The Death of the Political Blog?

by George_East on October 28, 2013

sunny hundalOn Friday Sunny Hundal announced that the Liberal Conspiracy blog was coming to an end.  This is pretty significant news in the British political blogosphere, as it is one of the longest running political blogs (established as it was in 2005) and one of the most influential (it is currently ranked at No 5 in the ebuzzing blog charts).  In particular on the British non-party aligned centre left, it has only really been rivalled by the drier and more policy-oriented Left Foot Forward in its reach.   It is a sad moment.  I have not always been overly impressed by Sunny’s analysis on issues (I think he can sometimes be ahistorical and lacking in depth), but there is no doubt that Liberal Conspiracy has done some sterling work, aided by his almost ubiquitous Twitter presence.  He is on the side of the angels and that means his loss is going to be sorely felt.

The difference though between blogs like Left Foot Forward on the left and Guido Fawkes and Conservative Home on the right, and Liberal Conspiracy is that the former have professional paid staff, whereas Liberal Conspiracy was the last of the large amateur political blogs.   It has led to many commentators questioning whether the age of the amateur political blog is effectively over.  No volunteers also holding down day jobs can hope to compete with the professionally staffed blogs or those run as adjuncts to web presences of national newspapers or magazines, such as the Guardian’s Comment Is Free or the Spectator’s Coffee House blog.

My own view is that this analysis is wrong and is conflating two things.  While it may well be true that it is harder now for a non-professional blog to be heard, given the oligopolisation in the new media of political opinion into off-shoots of old media, professional blogs and party blogs with their activist driven agendas (Labour List, Labour Uncut, Lib Dem Voice etc), it does not follow that there is no longer any point blogging for those of us who also do day jobs.    It is to conflate the desire to write, to explore ideas and to entertain with the need to influence.   But they are two different things.

Here at Allthatsleft we have always prided ourselves (despite our small but we hope loyal readership) with providing a channel to express anger and frustration with this awful government as well as a space to escape from it with our broad mix of politics, music, film and sport.   We would love also to influence things – we think, at least, that we have something to say – but we do not see ourselves as failures or the whole enterprise as worthless if we do not.  Sunny may well think he can do more good or get a better reach by doing other things – and all power to him if he is right about that.  But his decision does not affect why many of us devote some of our precious time to blogging.   Allthatsleft certainly has no plans to chuck the towel in.

The truth I suspect is actually the opposite to that which the (largely self-interested) old and new media pundits are saying.    There are more blogs out there now (including political blogs) than ever before – some are single issue, some range widely, some are incredibly local, some are global in their perspective.  Some (like Allthatsleft) are collective endeavours, others about a single author’s perspective on the world.     The means through which those views can be expressed and now with Twitter how quickly they can be disseminated if they are insightful and are picked up on is so convenient and easy that this is only likely to continue to be the trend.

Opinions are ten a penny and the blogosphere has done very well at exposing the shallow thinking and narrow conventional wisdom found in the mainstream press – they have sought to address that by appropriating some of the blogosphere’s best writers.  But it still more likely that the next generation of paid writers (if payment for opinion, as opposed to old fashioned reporting, is a long term sustainable model at all – the arts critics of the past, for example, are finding themselves increasingly redundant in the age of the blogger) will increasingly be recruited from the ranks of the blogosphere rather than through the traditional journalistic ladder.

So the death of Liberal Conspiracy leaves a big hole in the centre-left blogosphere but it is a hole that will be quickly filled.  Let a thousand blogs bloom…..

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Mike Killingworth October 29, 2013 at 8:52 am

Basically, Sunny (a nice enough chap) has got himself a real job. Admittedly only part time, but he does want to be a Labour MP, doesn’t he? So he has to give himself time for networking.


George_East October 29, 2013 at 10:48 am

Mike – the funny thing about that is that his name is out there precisely because of Liberal Conspiracy. Once he has given that up (as he now has) I wonder whether he will be able to maintain such a high profile. He has gone from being one of the country’s top political bloggers to just another talking head with a big Twitter presence.


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