, I note there was a few the other day on Guido's site trying to say you were becoming unpopular & your regular bloggers were leaving you in droves, I put them straight because, like I said! Your fantastic, in fact, brilliant ;o)
I also pointed out that Labour trolls going around & running down right wing bloggers one by one wont work.

I wonder why the Tories dont need to have an attack team, paid for by them, that trolls Labour blogs?
I dont need to wonder! The Tories dont need too!

I believe that with the AMAZING right wing bloggers out there & their readers/bloggers doing their bit to tell Britain the truth in an unpaid way, the public FEEL our genuine concerns & relise that Tory surporting bloggers are the one's to listen to.

More power to ALL of us :o)

Jimmy said...

"I also pointed out that Labour trolls going around & running down right wing bloggers one by one wont work.

I wonder why the Tories dont need to have an attack team, paid for by them, that trolls Labour blogs?"

What was that about paranoid?

Wrinkled Weasel said...

Paranoia is a tool of the propagandist. So is ignorance. WMD was the epitome of these two devices in action." good day to bury bad news" a paradigm.

People are fond of calling Mandelson a Machiavellian. To me he and his co-workers are more like Maximilien Robespierre who said:

The secret of freedom lies in educating people, whereas the secret of tyranny is in keeping them ignorant.

The list of reports, inquiries and investigations that the Government have attempted to suppress, either by the back door or by the strong arm tactics of the whips is considerable.

Labour blogs find themselves unable to accept contrary arguments or deviation from the line.

There are enough Labour loonies on here who are given full reign and in doing so betray everything we know about Labour - they are devious, unthinking and totally in thrall to the party.

Jabba the Cat said...

Perfect examples of the kind of twerps that inhabit ZaNuLab. Nuf said.

Tom said...

"Apparently, I am being used by the Tories to "fake an election". If only I had the power to influence when an election was called! Believe me, I wouldn't hesitate to use it to get this lot out of office."

Iain, it's quite clear that I'm talking about getting the media ball rolling.

Guido Fawkes said...

Actually, I tell Coulson what to write. He is just too embarrassed to admit it.

Just wait till my peerage comes through.

Luke Akehurst said...

The reasons why we (Labour bloggers) are attacking the Tories are obvious:

- we believe in it - we don't like what your party stands for
- they have moved to the right in response to the economic crisis, presenting a nice, easy target
- Labour is doing a lot better than in the summer so we have moved on from internal debate and angst
- Most of us want to try to contribute to a Labour victory at the coming election
- Our readers seem to like it - I get slagged off when I focus on internal Labour disputes (not that that will stop me) but get linked to and get traffic when I land a punch on the Tories

Anonymous said...

Iain, don't you think there is a certain irony in saying that Labour blogs are being manipulated by the labour party because they slag off the Tories, while similarly denying you or other Tory blogs are the same?

I think the reason Labour blogs slag off the Tories is because they/we can't stand the Tories!

But there are plenty of posts around lamenting what Labour do in government, as well you know.