Thursday, September 24, 2009

ConservativeHome Guarantees Its Independence

I never thought I would see the day when The Times would have a leader on the subject of the future of a single blog. But it did this morning, when it questioned the future of ConservativeHome under the ownership of Lord Ashcroft. Tim Montgomerie has penned a response HERE, which contains some interesting commitments to his site's editorial independence.

What a pity it is that a handful of left of centre politicians and commentators have taken their bat and ball home from PoliticsHome. As others have said, wouldn't it have been better to at least give the site the benefit of doubt and see how it panned out? After all, the site contains no comment, merely news aggregation.

Perhaps in three months time they might like to consider whether they acted in haste.


golden_balls said...

oh well if Tim Montgomerie has put that statment out then i'm sure the lefties will run back into the arms of Ashcroft ! or perhaps not

At the moment the Tories are riding high and the media are more interested in a Labour government that is disintegrating before our very eyes.

The truth will be known when the conservatives are put under media
scrutiny this won't happen this side of an election.

Give it two years into a Tory government hard decisions will have been made one or two Tory scandals will be uncovered probably involving Ashcroft lol thats when we shall see if Conservativehome is truly independent.

At the moment its case unproven.

Anonymous said...

Iain, you wouldn't write for a news agg site owned by the TUC (I hope!).

David Boothroyd said...

This is frankly unconvincing. Lord Ashcroft doesn't himself have to do anything to interfere in the editorial running of either ConservativeHome or PoliticsHome for the fact of his ownership to affect them.

Let's suppose a newspaper undertakes a further investigation and makes a controversial and disputed claim about Lord Ashcroft's business affairs - or it may be about the Conservatives' key seats strategy. What is the editor of PoliticsHome going to do about linking to the story? High profile or less? It would be only a foolhardy editor indeed who would increase its prominence. And ConservativeHome has attained its prominence by being an independent voice within the party; you can't be an independent voice when you're owned by the party treasurer.

Being owned by Stefan Shakespeare is entirely different. He may be a Conservative but he's not the party treasurer and not bound to the leadership.

Tom Harris asked how you would react if the Unite trade union bought PoliticsHome at the same time as it owns large amounts of the main Labour-supporting sites and puts out pro-Labour advertising.

John Moorcraft said...

I agree with most of what Tim says on ConHom, especially the bit about the proof in the pudding.

I think you will be proved right that the proof will be in the pudding when it comes to PolHome. By the same token, the proof will also be in the pudding when it comes to the editorial independence of ConHome. The test will be the first big story involving a prominent Tory frontbencher.

Actions will speak louder then very well written blogposts!

Josh said...

That is why I never read Editorials. They are usually the product of pseudo-intellectuals who have an inflated view of their own importance.

For a Murdoch owned newspaper to question the editorial integrity of a very independent blog which is often critical of Cameron is rather like the pot calling the kettle grimy arse.

The Times is nowhere near as influential as it likes to believe nowadays, and its increasingly left liberal tone has aliented once diligent conservative readers like myself.

Weygand said...

Even news aggregation is not a neutral activity.

What items do you choose to report, whose version of it do you use, what context is it presented in, what priority do you give to it, when do you publish it etc etc?

All these things depend on subjective editorial decisions.

No publishing magnate would continue to support a venture that might harm his wider and far more agenda and any editor will be aware of this - at least subconsciously - and act accordingly.

Unsworth said...

@ golden_balls

"at the moment its case unproven"

Utter tosh. It's also 'case unproven' that the moon is made of cheese. If 'ownership' is the issue then maybe we should take a close look at the 'ownership' of many other organisations.

Usual bollox of unfounded innuendo and slur from the usual suspects here.

Put up or shut up.

Quietzapple said...

No doubt Fox News in the USa is guaranteed its "independence" from Mursdoch . . yet . .

When the result of the 2000 Presidential election remained in doubt it was Fox which called it for Bush first, well before this was established or they had reasonable certainty that he had won.

They acted tendentiously in their owner's perceived interest.

The Uk has laws which prevent what is seen as undue concentration of media power in too few hands. These require re-examination, and extension so far as is possible. The power to insist on restitution of the truth in the face of libels via large scale publication of retractions is also needed.

There is no doubt that cross subsidy of blogs by advantageous advertising rates & etc are possible, and it seems likely such loopholes in what the apparent funding of what often amount to propaganda sheets will become more widespread.

Anonymous said...

By withdrawing from the polling body they have ensured that the balance is tipped unfavourably away from the left, thus foolishly fulfilling their own predictions. How sad.

True Belle said...

I am sure you are correct about the Times . It was very noticeable when they altered their comments columns, certain rants that may have got through , must have created huge displeasure , I expect they increased their moderation teams threefold.

Apart from a handful of good journos that keep the paper intact and free thinking, it appears to be a very watered down paper now compared to years ago.

Bit like the Telegraph , certainly much younger age groups are bowed down to - Vox pop rags! Irritating as hell, full of nonsense .

More stuff on line now.

golden_balls said...


everyone is entitled to their own view but

i think its fair to say the moon isn't made of cheese.

Regarding the Ashcroft takeover of Conservativehome and PoliticsHome.

Iain says 3 months i disagree give it two years into a Tory goverment that will be time to prove it one way or the other.

Ross said...

More to the point if Conservative Home loses it's independence then so what?

It would take the contributers all of two minutes to set up a new site.

