Erm, thanks, I think

by Stephen Tall on September 13, 2007

I’ve gone two better than Jonathan Calder, it seems – A Liberal Goes A Long Way is, according to Tory uber-blogger, Iain Dale, the most under-rated political blog in the UK. Which is either a rather sweet accolade, or a bit of a back-handed compliment, depending on how you look at it.

Iain suggests – and who am I to disagree? – that my gaff, and the other nine he lists “should be in the top echelons of any blogging list due to their consistently high quality of output, but don’t get the attention they deserve.”

It’s true I certainly don’t have anything like the readership of Iain, Guido, Tim, Da Fink et al. Partly that’s because Lib Dem and liberal-leaning blogs have a smaller readership to begin with; it’s also, I suspect, because I don’t abide by the blogging maxim: a little and often. (Ironically enough, that was also my mum’s advice to us when we felt too ill to eat anything.)

I’m a fairly regular blogger, but my output is nowhere near as frenetic as my party colleagues, Nich, Paul or Jonathan himself. All the more so since I became commissioning editor at Lib Dem Voice, and started dividing my blogging time between the two.

It is, to an extent, a conscious decision. I love writing, but I only want to write about what I want to write about – I don’t ever want to feel compelled to write because of others’ expectations. Blogging should never become a tyranny.

And the trouble with building up a large readership is that your obligations start subtly to change. No longer are you thinking, “What do I want to get off my chest?” You start asking instead, “What will my readers be expecting from me?” Not my cup of tea, I’m afraid.

None of which is a dig at Iain. I’ve met him, I like him, I respect him. He has also been generous to me and other Lib Dem bloggers in promoting our endeavours to his massed army of readers (even if half of them are green-ink-smeared, right-wing weirdos).

That said, I was surprised when he was nominated as ‘political commentator of the year’ in the prestigious House Magazine / Sky News Parliamentary Awards earlier this year. Because Iain is not an objective analyst of the political world: he’s a partisan Tory who occasionally criticises his own party, and even more occasionally praises other parties. Nothing wrong with that. But let’s not confuse political commentary with campaigning agitprop.

I have a lot of admiration – genuinely – for those bloggers who respond instantly to the latest news stories with their visceral, gut reactions. But it isn’t for me (and here I add the word beloved by wriggling lawyers – normally). Just as I accept the need for rolling news coverage, but prefer to watch Newsnight.

This self-indulgent navel-gazing posting is, perhaps, emblematic of a Lib Dem mindset: the wish to stay aloof, exclusive, pure, rather than be bespoiled by the grubby compromises of mass popularity and responsibility. Or perhaps I’m just too lazy to commit to penning a minimum of three posts a day, and to the drudgery of adding reciprocal links across the blogosphere.

At any rate, I guess I’d rather be under-rated than over-rated. So thanks, Iain.