A bit later than promised, Tim Montgomerie, Editor of ConservativeHome.com, answers your questions.
Mike Walsh: "When the site was initally launched, it was designed by Politicos. It was very different then, only one blog. More like a website than a blog etc. What was the reasoning behind switching to TypePad so soon after launching?"
The main reason was expense. Politicos and other specialist website designers charge thousands of pounds for their products. TypePad is not without its drawbacks but it costs $15 a month and is in many ways a much more flexible platform. I think a lot of people pay far too much for websites. MPs, in particular, could save a lot of money by hosting their constituency sites with firms like TypePad.
When the internet first began firms and individuals published exactly the same sort of stuff onto their websites that they would publish in a hard copy pamphlet or annual report etc. There was no interaction. The best sites now harness the Wisdom of Crowds and involve the general public in helping create the content for their site. That is why I have become an enthusiast for as open a blog as possible (within constraints of taste and decency).
Ben Rogers: "Can you tell us what your plans are for your 2nd year?"
Not yet, Ben. All I'll say is that if my plans materialise ConservativeHome will be unrecognisably different at the end of the second year and 1000% bigger.
Michael Ediae-Ehioze: "Are we going to dedicate a section of this site to young people's issues?"
I don't think so, Michael. Nick Vaughan from Conservative Future recently wrote about his youth organisation's work on The Platform but I don't really have enough time (certainly not at the moment) for separate sections. The workload associated with keeping the main sections of the site going (ToryDiary and the Frontpage) is heavy enough and partly explains why I never gave as much time to the GoldList blog idea as I had hoped.
Derek: "I am amazed at the work that you put into this site and would like to know how much time on average it takes out of your day? Do you also have a "day job", and if so how do you fit it all in?"
The site takes anything at least three hours every day and often a lot more. I don't run the site on my own, however. Sam Coates is my Deputy and Sam usually prepares the newslinks on Mondays, Tuesdays and Saturdays. Sam also oversees the events, community and books blogs. I write nearly all of the ToryDiary entries, however, and that takes a lot of time and I read 99% of the comments (if not always on the very day that they are posted).
I don't have a day job as such. Until recently I did regular work for IDS and the Centre for Social Justice. That is about to stop but I'll continue as an unpaid adviser to the CSJ. I did some paid work for Francis Maude in January and February on the use of the internet in politics. I have two job offers outstanding at the moment and am deciding what to do next...
I work from my home in Salisbury, from my friend's home in Westminster (where I stay when I'm in London), from Starbucks coffee shops across the world and often in the Atrium of Portcullis House.
Stephen Alley: "How do you get the blog to the widest possible audience. I mean, have you any plans to increase the readership of ConservativeHome? Or has word of mouth served you well enough?"
I emailed all of my friends when I first started the site and it has since grown via lots of people recommending it to others and by being added to blogrolls. I've leafletted party events and many people helped leaflet last year's hustings meetings. The whole leadership race gave the site fame (a little bit anyway!). I think I should run a viral email campaign to increase awareness of the site. From my experience it is still unknown to most Tories.
Stephen Alley: "As a floating voter, I've always wondered whether you see the site's audience as Conservative voters or the British public as a whole?"
I think it's mainly an internal discussion, Stephen. I always have a mythical 'Scunthorpe Man' in my mind. Scunthorpe Man doesn't have much opportunity to talk to others about his conservative beliefs in the pub, at work or through any local Conservative association. ConservativeHome joins him with other conservatives in, I hope, lively and enriching debate. With initiatives like the ChameleonArmy.com I hope ConservativeHome will increasingly have something to say to non-Tories, however.
Voice from the SouthWest: "What have you found to be the most rewarding aspect of running Conservative Home, and the least rewarding?"