Libertarian said...

The whole point about the blogosphere is its independence and freedom from vested interests.

Whilst I don't blame the owners for cashing in, they are now both busted flushes as far as impartiality is concerned. There is absolutely no business case to own them unless Ashcroft intends to capitalise on the captured data/demographics

Thomas Rossetti said...

As someone recently commented in response to The Times's leader, I wouldn't worry about it too much. If Lord Ashcroft's involvement does result in less freedom, people will flee from ConservativeHome and find somewhere else to voice their opinions.

Although I admire him, I do find Lord Ashcroft's involvement in politics very odd. He's spent most of his life in America, lives in Belize, and yet seems determined to be a political force in Britain. He may have a British passport, but he's not someone I would immediately think of as "British". When he finally became a member of the House of Lords, he wanted to have the title "Lord Ashcroft of Belize" but apparently William Hague advised him against this.

You have to wonder why he cares. His massive donation to John Howard in Australia some years ago only adds to the mystery.

strapworld said...

Mr Boothroyd.

I did think you were a grown up! For goodness sake. I was obviously right when I suggested, months ago, that you returned to the kindergarten

I cannot recall a single letter bearing your great name complaining to any of the newspapers that they were owned by people with political opinions! That they controlled the editorial etc. etc. etc.

This is just absolutely childish rants from the left wing. They have a permanent chip on their shoulders and just cannot abide any successful individual in this Country (Unless, of course that individual supports or funds the Left!).

That sums up the left. They are totally useless at running anything and the way they have brought this great country almost to bankruptcy, definately akin to a banana republic and denied the people a promised say on the EU Constitution. What an absolute shower of incompetents.

Mr. Boothroyd. I try to be reasonable. Indeed I have had to support your comments on a couple of occasions. BUT it is about time you removed thos rose tinted spectacles and accepted what an utter mess your party has made of almost everything it has touched.

I apologise, Not almost everything, Everything it has touched!

As for the Times and its editorial. The printed press are concerned about the power of the internet, and so they should be.

The internet has proved to be a ray of light into the very murky world of politics, which The Times and its fellows have refused to expose, as good newspaper editors and staff would have delighted in doing in years gone by.

Neil Yates said...

I hope ConservativeHome doesn't retain its independence. I also hope PoliticsHome doesn't retain its independence.

The more websites fighting the Conservatives' corner the better.

I also think it's a crying shame on your behalf, Iain, that you use a platform like Total Politics to give Labour a voice. They've already got their own Broadcasting Corporation for that.

no longer anonymous said...

"As others have said, wouldn't it have been better to at least give the site the benefit of doubt and see how it panned out?"

They want to spite Ashcroft. That's all that matters.

Penfold said...

Oh dear Iain, you are naive.

Ashcroft is the bete noire of the lefties, and to have any relationship with him, no matter how vague is an instant hanging offence. Your missing correspondents know that they have to self-censor themselves in this regard if they are to maintain credibility on the left, otherwise they will be excoriated and persecuted.

Johnny Norfolk said...

I have had a good look at PH. It just reproduces by and large reports from all the papers. So I cannot understand what all your fuss is about. However it makes me realise why I do not like Labour and the left. This in a small way just typifies the narrow attitude taken by the left and is reflected how they have governed this country. BY NOT LISTENING TO OR CAREING ABOUT ANYONE ELSE.

If they spent more time taking account of other people and their concerns and were more tolerent of others they may not have made such a mess of our country.

Johnny Norfolk said...

To me the whole thing just shows how vindictive and nasty the left are.
They are bad losers and will never consider another point of view.

The prees would be far better investigating what Labour have done instead of their Tory hatred. Thank goodnes for the blogs it is the only place us middle of the road people can be heard.

Sir Edward Heath said...

Iain, I've got Rupert Murdoch's secretary on the phone. He wants to know whether you'll charge for all your content. Hee! Hee! Hee!

Chris Paul said...

Surely Conservative Home has been bankrolled by Tory millionaires for some time now. The tricky thing there is that is not a business proposition at this time. No subs, no adverts, no trading revenue streams, just critical support for the Tories. It will be interesting to see how it develops. But this is far less of an issue surely than PH?

Rather than just being a news aggregator Iain PH has or had a USP of supposedly balanced panels of politicians, journos, commentators. Far more important than the aggregation I'd have thought.

But looks like there was insufficient hold over any of the actors for a sale to such a character as Ashcroft without losing people.

Rather like CH PH is not an immediately compelling business opportunity. Assuming Lord A is a rational man and he is putting money into something that is not currently paying and may never do so people are assuming that he is expecting other benefits than either cashflow or profits.

But let's stop this assertion that PH is just an aggregator. That aspect of the site was and is unremarkable. It is the panels and their sometimes hilarious decisions that is the hook.

Chris Paul said...

PS Where doe Doughty Street TV fit in to all this?

Unsworth said...

@ Chris Paul

'Tory millionaires'? Are there no other kinds of millionaires?

Where does Sainsbury fit in? Or Follet or Robinson or Aldrige or Caring or Crawford or Evans or Morris or Rosenfeld or Tullet or Gulam Noon, etc? Are these some other kind of millionaire? How have their businesses prospered under a Labour Government do you suppose?

And there are many interesting others who have managed to overcome their (Tory?) principles and help Labour's rocky finances. Deripaska, anyone? And what about young Nat Rothschild?

The list goes on.