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All very true and well argued. Even today on the excellent Labour Watch blog we see the husband of our beloved Culture Secretary Tessa Mills sinking even deeper into the mire. I loved the quote that "The money was a gift. It was in exchange for some tricky corners, to balance a tricky situation."

Whether or not the £350,000 turns out to have been a "gift" and her husband doesn't go to jail, it'll be blogs keeping us up to date with developments long after the trial stops being a couple of useful column inches to fill space on a quiet day in the broadsheet world.

Perhaps blogs will take on a similar role to that of talkback radio in US and Australian politics, over time. If that is the case, it can only be a good thing for the Conservative Party. Anything that helps to circumvent the left-liberal grip on public sector broadcasting (yes, Mr Naughtie, I'm pointing at you) will help us get the message out.

The most impressive blogging scalps taken so far on this side of the Atlantic were lifted by Scott Burgess, an expat American who blogs at The Daily Ablution.

For more on this see also TechCentral.

I share Tim's excitement about the democratic possibilities for blogs, these are powerful campaigning tools.

As I've said elsewhere campaigning and political activism will look very different in ten years time. Only yesterday I was filling out my application for spring forum and where it said "constituency association/organisation represented I was almost tempted to put ConservativeHome. Increasingly members may well feel an affinity to their blog rather than local association.

At the moment I get the feeling we are in a primitive stage of blogging and its relationship to the wider political process. For it to become an integral part we need to discuss more clearly how it interacts with the wider process both in terms of media and campaigning.

Are we just talking to ourselves here like an e-dinner party or is their something else happening?

At the moment these blogs need to define their purpose more clearly and the relationship with media and voters needs to be more closely developed. These are exciting times indeed.

Is there an implication for policy here?

Will blogs - focussed increasingly on micro issues - become the new form of corporatism. Where a group of people interested in an area of government liaise with the relevant ministers/shadow ministers on that topic.

Will blogs eventually influence policy in the way pressure groups try to do? Will we start to think of blogs as insider and outsider blogs?

Blogs are essential given the downturn in quality of the UK press in the last few years - only The Business endeavours to show any thought leadership. Bring back Brillo to edit the Sunday Times again

Readers may be interested in this blog post where an anti-Labour tactical voting movement seems to be getting off the ground.

An excellent article. I agree that Blogs have the potential to make a huge impact in the future (particularly in democracies). The challenge therefore is to build high quality blogs on topics that matter: and conservativehome is a great example!

I tend to disagree that the future of blogging is in larger blogs. The future is in micro-blogs on very specific issues trying to affect change by interacting with legislators.

Micro-blogging will lean towards a coalition of affected or concerned people on a subject building relationships with the wider political process.

In time I suspect we will distinguish between campaigning blogs which are seeking to affect change in an area and news blogs which report change and provide an outlet for "netroot" commentary.

"Who wants to be a Millionaire?" is an ideal example, but not of the wisdom of crowds. The ask the audience section is blatantly rigged to provide more compelling viewing. Extending the metaphor, blogs will likely eventually find themselves enlisted into the corporate world, to be manipulated at will. It's going to be a lot cheaper than traditional advertising, after all (you already see some of this in manufacturers posting "reviews" of their own products on public websites).

More generally, I find blogs can be interesting at times, but the very self-referring circularity they encourage tends to enforce insularity of opinion. Its predecessor Usenet is still superior in many ways, while for speciality stuff you're better off with public niche forums.

In the party political realm specifically, is the blog effect of micro-separating interest communities perhaps a bad thing? We could quite easily end up with the virtual equivalent of Washington lobby belt, where small but well-funded activist/lobbyist groups can completely distort democracy through their focused and well-targetted methods. Where does the individual citizen fit into this? Does it replace parties entirely? Only a tiny fraction of the population will ever have the interest or capability to become personally involved - are they to be disenfranchised?

ps much of the above is devil's advocate stuff, although some is genuine concern. Personally I tend to the view that equality of voting/democratic power isn't always fair - in other words, one man's passionate interest should trump another's casual disinterest.

The Editor really does need to hold a conference on this issue so that we can thrash out the strategic direction of "blogging" as a concept.

It might not be a bad idea for CH to hold an AGM event where "stakeholders" can contribute to the direction and purpose as well as a form of involving members.

Increasingly members may well feel an affinity to their blog rather than local association.

That’s raises a interesting point, for everyone has a need ‘to belong’ and blogs can create a strong sense of sociability. And one of the great and untapped possibilities of political blogging/forums lies in their local application, and thus the ability to straddle the gap that is implied in Frank’s remark (though I would apply it to the general citizenry rather than only to party members). A ‘sense of community’ is one of the great clichés of the left and yet it is the conservative tradition, with its Burkean notion of little platoons, which has most to gain from such a development.

For example I live in a town of about 15,000. The school, medical and policing services are about typical I guess (i.e. poor to reasonable), but the complaining is done by isolated individuals who feel powerless to really change anything, and therefore their voice has only a caviling and ineffective tone. The odd letter to the local paper and that’s about it.

But if people feel that things are not as good as they should be, there are only three things that they can do:

(1) suffer in silence;
(2) complain ineffectively (whinge);
(3) complain effectively (“kick ass”).

Local internet can become an engine of democracy, for it has the means to raise type 2s into type 3s and thus creates core groups of authority-challenging citizens. A dissident voice is greatly bolstered in its confidence when it finds a second voice, and when it finds a third it becomes a force. Similarly, the bureaucracy is fairly competent when facing down individuals, but tends to fall back defensively when faced with an association of citizens that is assertive, unpredictable and led by enthusiastic volunteers.

A town of 15k has probably about 5k adult internet users. If 20% of those can be coaxed into regularly visiting local internet forums there is the potential to start something that can soon transform the politics of the locality. It in effect sets up an electronic umbrella under which may gather patients’ associations, parent groups, police users’ committees (!), local blogs of all kinds and local branches of the TPA, Post Office users etc etc. as well as non-political groupings (football fan clubs; church groups; gardening clubs; ramblers) – in short, every kind of activity that constitutes the social life of the people.

Wow, the last place I've expected to be linked by was here...

I just want to stress one point - it's not just that talk is turning to anti-Labour tactical voting amongst bloggers; what's actually being discussed is collaborative working between the libertarian right and liberal/libertarian left toward a new constitutional settlement.

What we have is failing. An uncodified constitution is only as good as the will of the political elite to observe its conventions and traditions, and that will is conspicuous by its absence in the present government nor, power being what it is, do we believe that we trust future governments of whatever party to restore the balance of liberty and undo the illiberal, authoritarian works of this present government.

Within this 'coalition of the willing' there is indeed talk amongst the Conservative and Liberal elements of tactical voting; but there is also a Labour contingent as well, of which I'm one.

What we've found is common ground on which we can work together across the old party divides, common ground that is best expressed by the strap line adopted for the Libery Central website which will form the hub of this activity - 'Where Liberty is, there is my country'.

Slightly off message but this in today's Washington Post illustrates the anti-totalitarian power of the internet in nations like China.

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