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
- 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!