Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Right Wing Blogosphere Needs New Blood

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 ├ža 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.


Michael Heaver said...

Very interesting. It is brilliant to see bloggers like yourself gaining TV profile, much better than the parties themselves controlling every member who represents them in the media.

Unknown said...

Surely it's more to do with the fact that there is no election on the horizon. I'm reading blogs less now for that reason whereas some were required reading in the run up to May 2010.

Also, I think it has a lot more to do with the fact that we have just seen the first change of government during the rise of the blogosphere. This is uncharted territory we are in.

golden_balls said...

To say your blogging style hasn't changed is absurd iain.

You and the rightwing blogesphere used to comment on every aspect of government. Whether it be rumour or fact you had a view and shared it.
You do have a new radio show to host so your time is limited. please don't try to fool us into thinking your as energetic about blogging after the election as before.

Arden Forester said...

I think a lot of conservative types got a bit shell-shocked after the election. I really hope "Letters from A Tory" comes back. He's still with a web presence, though.

Looking at some of the rank and file LibDems I do wonder if "Liberal" is a right and proper description for them. I'm happy with the coalition but would have preferred a Tory government. I'm willing to give a bit of blood but not an armful. I might go all Tea Party and loose it all!

Jabba the Cat said...

I think you will find that many bloggers of the centre and right have taken a step back after having achieved the primary objective of removing McMental and ZanuLab at the election.

I expect that as the coalition government proceeds forward and the lunatic LibDim elements try to wag the dog, the volume of right wing blogging will increase in direct proportion.

Paul Owen said...

Now that you have your own radio show why not include some bloggers yourself? I doubt I even featured anywhere near your top 300 because it is hard to get noticed in a crowded field. My traffic tends to come from all over. But I post more often than most and have opinions on a wide range of issues. Is the blogosphere in danger of becoming just as much of a closed shop as the MSM?

Iain Dale said...

Paul, I do have bloggers on my programme quite often. But you make a fair point.

Steve said...

Why did Alix Mortimer pack it in?

Steve said...

Why did Alix Mortimer pack it in?

Anonymous said...

First the method of determining popularity is hardly scientific.

Second the criteria for judgement is hardly objective.

Your first supposition is probably correct - its easier to oppose than support. Objectivity doesn't 'rock'.

Barnacle Bill said...

I must admit that since NuLabor left office there seems, at least to me, to be less pressure to blog nowadays.
Although I feel there is still some loose ends left by the previous administration that need tidying up.
More a least "we forget" and try to prevent history being re-written sort of feeling.

Archbishop Cranmer said...

To be fair, His Grace probably dropped out of the Top 20 due to his three-month silence as a result of torments beyond his control, rather than as a result of any decline in quality or the ascension of 'the Left'.

Letters From A Tory said...

@Arden 10:01am

Nice to know that I still have fans, four months after waving goodbye to the blogosphere.


Giles Marshall said...

Very interesting. I am fascinated by the blogosphere and the way it has opened up political comment and news, and often recommend blogs to my A-level students as a source. The problem is, though, that most people have limited time to spend perusing blogs and online news, even if it can be done faster than comparable print versions. And we are a conservative species, so we tend to stick with known brands - you, Fawkes, ConHome for example. It is, I imagine, very difficult for new bloggers to break through, since it requires enormous energy and commitment, and some real luck (or savvy) in getting noticed. Indeed, an ordinary blogger with no connections may well find it virtually impossible.

It is interesting that the three 'new' bloggers you name - Tebbit, Martin and Delingpole - all blog with the backing of a major newspaper, and are hardly examples of the little legions struggling to assert their independent voice. In the blogosphere as elsewhere, notoriety and money more than anything else brings notice!

Tim Fenton said...

Didn't John Ward (The Slog) achieve the highest new entry? He was inside the top 100, I thought. Of course, John is well known already, and gets a steady stream of what looks like insider information, so that should come as no surprise.

@Paul Owen, I wouldn't call the current situation a "closed shop". You're much nearer the mark by using the word "crowded" - because the blogosphere is increasingly thus.

However, even if you aren't as close to the political action as Iain and folks like Paul Staines, you can still pick up stories that no-one else does. Here's an example - I should have called it an exclusive, because it was:

Worth getting your rear frozen for.

Keep plugging away - that's what everybody else is doing.

Span Ows said...

I would have thought that with Labour in opposition it is only natural that the leftie luvvie blogfloggers would be on the rise. Those "of the right" rose due to the gross ineptitude, crimes, corruption and sheer dross that was New Labour and the way they completely fucked up country: the constant crapfest from New Labour was why the rightwing bloggers became so strong; a certain rebalancing should be expected.

Scary Biscuits said...

Perhaps, Antony Wells of UK polling report should be asked to make a few comments on Iain Dale's convenience poll. Surely the only sensible way to rank blog sites is by readership?

Scary Biscuits said...

Perhaps, Antony Wells of UK polling report should be asked to make a few comments on Iain Dale's convenience poll. Surely the only sensible way to rank blog sites is by readership?

Charles Crawford said...

Too many bloggers (Left and Right) already in a very crowded marketplace for what is mainly private comment. Some have made it into the 'official' punditosphere. The rest of us patiently toil away:

Danny Law said...

several others posters here have made some very relevant points.

the real way to measure the popularity of a blog is it's traffic - not a popularity contest. not everyone who reads blogs actually votes in these contests.

secondly the left have been pushed back and the right are (at present) dominant.
so the right has less to push against.

guido is one of the few (along with old holborn and obnoxio) who have focused on the unconservative nature of this supposedly conservative government

Anonymous said...

One point you've failed to mention about this top 300, as have Charlotte Gore and Charles Crawford in their worthwhile takes on it, is the much larger number of what most people would consider "mainstream media" blogs, or at least blogs written by established journalists and often under the banner of a newspaper, magazine or broadcaster. Is it a case of bandwagon jumping or do the MSM actually think the way to beat us is to join us?

Paul Owen said...


Sorry, only just came back to check this. Well I live in Hackney so if you ever need an emergency replacement....and as a Brummie I would make an excellent and informed guest for the Tory conference I would think.

Tim Fenton, yes I agree crowded is more of an issue these days. But the blogosphere does show definite signs of mimicking the MSM by giving preference to those with the right connections who went to the right universities. I don't have the former but do have the latter. Yet still it's hard to break through without some insider gossip. The blogs should prosper with a combination of gossip, insider knowledge, original ideas and decent writing. It's hard to get noticed unless you have plenty of the first and second.

Stuart Winton said...

Iain, was interested in your comments about the impact of bloggers on the mainstream media, which seem to contrast completely with my perception of the scenario up here in chilly Jocko land. You may be interested to read a post I've done on the subject.