Signs of life on the left

There are growing signs of life on the left of the blogosphere. An article a few days ago in the Independent (now displayed inexplicably as a photo gallery?) describes the ‘dramatic impact’ of Sunny Hundal’s Liberal Conspiracy site, launched late last year. (See, I told you.) We’ve had the sale of LabourHome to the New Statesman’s new backer; and conversely, the selection of LabourHome front-man Alex Hilton as Labour candidate in the new Chelsea & Fulham seat (although with the Tories theoretically 30% ahead on 2005’s votes, he needs a miracle). LabourMatters is an interesting attempt to ‘provide Labour news from the grassroots upwards’, aggregating press releases (sic) from ‘councillors, MPs, MEPs, etc’.
But what’s been particularly interesting in the last few months has been a growing self-assertion. Sunny Hundal led a boycott of Iain Dale’s now annual survey of the top political blogs, calling it ‘at best … an ego-massaging exercise which will inevitably push their own narrative that left-blogs are useless.’ Labour councillor Bob Piper opted out because he felt ‘there have been a few occasions when Iain Dale has been rude and derogatory about the standard of ‘left’ blogs.’ (The boycott wasn’t universally observed, of course.) LabourMatters, a blogger at LabourHome, dismissed the poll as a means of boosting Dale’s own Google ranking, and called for a policy of refusing to link to Tory bloggers. There has been active discussion about LabourHome’s ‘open door’ policy on site membership.
I guess this is a reflection of the wider political climate. After a long period of broad consensus, there are things worth arguing about. After two rather dull general elections, we’re looking at a real scrap next time. Blogs have earned their place in the political world, and with the stakes higher than they have been in a decade or more, perhaps it’s inevitable that they should become more tribal.
So it’s especially gratifying to see remarkable things like this: right-leaning Matt Wardman contributing an article suggesting (quite radical) improvements to LabourHome, with a contribution even from Guido Fawkes. In theory, these are precisely the people who should be wanting to see it fail.
That’s what attracted me to the political blogs in the first place. It was almost there was more that united them than divided them. Opinions naturally differed, but there was a shared belief in the value (or necessity?) of better reporting and debate. Your readers could learn from your great wisdom and insight, and equally, you would probably learn a lot from them too. (I think back to David Miliband’s New Statesman piece 18 months ago about ‘the politics of I Can‘.)
The left of the blogosphere unquestionably needed to raise its game, and I’m glad to see that happening. Better product on both sides (and in the middle) will lead to better outcomes. As long as it doesn’t result in the loss of the optimism and openness which make it such an intriguing medium.
(I see there’s an event at the Labour conference ‘to discuss how the ‘Labour blogosphere’ is developing’. Should be interesting.)

6 thoughts on “Signs of life on the left”

  1. Hi Simon
    >In theory, these are precisely the people who should be wanting to see it fail.
    Please forgive me for a vigorous reaction, but that particular theory is 22 carat bunk! Guido wished LabHome success when it started (he wrote an article on it saying so), and so have I whenever I have commented. At present I have 2 Labour members on my writing team, which is the same number as the two Tories.
    I’ve been vocal on wanting to see vigorous grass roots politics across the spectrum since the day I started; nothing less will do, since there are important political things that the blog form is the best vehicle for.
    In so far as people talk about boycotts of their opposition, whether it’s Lab Home or Lib Con, I think they are simply shooting themselves in both feet.
    My take on “don’t link to Dale” is that it will damage the non-linkers more than it damages Dale, and all such conversations are a simple waste of time that should be put into creative politics – God knows, bloggers – all of us – need more time to spend on political thinking and campaigning. It may be a slightly marginal argument in SEO terms, but I think it is the way.
    One interesting set of data around this morning is Norfolk Blogger’s reader survey which gives his reader %:
    What are your political leanings
    Labour – 5.0%
    Conservative – 34.0%
    Liberal Democrat – 45.0%
    SNP – 0%
    Plaid Cymru – 1%
    Other -16.0%
    Given that NB is one of the top LD bloggers, that seems to (perhaps) indicate a certain insularity on the Left – although it could indicate a left axis developing around Lib Con and leaving out NB (since NB is on the right of the Lib Dems in general terms).
    I’d love you to write something I can cross-post if you attend the event – I have correspondents at all three and I am running a video feed, but the more the merrier.
    Matt Wardman

  2. Sorry Matt, poor choice of words on my part. I hope it was obvious what I was trying to say.
    Great points in your comment. I’ve written before about Comment Is Free dominating the left-leaning blogosphere; I must admit, it hadn’t occurred to me that LibCon might be doing the same, but perhaps you’re right. Let’s see what comes out of that fringe meeting on Sunday (co-sponsored by LibCon itself).
    For what it’s worth, I’m inclined to agree about the boycott. It seems petty. I’ve found numerous quality blogs because of Iain’s previous lists, so whether or not I agree with his politics, I’m glad he’s taking the trouble to compile the list.
    (Oh, and for the record… I was invited to poll my readership; but I feel a bit uncomfortable about being considered part of the political blogosphere anyway, so I thought I should steer clear.)

  3. Lib Con started off as a “harlem globetrotters” well-established left of centre bloggers who know the ropes enough to keep the management efficient. Something like 12-14 write for CiF for example.
    On CiF, I think at some stage they are going to trip over the contradiction between expecting people to write for nothing apart from a bingo prize for making the front page, while having an editor in Chief (Mr Rusbridger) paid of the order of half a million pa. Combined with the tar-pit comments box, they will have to raise their game within the next 18 months or civilised forums (Lib Con may be one) will challenge them.

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