2010: The year of the left blogosphere?

A spate of articles in recent days herald the growth of the left blogosphere. The next year and the general election will be make or break for many blogs.

Left Foot Forward has been quiet over the last week enjoying our Christmas break but we have come out of hibernation to highlight a few stories that relate directly to the left blogosphere.

We were very flattered by Tim Montgomerie’s piece on Sunday for Conservative Home about how the “British Left is developing better and better online products” in which he described this blog as “an intelligent blog that examines all Tory policy.” This morning, James Crabtree of Prospect has an article on Labour List trailing a longer piece in tomorrow’s New Statesman about the rise of the left blogosphere. Both pieces make several references to Left Foot Forward including describing this blog as “one of the most important nodes between the progressives and the media.”

Meanwhile, Labour List reported over Christmas that 305,000 people have visited its pages over 2009 making it the second most influential political blog of the left after Liberal Conspiracy. Both Crabtree and Montgomerie also highlight the creation of Tory Stories, a new blog from Jon Cruddas MP and Chuka Umunna (Labour PPC for Streatham), which aims to act as “as a depository for evidenced articles on Conservatives in local and regional government, showing that, once in office, the party‚Äôs actions consistently fail to match its rhetoric.” Alongside Next Left, Go Fourth, Alastair Campbell’s blog and the sites of Labour MPs Tom Harris and Tom Watson plus lesser known sites like Political Scrapbook, Hopi Sen, and Left Outside, the left blogosphere is looking a lot stronger at the start of 2010 than it did a year ago.

The next year and the “watershed election” in March or May will be make or break for many blogs. If a Labour defeat is followed by a leadership election it will provide a second opportunity for Left-wing sites to make their mark. How will each site compete for space with the mainstream media? What unique services will each blog offer to make them indispensible to activists, floating voters, and journalists? How will bloggers interact with one another to share interesting information while avoiding navel gazing (perhaps this article falls short on that front)? And, crucially, how will bloggers make a living if they aim, as Left Foot Forward does, to work full time?

In November, I made a speech to the Future-democracy 2009 conference in which I highlighted three areas where I felt there was potential for growth in the British blogosphere: the use of video, integration of twitter into blogging platforms, and coordination between online campaigning groups like 38 degrees and blogs. Guido Fawkes has already shown how witty/acerbic videos can reach a larger audience than 300-word blog posts while Tweetminster has innovative ideas about how to aggregate tweets.

These are exciting times to be involved in the interaction between technology and politics. The challenge is to make our blogs increasingly relevant and useful.

47 Responses to “2010: The year of the left blogosphere?”

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  2. Mark

    It’s time the Left caught up but you are too closely associated with the government and Labour. The Right is perhaps more libertarian and individual and so doesn’t need to be as close to the Conservative Party.

    Make yourself more independent. I can’t take a blog seriously if it thinks Brown is the right leader for Labour, we all know his leadership is a mistake. Blogs could allow calls for reform. But sticking to the Party/Government line isn’t going to serve many bloggers.

  3. Guido Fawkes

    My quick take: LFF is, and most of the right-wing blogosphere gives you credit for this, the best new offering from the left. But what do you think you will achieve electorally? My estimate is slightly more than zero.

    LabourList is, like LabourHome before it, a bit directionless and seems more about cheering up the troops than scaring the enemy. That might be a valid role. It is of course way better than back in Draper’s day. Boy, do I miss him. To match up to ConHom’s influence and be taken as seriously by the host party as Monty is will take some doing.

    Liberal Conspiracy suffers from what Lenin would call an “infantilist disorder”, that is the kind of leftism I want to see dominate the Labour Party in the next decade. A modernised version of the loony left of the 80s would be ideal fodder for me.

    Hopi, Watson and Harris all write well but are they really willing or able to put in the hours Dale does?

    Twitter isn’t going to win any votes and is a tool, not a means. Forget it.

    As for moi, I plan to be in the same position performing the same role under the next government as this one.

    The left has to get the post-election civil war out of the way first before it re-groups. Given that the online left is way to the left of the electorate there is a good chance that the Labour blogosphere will help consign the Labour Party to irrelevance for a good while.

  4. Anon E Mouse

    Guido – I agree this is the best of the Left wing blogs (I like Julian Ware Lane and Luke Ackehurst as well – Ali Cambell’s musings are not worth reading) but that isn’t saying much.

    Labourlist is a joke and what else is there?

    This blog is WAY too partial towards this useless government.

    It does the government no favours when everyone can see things that are black get described as white by LFF just to support Brown. Why do you do that guys?

    Next this blog will be saying Spain is in the G20…

  5. Morus

    Some thoughts – given this blog has only been around about 6 months, it’s done very very well at earning the respect of right-wing rivals. If we think back to where the blogosphere was at the beginning of 2009, when Derek Draper seemed like a potential rising star, it is perhaps fair to give credit to Will, Alex Smith (and yes, Sunny Hundal) for building three popular new sites that are beginning to marshall a serious presence. Post Smeargate, the Left has had a good second six months of 2009.

    I agree with Guido’s post – although I think the role of giving beaten-up activists some confidence is hugely important. I agree too that this blog or any other won’t tip seats in 2010 in the same way that ConHome might, but that is an unfair comparison. Firstly, ConHome has a 4-year headstart, and also it is in Opposition.

    The blogosphere is a naturally oppositional place – it’s easier to tear things down than to build, and the scrutineering speed of the readership is what gives it energy. Thus the Left blogosphere will mature in 2010 simply because it can begin to be the Oppositional force to a new government. The next five years will be harder on Conservative blogs than on LFF.

    If there is one way in which the Left blogs can have a real impact, it is by forcing the inevitable post-election civil war to end as quickly and cleanly as possible, and finding a way to co-ordinate attacks on government policy. LFF is better placed to do this second part, and will have an easier job attacking policies being implemented than ideas yet to be published in the manifesto.

    If the online Left really is miles to the loony left of the Party, then Liberal Conspiracy will be on the winning side of that Civil War. However, I wonder if, as the Left blogosphere grows in readership, it will find many of the Centre Left joining in. If so, there is a chance that a good Centre-Lefty blog could be as central to the rebranding of the party as ConHome has been.

    It’s going to be interesting to watch.

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