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.)