Friday, April 24, 2009

Message to Lefty Bloggers: Get a Sense of Humour

There's a lot of rubbish talked about why the left don't seem to be able to compete with right of centre blogs. Indeed, some of the rubbish has undoubtedly been written by me, if you like to believe Sunny Hundal. "It's easier to blog in opposition" is the answer trotted out by those who don't like to think about things any more deeply than the obvious. That may be part of it. Peter Wilby, however, thinks there's another reason. He writes in this week's New Statesman...

Why are the most successful blogs on the right? Why doesn’t the left – the real
left, not New Labour camp followers such as Derek Draper – have any equivalent
of Guido Fawkes who, more or less single-handedly, brought down the spin doctor
Damian McBride? The obvious answers are to do with money and time. You can’t
make much of a living from blogging, and lefties are too busy with honest toil
to post the required mixture of bile and half-truths each day. The Guido site
author – Paul Staines, a 42-year-old former hedge fund investment officer who
declared himself bankrupt in 2003 – is an oddly secretive character whose
finances are obscure but, according to the Daily Telegraph, his wife has a
senior position with a City bank and the couple own four properties between

However, I am unconvinced by such explanations; there are plenty
of lefties, including NS contributors, with rich wives. The real reason, I fear,
is that nobody under 50 – and, therefore, nobody truly at home with new media –
has experienced a left political culture that would inspire the energy, flair,
chutzpah and obsessiveness of a Guido. The belief that the left must constrain
its ideas and watch its language lest it upset the bourgeoisie has been
ingrained since at least the mid-1980s. Staines is at heart an anarchist who, as
his website’s name suggests, wishes to undermine all MPs, not just Labour ones.
McBride and other victims might disagree, but Guido is successful because he is
. The left, 40 years ago, had similar streaks of anarchy, irreverence and
humour, qualities that were evident even in Neil Kinnock before he became Labour
leader. Now, the left just craves respectability.

So there we have it. The right is more successful because we're fun. Compare Guido with the very worthy Sunder Katwala. Compare Dizzy with Sunny Hundal's humourless writings. Why is Tom Harris emerged as Labour's leading blogger? Simple. He has a well developed sense of humour. I haven't noticed a 'Nice Beaver' post on LabourList yet. Perhaps that's when it will turn the corner... Mr Wilby may be onto something.

Public Health Warning: Parts of this blog were written with tongue firmly in keyboard.


Anonymous said...

Let's be honest, can you remember anything remotely funny about the left (apart from Kinnock falling in the water?)

Anonymous said...

Labour are doomed - DOOMED!

Let's not be coy about it - Labour are a joke of a party with a Joke leader! The only problem is the mess they have created in this country is no joke at all!

Tom said...

I think these are perhaps fair points, but your blog is hardly a laugh a minute...

Other news, but Sadies Tavern and Speak Your Branes often have me in fits.

Chris Paul said...

A "nice beaver" post Iain? Have they had one of those on Political Betting or Conservative Home then? Have you had one, whatever they may actually consist of?

The nice man from the New Statesman said Guido was fun ... not that you all are. There are some humourless blogs on the right are there not? And some of us lefties do have a sense of humour you know, and even some investigative stories. Guido is of course six years into his blogging career. We're in catch up at best.

And who really needs 90,000 readers of whom 85,000 are there for the Tourettes in the comments?

Is Recess Monkey not amusing? Fun? "Nice Beaver"-ish? Sadie's Tavern? Kerron Cross. Nicer than Guido certainly. Is the man saying we have to be vile as well as fun?

McBride and Draper could be just the comedy double act he's calling for.

johnny acacia-avenue said...

E-petition asking the Supreme Leader to resign here

Tony_E said...

Envy and class hatred are not funny, and that's all the left seem to offer at the moment. No one wants to read it, even if they believe it.

Sunder Katwala said...

There is of course something in this, re Tom Harris in particular.

Personally, I will howeever take Tim Montgomerie, who is serious and engaging, as more of a benchmark to aim at as I get more practice at this than Guido. The left probably has some and will develop more funnier and more humorously aggressive bloggers, but probably not those who are running a think-tank.

