No blog is an island
Politics today is as vibrant as at any time in the last twenty years. The Conservative Party is resurgent and in a different form to that which Labour has defeated three times. There are Parliamentary battles over tax and civil liberties. International financial instability brings issues to the surface that haven’t been at the forefront of politics for a generation. The political blogosphere reflects this but, as had has been discussed on various sites, its success is not equal across all parties.
Conservative blogs seem to go from strength to strength, outstripping their Labour counterparts in visitor numbers, in campaigning clout and in their ability to influence the mainstream agenda. Meanwhile, we have a Labour blogosphere that excels in some areas while lagging behind in others. Aggregator sites like Bloggers4Labour and the user-generated approach of Labour Home have no counterparts on the Tory side but for all the innovations by Labour bloggers, the community still doesn’t quite seem to hang together in the way that the Conservatives’ does.
Among the received wisdom is that blogging from opposition is simply a lot easier. Maybe writing about what’s going wrong is quicker and simpler. Maybe Labour’s Iain Dales and Tim Montgomeries are working in government rather than setting up websites. Maybe, with a web-led fight over the party’s leadership rules, a leadership election, the party’s attempt to keep the ‘A-List’ secret and massive changes to their party, Conservatives have just had a lot more to read and blog about over the last three years.
This can’t be the full picture though. Conservative blogs aren’t just filled with anti-government posts, they cover their party too. Some Labour insiders might be working in government and unable to blog but there are plenty of connected people who find the time. Conservative blogs may have had a lot to write about since 2005, but its not as though Labour haven’t had their share of interesting stories too.
So what’s the real reason? Sunny Hundal diagnosed the problem last year as the left-blogosphere’s “painful lack of coalition building” and the fact that “leftwing blogs discuss social issues almost as single issue groups, focusing on relatively few areas of interest. This means far too little cross-fertilisation of ideas and conversations”. In contrast, a constant flow of news, comment, thinktank reports and campaign information from all parts of the conservative movement moves through a few of the big Conservative sites read by bloggers, members and the media alike. The Tory blogosphere benefits enormously from sites like Conservative Home and Iain Dale’s Diary that collect information from these disparate sources and bring it to the attention of the rest.
Sunny’s excellent LiberalConspiracy.org responded to this problem by bringing together a number bloggers under one roof – rightly thinking that leftwing environmentalists, civil libertarians and feminists etc. would achieve far more by working together than by discussing things separately. The site has been successful at bringing disparate debates together and the next move is to follow the Tory blogs by linking up with the wider, non-web-based Labour party. LabourOutlook.com seeks to contribute to that by publicising Labour-related news, campaigns and Labour-leaning thinktank reports and by hosting articles by bloggers, MPs, parliamentary candidates and anyone else involved in Labour politics.
Bringing together sites in a way that spans and links single-issues, Westminister politics, thinktanks and non-web-based organisations will allow Labour’s online presence to compete with the big boys.
Wednesday, 23 April 2008
A new Labour supporters blog
Just stumbled across the LabourOutlook blog, which kindly links to mine, and looks like a good initiative. Here's the launch blurb: