Can you feel the love in the room?

by Stephen Tall on August 27, 2006

A shiver of nervous anticipation has tingled its way through the Lib Dem blogosphere in the last few days with the news that the inaugural Blog of the Year prize will be awarded at this year’s party conference. (Nominations can be made here.)

I’ve prevaricated mentioning it until now. Not because I don’t think it’s a good idea – anything which helps champion the importance of new media within the Lib Dems, and beyond, is to be welcomed.

My hesitations were two-fold. First, I felt if I wrote about it I ought to say who I’ve nominated. But that would be just too damn invidious, as there are way too many Lib Dem bloggers whose scribblings I enjoy grazing on: see the links on the right for my faves, though it’s not a comprehensive or exclusive list (because I find updating the template a bore).

Secondly, I find myself conflicted by the concept of awards. Yes, they will recognise hard work and good writing. Yes, they will encourage those who never read a blog to start doing so. And, yes, they might spur on more Lib Dems with something worth saying to start up their own blog. All Good Things.

But there is also a part of me which goes along with Dawn French’s trenchant take on awards: “I think they’re vainglorious; I think they’re corrupting. I think the minute you take these awards you’re in trouble.” (Both she and Jennifer Saunders declined OBEs in 2001.)

When I was short-listed for the New Statesman’s New Media Awards thingy this year, I was determined to remain detached from it, to maintain total sang-froid. “It’s enough to be a finalist; just enjoy the evening,” was my mantra. But I defy anyone not to end up quite wanting to win something for which they’re nominated. Which is fine – nothing wrong with having a bit of a competitive streak.

What does matter is if being up for an award starts to alter how or what you write, however subtly; if you start to write according to what you think others will want or expect to read, and not because of what you want to say. That’s when writing becomes fake, stale, dis-engaged.

All of which might seem a bit heavy – Lib Dem Blog of the Year ain’t the Oscars, after all – so let me finish with the levelling words of American comedian Jack Benny on receiving an award:

“I don’t deserve this, but I have arthritis, and I don’t deserve that either.”