Anyway Iain, what we would love to know is would you rather live in Britain or Switzerland? If and when you get onto £150k+) whether you could give up the Hammers and the broadcast studios of London for Lake Geneva to keep your marginal tax rate down?

Jimmy said...

So we need a lefty version of Guido?

Can't see anything going wrong with that plan.

Plato said...

Whilst I agree that there are some amusing lefty blogs if you look really hard, the ones with the best pee-taking, ascerbic wit and down-right irreverance are righties.

The Left have taken themselves so seriously for so long that they've forgotten the power of self-parody - that is apart from one Mr Blair.

It's got nothing to do with Opposition - it's about self-confidence and being a grown-up which Tom Harris, Kerron Cross etc have.

PS Mr 2.0 - and your homeland of Labourlist is?? Pfft.

Lord Snooty said...

Hang on a minute. Guido's wife is one of these greedy bankers who got us into this mess in the first place? As Dizzy would say, WTF?

Tim Hedges said...

Two things: when you say 'nobody under fifty has experienced ...' it is worse than that. The last time the Left really inspired the country was 1945.

Secondly what we have seen recently confirms one thing: they can't let go. The top of the Labour pyramid says 'we want an independent blog covering these issues' - most of us bloggers are completely independent - you, Ian, are the exception - and it's not that we upport the right wing it is that they have the ideas at the moment.

This won't change with the election, but it may change five years after it.

Hugh said...

It's an obvious point, but it rarely seems to get made in these discussion: the left can't compete with the right on newspaper sales; nor on magazines. It seems fairly clear that there is simply a greater appetite for political commentary among right wingers.

Hawkeye said...

What would you find funny or amusing to write about if you saw the world through red-coloured glasses?

The workers are still oppressed and the rich capitalists are still milking the poor, the underpriviliged and the vulnerable whilst draining the Earth of all resources and polluting the atmosphere into an breathable soup of toxic chemicals..... etc. etc. etc.

If you had a world view like that and that was what you wrote about - suffering, misery, despair, hate and envy - then who the heck would want to read it?

What about hope, liberty, aspiration, happiness and achievement - all the things that the centre-right stand for and write about? Socialist manifestos (and blogs) should be issued with a bottle of whiskey and a pearl handled revolver.

Maybe Kelvin McKenzie could run the supply of whiskey and bullets?

Jason O'Mahony said...

The lack of humour comes, I think, from the obsession with "not offending" people which seems to be a totem of both the left and the pandering centre/centre right. If you are afraid of being called a name (Racist/sexist/homophobe)all the time you'll end up far too weary to actually make a amusing crack for fear of being called upon to apologise for insulting the Westphalian two headed banjo playing Playdoh fancying community.

Raedwald said...

Most lefties seem almost incapable of laughing at themselves, whereas many rightist blogs evince a gently humorous self-deprecation. Guido ruefully admits his fondness for a pot of porter, Iain discloses his Abba fan club membership and so on. Tom Harris is one of the few on the left to chuckle regularly at himself, to great effect. John Prescott has the same knack.

Boarding the train last night a couple of heavy metal fans not yet thirty, replete with fright-wig hair, torn and patched denim and leather, had the carriage in stitches when one exclaimed indignantly to the other "Do you realise we've just been laughed at by a bunch of squeaky acne-ridden schoolkids?"

You've got to be comfortable in your own skin to laugh at yourself. I suspect many of the earnest young people who blog for the left do so precisely because they're not happy with themselves. And no one likes a gloomy idealogue.

James Mackenzie said...

Some of us on the left are in opposition: all the Greens, the leftier Liberals, the Trots and whatnot. There's (thankfully) more to left politics and left blogging than Labour's demoralising squalor.

Dunno how funny we are, though.

Jon Lishman said...

If I tried to leave even a fairly mildly critical comment like Chris Paul's here on any left wing blog, it would most-likely be deleted (often has).

They can't stand even humorous criticism and censor it like some sort of paranoid inadequates. Behind a mask po-faced, patronising self-satisfaction, of course.

