By Tim Montgomerie
The Coalition has already given us unprecented access to data about public services: "It tells you something about the culture of secrecy in Whitehall over the past decade that Tony Blair says in his autobiography that the Freedom of Information Act was his “biggest regret” in government. I’m sure we could all think of a few things he really ought to regret more. From day one of the coalition Government, we have chosen to take a different path, and to embrace the accountability revolution enabled by the internet age. And already it seems incredible that this time last year, the British public couldn’t access even some of the most basic information needed to hold the government to account:
By Tim Montgomerie
ConservativeHome will be blogging tonight but it won't be the frenetic service of yesteryears. We'll be providing a rolling record of major developments but that'll be it. Why? Twitter.
Before Twitter a blog was the best place to record the unfolding developments of a big event but the collective wisdom of Twitter does it better. We therefore recommend you click on this page if you don't have your own Twitter account. It's my selection of the 115 best political voices who tweet. Together they produce the sweetest and best inforned political chorus in Britain. Don't just tune in for coverage and insight into tonight's developments. Bookmark the page. It's a treasure trove that never stops giving!
Lots to look forward to on ConservativeHome over the coming days including my 5,000 word inside story of the AV campaign. Twitter is great but some things need more than 140 characters.
The website is part of the beginning of an anti-Ken leaflet and poster campaign. The first leaflet is republished below.
Boris has a tough re-election fight. It's good to see he's getting going early. Last week he launched this leaflet recording his achievements (click on image to enlarge):
Jonathan Isaby's pick: There is an argument for giving a lifetime achievement award for blogging to the pioneering Iain Dale, who did of course write the final entry in Iain Dale's Diary earlier this month. But my pick this year goes to the blogger who Tim Montgomerie nominated in this category last year, the Conservative MP, John Redwood. Posting without fail every morning, he continues to provide highly informed commentary and analysis on the economy, Europe and whichever matters of the moment he feels the urge to blog about. It remains essential reading.
Tim Montgomerie's pick: We have plenty of political blogs that analyse policy. Plenty that mock political personalities. Plenty that obsess about opinion polls. But Britain doesn't have many blogs that take campaigning seriously. In America politics is conducted professionally. Opinion polls, marketing and messaging are pursued by lifetime experts. In James Frayne's Campaign War Room the UK blogosphere has a blog that takes campaigning seriously and it's brilliantly written. I'll give a mention to Mark Wallace's Crash, Bang, Wallace blog too. Well worth adding to your favourites if you haven't already done so. When Iain Dale 'retired' (I predict temporarily) he said that Mark could be his natural replacement... although a little more right-wing!
Paul Goodman's pick: Writing well, thinking originally and breaking stories are essential to a widely-read blog. Cranmer has been off-line for part of the year in what appear to have been trying circumstances. But he's been back for the best part of three months or so now, observing the world as sharply and as ever, getting first to the news of Katharine Birbalsingh's sacking, and digging out some gems from Hansard (see here). A footnote: my twitterer of the year would be David Jones MP, who's grasped, as I have not, that to master the art no detail is too trivial to tweet.
Harry Phibbs' pick: Dan Hannan has an erudite and elegantly written blog which, as all good blogs should, is fearless in challenging establishment orthodoxies. His position as a Euro MP leaves him with no shortage of material.
> This is the final of the team's Picks of 2010. Click on this category link to scroll through all of our selections.
Earlier today Iain Dale announced that he was stopping blogging. He promises to write sometimes on a new site that he's launching in the new year but it will be occasional. Iain will readily admit that his blog hasn't been operating at full speed for some time. His energies have been devoted to Total Politics, Biteback Publishing and his LBC evening radio show. Iain has become a major mainstream media success and despite his phenomenal work rate he can't do everything and his blog has had to make way for these other things. I wish him good luck and have a suspicion that, within six months, he might miss blogging more than he thinks.
Iain's retirement from blogging coincides with the end of ToryBear. Mr Harry Cole has shed the blue furry costume and formally confirmed that he has been co-writing the Guido Fawkes blog and will continue to do so.
Does this mean the end of the Tory blogosphere? Or the beginning of the end? Some are asking the question.
I don't think so. I recently highlighted some new blood that is refreshing the centre right blogosphere. We'll see some churning with new people taking to the medium as others quit.
We may see group blogs like ConHome, Coffee House and Telegraph blogs becoming much more dominant. Only such blogs can easily deliver regular output.
There are two areas where I worry about the Right and the internet:
Final word. Iain Dale used his farewell post to say some negative things about blogging and he's right to point to its ugly side. The backbiting, for example. But political blogging has been a very good thing overall. There are more voices. More diverse and more specialist. Think tankers, MPs and party activists have broken conventional journalists' monopoly. Conversation is more sustained. Mainstream media columnists are now factchecked, fisked and otherwise held accountable. Many comments are tedious but I learn things from ConHome readers each and everyday. Twitter has given blogging competition but the ConHome readership continues to rise (election period excepted). If we can maintain our free-to-air service as the MSM newspaper disappear behind paywalls that will only continue.
