Friday, January 16, 2009

Labour List

It’s been covered quite a bit now from the right-side of the blogosphere, by everyone from Iain to Guido to Dizzy to Uncle Tom Cobbley and all, but I thought I’d just add my two penn’orth, having now got onto Labour List and read some of the posts, as well as the associated puff-pieces that have cropped up.

First impressions are, I have to admit, not good. Draper doesn’t really seem to know quite what he wants the site to be. The talk has all been about how Labour List should be a home for Labour activists – like Conservative Home. But then it’s also been that “the new site is designed to counter what he calls the "Tory trolls" who dominate the weird world of virtual British politics”. Well, which? ConHome isn’t an attack blog by any stretch of the imagination – it varies between a sort of Tory vade mecum for announcements, speeches and rumours (basically Tory Diary) and a more thoughtful series of postings predominantly on what the Tories ought to be doing (Centre Right). It’s not designed to excoriate Labour policy – there are other blogs that do that.

Iain’s is the one that will get mentioned instantly, largely because of his media-appointed role as godfather of Tory bloggers. But Iain’s site isn’t really an attack site – it’s more like what it says it is, a diary. Sometimes you get ‘what I did on my holidays’ posts about Audis, weddings and meetings, sometimes you get gossipy pieces about who said what to who, sometimes you get links to articles he’s written about policy or personality. But what they all are is written by him – Iain’s personality pervades the site.

For true attack blogs go to Guido (more or less vicious political gossip, from an essentially nihilist view-point. It’s a bit inaccurate to describe this as a Tory blog – more like an anti-politics one), or to Dizzy (geeky but perceptive), or the Devil’s Kitchen (really anti-politicians with extra swearing). But all of these are personal sites. Labour List isn’t – it’s a collective effort. So lets look at a collective effort, not on the right this time.

Liberal Conspiracy (must get round to linking…) is a collective blog started by Sunny Hundal. I think the aim is both to attack Tory and Labour illiberalism (rather vaguely defined) as well as to spell out progressive, liberal ideas that should be implemented. I admit I’ve yet to read a piece saying ‘the Tories are right about…’, but it isn’t a fierce party loyalist. It is, in fact, rather good. If occasionally a little humourless.

So there we are: four models of political blogging. The directory, the diary, the demolition derby and the (um…) discussion. And all of them are independent. All of them criticise their own party. And that tends to be what makes them interesting. I rarely want to read articles by politicians – you know what they’re going to say before they say it (Boris being the obvious exception). It’s when writers kick against the pricks and explain why their own side is wrong that it gets interesting. And Labour List? Well it is that most tedious incarnation – an officially approved site. How dull is that? Which would you rather read, Tom Bower’s unauthorised Brown biography, or Robert Peston’s?

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