SO they gain no respect from anyone that might have once been tempted to vote for them. And, of course, they can't understand why.

It's pretty funny, actually.

Anonymous said...

When this Petition hits 5Million I will definitely be laughing.

Oleuanna said...

Makes you wonder how they stayed so long in damned witless....all the same still more popular than the right...funny that!

Plato said...

Mr Hugh

A sage observation.

But is it because lefties are inherently and crushingly dull?


Duncan Stott said...

gossip || frivolity != humour;

Yak40 said...

You're right, the left has no sense of humour, after all they're continually "outraged" about something.

It's such fun to bait them :)

davidc said...

'----and lefties are too busy with honest toil---'

can this be true ?

Richard said...

"Hang on a minute. Guido's wife is one of these greedy bankers who got us into this mess in the first place?"

She's a lawyer.

Anonymous said...

The E petition for Brown to go does not seem to be growing very fast. Either the most corrupt, dishonest, incompetent government in living memory has got popular all of a sudden. Or the staff at No 10 have developed a funny bone and are deleting the entries.

Prodicus said...

It really isn't hard.

The Left's aim is control, of, oh, everything, really. Most of all, of you. What you think, what you earn and how much of it you are allowed to keep. (And that's just for starters.) That's deadly earnest and so are they. Earnest. Oh, and deadly.

The Right wants liberty. Its aim is to pry the fingers of the Controllers off your throat so that you can, to coin a phrase, cry freedom, and flourish, whoever you are. Everyone. No, really. Sounds like a lot more fun to me, over here on the right.

Ollie Cromwell said...

Looks like a nice beaver.

Little Red Riding Hood said...

Richard said...
"Hang on a minute. Guido's wife is one of these greedy bankers who got us into this mess in the first place?"

She's a lawyer.

It gets better. A member of the most parasitic profession and working for the greedy bankers. Nice one, Mrs Staines!

Anonymous said...

The average lefty is in a non job, or is a Gironaut, so plenty of time.

The real reason is that the average lefties IQ is at room temperature.

In Celsius.

Roger Thornhill said...

The grain of truth is in the anarchic mind.

"lefty" comedians were/are probably more anarchic than Socialist. When "the Left" get in - i.e. steaming* Authoritarians like New Labour - the anarchists either attack them or are hobbled by cognitive dissonance, depending on if they considered themselves anti or pro Left.

And this bit about "honest toil". Please. How many lefties earn their living in the productive/private sector vs non-Lefties? Just because they toil, does not make it "honest". Right now, the Public Sector is the reason why we will have a debt until we die.

* I was going to call them "carpet munching" but I reserve that for another party...

Hacked Off said...


Do you think Hazel Blears's chirpy mask has slipped just a bit, hounding a pensioner to death for daring to challenge her decision?

The Penguin

Lord Snooty said...

@Little Red Riding Hood

Good point. Guido does indeed have a good sense of humour!

Newmania said...

Sunny Hundal is the pits. Sanctimonious ,boorish ,ignorant and barbaric beyond all words to read , honestly it makes my teeth itch. Aside from that he seems to be a genuinely unpleasant and conceited little prat .
If you shaved a money and taught it to say me me me me it could pass for Sunny Hundal for weeks but the most worthless twittering waste of air with is Sadie. If you can find me a better cure for insomnia I would be amazed .Hopi Sen is good ,Unity is good , Bob Piper ...plenty more , its not a partisan thing its just those two , they make life a little worse every time they open their silly gobs and the writing ...its hard to imagine how it could be any worse .

Can`t someone suggest plumbing to these pathetic wannabees ?

Plenty said...

We musn't forget old Prezza, he seems to have a half decent clue about what the internet is all about. Perhaps they will appoint him editor of LabourList? Two blogs prescott?

James Two Doctors said...

By the way, righties, you're not half as funny as you think you are.

Ben Elton > Jim Davidson
Mark Thomas > Bernard Manning
Mark Steel > John Redwood

Anonymous said...