The most rewarding thing is that ConservativeHome is incredibly widely read by journalists and MPs and others. Why is that rewarding? Because it means that the Tory grassroots can't be ignored anymore. They have a Platform where they can communicate - unmediated - with the party high-ups and the commentariat of the Westminster village. The Members' Panel is the most important (and certainly representative) aspect of that grassroots platform and it grew out of the rebellion against last year's disgraceful attempt to rob members of their vote in the leadership election. Looking back on that I'm more staggered than then that the Conservative Party - which gave trade union members the vote - could even contemplate rolling back internal democracy in such a way.
The least rewarding aspect is the pettiness of some of the threads. I intensely dislike threads which descend into personal squabbling rather than discussion of substantive issues.
Frank Young: "What do you see as the potential biggest effect of blogging on the political process?"
My answer to Voice from the SouthWest, Frank, answers your question, too. Blogging empowers the grassroots against the high-ups. It connects and platforms causes that previously had to rely on the old media for any exposure. Karl Rove said it would deliver the revitalisation of participative politics. I believe that and, on Monday, will be writing a ten point briefing on blogging and conservative politics.
Jonathan Sheppard: "If you weren't doing ConservativeHome - what would you be doing?"
I think I'd like to be at CCHQ, helping to apply the lessons of America to how the Conservative Party could use the internet and technological change to build a grassroots organisation worthy of the 21st century.
Goldie: "Are you planning to stand for Parliament?"
No. I've never wanted to be an MP and don't think I'd be a good one. I'm very single-minded and not good at doing many things at the same time! For most of the last six or seven years I've been focused on championing the whole issue of social justice and that work is now in the very good hands of Cameron Watt and Philippa Stroud at the Centre for Social Justice. ConservativeHome is my new big thing and I want to make it a success over the coming few years.
I think too many people put too much effort into being an MP. I've seen a lot of people sink thousands and thousands of pounds into the possibility of a parliamentary career and risk their family life in the process. I admire the many MPs who serve their constituents but it's a costly pursuit and there are very, very few influential MPs. I hope those prospective MPs who are not included on the party's new A-list realise that there are big, alternative ways of upholding conservatism - outside of Parliament and within the conservative movement that is beginning to emerge and which Britain desperately needs.
Simon C: "Who are your political heroes?"
- I admire William Wilberforce for the perseverance he showed in eventually abolishing slavery
- Winston Churchill for his WWII leadership
- Margaret Thatcher for restoring Britain's economy and pride
- Ronald Reagan for his optimism and plain-speaking about the Evil Empire
- Rudolph Giuliani for zero tolerance policing
- Iain Duncan Smith and George W Bush for putting social justice on to the conservative agenda.
Is that too many?!
Donal Blaney: "What are the most important lessons for the Conservative Party to learn from the successes of the Republican Party in the United States and the Liberals in Australia?"
Have confidence in conservatism. In George W Bush, John Howard and now Stephen Harper in Canada, voters are electing people who are promising authentic conservatism on tax and national security and the environment.
Anonymous: "You have always been a strong proponent of marriage and family values, yet from what I know you're not married. Why is this?"
I haven't met the right person, Anon. I hope I will get married one day but I'd have to cut the anti-social hours I devote to ConservativeHome!
Anonymous: "I believe during the William Hague days, you were a very vocal evangelical Christian. There is no indication of your religious persuations or beliefs on this website. Have you changed your mind about anything you held to to be true say 6 or 7 years ago?"
ConservativeHome has its editorial line, Anon, on issues like the importance of the family and the protection of all human life but I want ConservativeHome to be open to all members of the conservative coalition and this site is not about constantly parading my Christianity. Nonetheless, in the shields logo at the top of this page there is a shield representing the role that people of faith play in the broad conservative coalition and it just happens to be the central one! At Christmas and Easter Sam and I chose Christian stories to top the newslinks. On Easter Day I wrote this on 'Perfect freedom'. But you're not wrong to sense that my beliefs aren't exactly where they were six or seven years ago. I do, for example, support Civil Partnerships for gay couples. I've been persuaded by the likes of Andrew Sullivan. I now wish the political establishment could move on from issues of gay rights and focus on rebuilding the traditional family - the breadown of which is the engine behind much of today's poverty, crime and loneliness. I hope this answers your question.