Corrosive cynicism, fuelled by politically nihilistic blogs and a retreat from dispassionate reporting, is endangering British political discourse..... she lambast [s] the growth of a hermetically-sealed professional political class and call for a support network on the lines of the political women's action group Emily's List to help more people from ordinary careers into full-time politics...... in part she will blame "a shrinking and increasingly competitive newspaper market" which demands more "impact" from its reporting - the translation of every political discussion into a row, every difficulty a crisis, every rocky patch for the prime minister into the "worst week ever"....... perhaps because of the nature of the technology, there is a tendency for political blogs to have a 'Samizdat' style. The most popular blogs are rightwing, ranging from the considered Tory views of Iain Dale, to the vicious nihilism of Guido Fawkes. Perhaps this is simply anti-establishment. Blogs have only existed under a Labour government. Perhaps if there was a Tory government, all the leading blogs would be left-of-centre?"
"But mostly, political blogs are written by people with disdain for the political system and politicians, who see their function as unearthing scandals, conspiracies and perceived hypocrisy."
"Until political blogging 'adds value' to our political culture, by allowing new voices, ideas and legitimate protest and challenge, and until the mainstream media reports politics in a calmer, more responsible manner, it will continue to fuel a culture of cynicism and despair."
Predicatably, a few tories think it's a bizzare line to take. I could have written that speech. In a way, I think that I have - about fifty times. For the first time in a while, a Labour politician seems to be adopting a fairly unfashionable position, but one that I agree with almost totally. It goes to the root, rather than attacking the symptoms, of a minor malaise that is currently infecting political discourse in the UK.
But, all of that said, let me offer an exhibit for the defence from the blogosphere. I'm adding this with a bit of a caveat - I try not to use my blog to promote my own work, but I promoted Slugger O'Toole's recent awards and contributed to a lot of the thinking around it. So - declaration of interest over - here goes:
Slugger O'Toole is a fantastic, postitive political blog, and as Matt Wardman points out, it has the highest market penetration of all of the political blogs. Guido and Iain Dale may think that they are influential, but they really aren't - compared to Slugger - for reasons that Matt picks up elsewhere.
The awards and it's general demeanour towards politicians is very constructive. As Matt Wardman put it, "changing, not circling the political process."
"The work that Slugger is doing is (as far as I know) unique in this country: a blog having a measure of impact in seeking to strengthen the political process, rather than simply trying to make different things happen using the existing political process. That’s what we need for blogs to fulfil their potential.
In my view this is an example for the other countries in the UK. The interesting question is this:
How long will it be before any “mainland” blogs are taken sufficiently seriously to be able to mount such a set of awards in London, Cardiff or Edinburgh (or - I suppose - in Brussels)? I don’t think I have seen any reporting of the Awards in the British press or on British blogs. That is a pity - NI is streets ahead of any other part of the UK in this respect..."
(BTW, I've checked - Mick didn't put Matt up to write this - as far as I know, they've never met or spoken).
As Jeff put it, elsewhere, "....unlike other blogs that are nasty, or partisan, or both, Slugger has always managed to stay civilised and civil. A team of good bloggers makes the difference - Mick soon realized that to keep the momentum he couldn’t do it all himself."
Martin Rowson gets it as well - here:
And so does Alan:
"Slugger’s become an online watering hole where the less informed and less engaged can hazard an opinion too. A place where you’ll not get cut down too quickly, and where it’s possible to have an opinion without having to swear allegiance to a particular party. With a range of contributors, there’s a spectrum of commentary, and plenty of the post authors pitch in below the line..."
So, there you have it. The UK's most influential political blog is doing all of the things that Hazel says that bloggers should be doing - and doing it fantastically well. But the most effective bloggers at self-promotion aren't doing it - so the rest of the blogosphere gets tarred by the same brush.