The E petition is still only increasing slowly. People reporting 'site busy'. Did not know that a ZX80 could be used as a server.

Hawkeye said...

Who the f*** is Sunny Hundal?

Everybody yammers on like I should know who he is.

Constan Treader said...

Actually how funny is your "Nice beaver" rib-tickler? A genuine question because I have no sense of humour whatever. I would have thought it puerile obvious and stale - it occurs in the second Naked Gun movie and I am guessing it is funnier there because of the accompanying sight gag. If the talk had been about blue tits would that have been an equally mirth inducing jape (tits being synonymous with breasts, you see, just as beaver is synonymous with vagina)? Only asking, but I think you have fallen victim to the trap of believing yur own publicity. First rule of joke club: don't laugh at your own jokes.

Little Black Sambo said...

Chris Paul, I understood you to say that Guido is "vile"; is that what you really mean?

Rumbold said...


Without wishing to get drawn too much into statistics, how does one judge success? Numbers of readers? Is it number of times one appears on a programme? Wikio rankings? Does this reflect successful blogging? I suppose it depends on what you are trying to achieve.

Your name appears in the media a lot. Fair enough. But could that just be to do with laziness. After all, if you are a journalist/researcher who knows nothing about blogging, you look up some other article on blogging, find your name, and so mention you.

I enjoy your blog. You are good at what you do (political gossip and analysis). But you are not better or more successful than many other blogs. Take’ Defence of the Realm’ for instance. Their sole purpose is to critique British defence policy and actions. A task which they perform very well. Who’s to say whether you or they are better? It’s like judging chalk and cheese. And the same goes for you and Sunny. You operate differently, and want different things.

And Sunny does have a very good sense of humour.

Richard Gadsden said...

Given the left's dominance of blogging in the US, I think it's silly to try to draw broad conclusions from the very narrow dataset of a handful of years in one small country.

I know Kos has no sense of humor (much less a sense of humour, which is much funnier, of course) but pretending he's not a successful blogger is stupid.

Martin S said...

I just looked at Labourlist. First time in about a month.

Draper is an idiot. But at least he was an exciting idiot.

After the Draper tide went out all that was left on the coast of Labourlist was a few empty shells, some smelly seaweed and a dead jellyfish.

There was a joke. But by god it was so forced and so hollow that it couldn't survive long outside the febrile mind of its creator!

Martin S said...

I used to be a member of The Green Party.

There was a terribly acrimoniousness debate one morning session of a conference. The band on the night before was, I was told, "fry-fully loud! Not the kind of thing we, in the Green Party should be encouraging!"

He was gathering names for a complaint to the entertainments organiser. Well, I asked him, what did you think of the music?

"Oh! I hadn't actually heard the band. But someone told me it was too loud!"

I pointed out that it was hypocritical of him to attack the young organiser of the entertainment if they had not heard the band perform. He agreed and decided not to pursue the complaint.

A feminist complained about the disgraceful sexism of the entertainment organiser who had dared to choose the band with the exist name of: "Split beaver."

They, too, wanted to complain to 'someone' about the sexist person who had chosen the band. I said: "Well, I think SHE is over there. Why not mention it to her?"

Realising that they had thwarted themselves, they stomped off in a rage.

There were some people in the Green Party with a sense of humour. At least three. But we all quit.

GBN said...

I think the problem is bloggers such as Guido and Iain don't take themselves too seriously. Something that most left wing bloggers are unable to do.

You only have to look at the likes of Draper when he did his round of TV with Guido and Iain to see that - they came across as normal, rational people (the sort of guys you'd happily chat to in a pub) whereas Draper came across as...well, to be honest a complete muppet.

Another problem I think is that left wingers tend to follow the party line on things whereas rights don't...and you are instantly abused if you disagree. There are certain posters on LabourList for example or Prescott, with his "Tory Troll" remarks to anyone that dare have a go at the perfection that is the Labour machine.

I think they may be turning a corner though - Tom Harris is worth a read and seems to be the sort of MP I'd vote for and LabourList has started having some good posts on it since Draper went AWOL.