Ben Howlett, Chairman of Conservative Future, commented:
“I have been struck by the level of misinformation about what the Government is proposing. Students won’t pay anything up-front and won’t pay a penny until they earn £21,000. And when they do start paying, they will pay back £45 less every month than they do now, while the least well off will pay back less in total than they currently do. Students deserve better than the irresponsible myth-making we have seen in recent weeks. Conservative Future will be helping make the facts clear in the days and months ahead.”
PS One thing missing from the otherwise simple and effective website is a facility that would collect email addresses. CCHQ should never launch a website that doesn't have some sort of contacts collector.
Download CCHQ's Tuition Fees leaflet.
I've just scrapped the 'Editor's blog choice' that appeared in the middle column of this page and throughout ConHome. I've replaced it with two lists: a Big Beast Polibloggers list which links to the Paul Waugh and Coffee Houses of the blogging world and also a New Wave Blogs list; blogs that are new and I recommend for your favourites.
Iain Dale recently wrote about the dearth of new centre right bloggers but I'm more optimistic and want to do more to highlight good new bloggers in the weeks ahead.
By Jonathan Isaby
My initial reaction in preparing this response is to say that in deciding where to link to I am gender blind and am not seeking to fulfill some form of quota when it comes to women bloggers (or BME bloggers or gay bloggers etc. for that matter). Rather, the aim is to link to quality writing and/or interesting/informative/provocative blog posts.
But even putting that argument to one side, the stark fact is that there aren't that many female Right-of-Centre bloggers out there - or of any political hue for that matter.
Whilst being no scientific survey, the latest Total Politics poll of Top 100 Conservative blogs struggles to reach ten written by women. The proportion in their equivalent list of Labour bloggers is about the same.
Jill Kirby and Julia Manning both write regularly on ConHome; there is Fiona Melville at Platform 10; Nadine Dorries is undoubtedly the best known blogging female Tory MP; and from the mainstream media, Janet Daley and Melanie Phillips are probably the two most prominent Right-of-Centre bloggers.
They are the names which immeidately spring to mind - but who am I missing? Which other female bloggers should I be reading (and linking to) more regularly?
And whilst some may want to come up with an explanation as to why there are so few female bloggers, I'd be interested to hear any suggestions you have as to the female commentators or politicians you would like to see blogging, since ConHome may be able to provide them with that platform...
Yesterday Grant Shapps explained the usefulness of Twitter.
I'm a big fan and find it a hugely useful source of information. It's like getting short txts from a very informed group of people. The secret is to only follow people who you are interesting!
I've set up a Twitter list of people who are writing insightful Tweets about the General Election. I've mainly including journalists but also some pollsters, politicians and party insiders. You need to sign up to Twitter to use the list but that only takes one minute. Once you've done that, just add this link to your favourites and access it like any other website. I'm confident you'll find it more useful than any other single news source. More useful even than ConHome :-)
I've also set up three other lists:
I hope you find them helpful.
This is a question which is often asked of those of us in the blogosphere - and it is addressed by Andrew Rawnsley in his column in The Observer this morning.
He is quick to assert that whilst the internet will not change the fundamental nature of why people choose to vote for a particular party, it will very much change the way in which the election is fought:
"This election will still be decided by arguments about issues, values and character. The internet does not replace their importance. What it provides, to politicians clever enough to exploit them, are new devices for shaping the argument, mobilising supporters and communicating with the electorate. And it reshapes the terrain on which the struggle is waged."
All very true: just yesterday, for example, the Conservatives launched cash-gordon.com, a Facebook-based campaign to highlight the reliance of Labour on the cash from Unite. And earlier in the week, I highlighted the iPhone app promoting Shaun Bailey's campaign in Hammersmith.
But it is about more than just how politicians and parties communicate messages to the electorate. It is about how the blogosphere has empowered masses of people wanting to challenge the agendas being pushed and the claims being made. Rawnsley refers to the "disruptive force of fact-checkers, claim-debunkers, story-breakers, rumour-mongers and cyber-satirists" in the blogosphere - and yesterday provided a perfect example of how a false claim about a senior politician from a partisan blogger can swiftly be scotched.
Moreover, in elections in the analogue age, each party would try each morning to dictate the agenda for the day with a morning press conference dedicated to a specific subject - but those days are long gone. With 24-rolling news channels, print journalists filing to the web throughout the day and indeed that aforementioned army of bloggers, the pace of the news cycle has become ever more rapid. There will be two kinds of politicians fighting an e-election, asserts Rawnsley: "the quick and the dead".