Is the political blogsphere landscape changing?

Left Foot Forward could consistently achieve the same level of authority as the FT.

Matt Wardman sees the tectonic plates of the political blogsphere shifting pre the General Election. I think you will have to wait until after and the changed political landscape to see significant changes though what will certainly be of interest (and no doubt will in subsequent years prompt numerous studies) is how the political blogsphere both reports on and shapes the campaigns of all the parties.

Wardman is certainly right when he observes;

Several of the left group blogs (Lab List, Lib Con and Left Foot Forward) seem to be increasingly trying to crowd onto the same small piece of anti-Tory ground.

However, the expected electoral revival of the Conservatives should see that small piece of ground become bigger so it is not necessarily true that ‘one will fall off’. Labour List will become vibrant to my mind as it reflects the post-mortem debate within the Labour Party; Left Foot Forward has the potential to fulfil Wardman’s criteria of being ‘as ‘authoritative as the FT’ but the price paid for that is it fails to really reflect a diversity of views and a debate. Much the same critique applies to Liberal Conspiracy which is struggling to reflect any kind of diversity and plurality on the left and has the feel of a ‘Labour exiles’ site.  Also, (expects hate-mail from editors) the layout is looking a little dated, bland and ‘long’.

His tip is this;

if Sunder Katwala managed to turn the Next Left blog into a full group blog (with a design that let us see more articles without scrolling 28 feet down) while maintaining its current level of editorial consistency, he could achieve something quite significant.

His criticism of Next Left’s very cumbersome layout is on-the-mark as is his perception that Katwala’s site has alot of untapped potential. Katwala and the Fabians have shown themselves willing and able to engage with Liberal Democrats; especially those around the Social Liberal Forum and this is something that could give it a unique ‘pitch’.

Turning to the right, Wardman argues;

on the right there seems to be a hole where a non-party aligned policy-type group blog needs to be.

This is certainly true;  Guido Fawkes and Iain Dale are individual starlets and Conservative Home will continue to draw an audience as people look for the growth of the ‘enemy within’ Cameron’s ranks but it is certainly not non-alinged. All the famous right-wing blogs I can bring to my mind are one way or another linked to the Conservative Party.

We are certainly living in interesting times in the political blogsphere which can be seen either as a blessing or a curse depending on your point of view….


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About darrellgoodliffe


6 responses to “Is the political blogsphere landscape changing?”

  1. mattwardman2000 says :

    Thanks for the response.

    I think I was probably a touch harsh on LFF. I think Will has perhaps made a rod for his own back by nailing “evidence-based analysis” to the mast as a slogan. It’s a fun thing to have a pop at, as Paul Waugh and Guido have been doing.

    In my view, authority and objectivity in blogs should emerge from your commentar when noticed by others, rather than be a brand. that you set up yourself.

    On the left, I think it would be good to have a bit more clarity about what “independent” means. The concept was devalued by when Dolly stuck it on Lab List, and it is all still too ambiguous.



  2. Mark Reckons says :

    I am one of the LFF contributors and they also have contributions from other non-Labour people. They are certainly open to my ideas on electoral reform and drugs policy, I just have to back up my statements with evidence, but I pretty much do this on my own blog anyway, I just tone down the partisanship a bit. They also do criticise the government.

    Also, I know Will is keen for more Lib Dems to contribute and I am sure would welcome submissions which would help to make it a bit more pluralistic. To this end though I suspect the word “Left” in the name does not help and I did say this to Will when he first mentioned it to me!


  3. Alex Smith says :

    Interesting thoughts, thanks Darrell.

    I’ve left a comment (at the link below) which explains more about LL’s independence, as a response to a reader who said I should “look for the razors” because I was too promotional of Labour.

    I’d be interested if you let me know your thoughts.



  4. Will Straw says :

    Very interesting discussion. As Mark says, Left Foot Forward is keen for contributions from as wide a group of progressives as possible. And we certainly dont want people to be put off by the name or the masthead. All we meant by “evidence-based” is that people should back up their assertions and then back down if someone else proves them wrong. To their credit, Paul Waugh and Guido have only taken the p*ss when we haven’t lived up to our own standards and I’m happy that we face that kind of accountability. We won’t ever have authority without it.

    On the other point, raised by Matt, my sense is that Lib Con, LFF and Labour List all occupy different spaces but coalesce in our anti-Tory posts. Labour List is the premier forum for debates about the future of the Labour party but is also a cheerleader when the party gets things right; Liberal Conspiracy are the agenda drivers with a keen set of values against which they hold all parties to account; Left Foot Forward is a bit more current affairs and policy focused trying to give an account of the story behind the news (which frequently means providing the Tory rebuttal). Although there is some overlap, most of our contributers are different and conform to each site’s style and strengths so there is something dynamic going on.

    And I absolutely agree about Next Left: A triumph of substance over style.


  5. darrellgoodliffe says :


    Your welcome. I can see what you mean about the rod for own back comment and to me what is what marks it out as less a polemical debating site and more a site whose intent is to actually argue objectively as opposed to subjectively. This is really what I meant in regard to saying LFF doesn’t come across as a debating site.

    Agreed to be honest. To me it means not alinged to any established political party but I suppose by that standard contributors from the far-left would all be ‘independent’; like you say it does need to be a tightly defined concept.


  6. darrellgoodliffe says :

    Mark & Will,

    I am not doubting that but as I have just said in my reply to Matt above I had a different reason for making the assertion I did.

    I think the tag you have given the blog does give it the chance to develop the levels of authority Matt thinks should be present but it will be at the expense of a degree of subjective debate because when there are two sides both will claim their own side to be the ‘evidence based’ one.

    Will, I agree about Labour List but not so much Liberal Conspiracy which I still see as too narrowly based; in practice, 99% of the posts on it are about holding the Labour Party and not any other party to account. I agree about the pluses of Left Foot Forward; what would be really good is if it continued to develop as it is building on those strengths and alongside it there was a parrell development of a site committed to more subjective polemic-mongering.


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