Is the Lib Dem blogosphere too inward looking? Frankly, yes it is and I’m well aware of being a guilty culprit. Jennie Rigg is absolutely correct, at least in my case, to say that too many Lib Dem bloggers use LibDemBlogs as their blog roll. The best I can do by way of a defence is point out that at least we aren’t as bad as the Labour blogosphere, but that isn’t saying very much at all.
Why is this? When I started blogging back in 2003 (ah, Blogger! How I miss thee. Not.), it wasn’t like that at all. In scenes rather reminiscent to the “Dawn of Man” sequence at the start of 2001: A Space Odyssey, Lib Dem bloggers would mount dawn raids upon Tory bloggers, Tories would do the same to Labour bloggers, and vice versa. Sometimes we’d even get into conversations with normal people as well. Hubs – or to labour my 2001 analogy still further should I say monoliths? – like LibDemBlogs and ConservativeHome seem to have made us all more insular. Even the Tories lack their crusaders. Iain Dale, Tory blogger par excellence is a commentator not a campaigner.
In this respect, and thankfully in so many other ways, Laurence Boyce is mistaken. Staying on LibDemVoice and firing salvos from there is an exercise in futility – it will ultimately only attract the interest of fellow members and other political obsessives.
I read an article a few years ago talking about the 2004 presidential election, I forget where, which summarised the Democrats’ failure and the Republican’s success as lying in the fact that the Democrats tended to organise in hives (as in bees) like the Daily Kos while the Republicans run in packs (as in wolves). It’s an evocative image that has stayed with me – I even nicked it for an article I wrote a couple of years ago. Talking to Jerome Armstrong a few weeks ago (namecheck, namecheck…) he agreed that was a problem for the Democrats, albeit one which is rectifying itself now. We need to do a bit of dismantling ourselves I feel.
The party’s campaign-themed blogs like Corruption is a Crime, Home Office Watch and Forces Focus are a step in the right direction but as they are written by already busy MPs and their staff they tend to get updated sporadically and tend to be very on message. Neither of these factors do much to invite return traffic or even search engine traffic. What we need is the next step on from that – independent blogs maintained by individuals with a passion for the subject, with occasional contributions from the centre to help it along.
I have to admit my own attempt at doing this a couple of years ago, a blog focusing on intergenerational equity (remember Hands Off Our Future? no? I’m not surprised really), ended up a crashing failure simply because I didn’t have the time to dedicate to it. Yet I’m convinced that a blog on this theme would serve a valuable purpose, both in promoting the issue and helping the party to reach out to people who wouldn’t normally come anywhere near a Lib Dem blog. A quick glance at sites such as HousePriceCrash suggests that there are lots of people out there who feel very strongly about the issue – if only I had managed to maintain my blog given the developments of the last nine months.
It is niches like this that the party ought to be actively seeking out. Finding the activists who are willing to then take a lead on the topic is another story however. As the last few weeks have demonstrated, work pressures often force me underground at the very point at which political campaigning is most needed. During election periods I have to be relatively diplomatic (I said relatively) at a period when I’m sure the party would quite like me to go into rottweiller mode. I’m sure others face the same dilemma.
Fundamentally, the only way to square this circle is for putative campaigner-bloggers to have some degree of self-sufficiency and be in a position where they can afford to take risks. Iain Dale’s popularity came about largely because he spent six months after the Tory leadership election in 2005 doing precious little else. Iain had the contacts and was at a point in his life where that was possible (this isn’t a criticism – quite the opposite – and I hope it doesn’t come off that way). But unless someone starts handing out grants to bloggers, it isn’t something we are all going to be in a position to start doing any time soon.
Is Quaequam Blog! going to become more outward looking and campaign focused? No – this is my home for self-indulgent waffle and for letting of steam after a hard day’s work. It was however the original idea behind The Liberati (hence the silly URI). So many plans, so little time…