Is Iain Dale being fair?

by Stephen Tall on September 24, 2007

As Mark Pack notes below, Tory uber-blogger Iain Dale has taken a bit of a swipe at Lib Dem Voice in his run-down of the top 100 Lib Dem blogs. Here’s what he says:

One of the sadder developments in the LibDem blogosphere this year has been the decline of LibDem Voice. At one stage it looked as if it might disappear altogether when its creator, Rob Fenwick, decided he had had enough. In the end a collective of libdems bloggers including Mark Pack, Stephen Tall and Ryan Cullen came to the rescue. It does seem, however, to have become a party mouthpiece with Mark Pack, a senior LibDem employee writing the majority of the posts. It’s lost that certain ‘spark’ which Rob Fenwick gave it, and it doesn’t question LibDem officialdom in the way that Conservative Home does.

Well, you’re our readers – is Iain right? If yes, what do you want to see change? Let us know what you think below…

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During the summer, the Opposition Watch stories got a bit out of hand at the expense of opinion pieces. You should consider ditching those altogether or putting them on a companion blog so that they don’t compromise the site’s identity.

by James Graham on September 24, 2007 at 2:48 pm. Reply #

Lib Dem Voice often attacks Conservative figures or ideas, and it has failed to emulate ConHome in regularly attacking its own side in public. It is therefore hardly surprising that a Conservative would like it to be different.

It certainly is possible to blog from a particular party point of view while still be intelligent and analytical in a non-obsessively-party way. But I never cease to be amazed how often bloggers from other parties accept Iain Dale as some kind of ‘neutral’ figure in political blogging – a status that serves both him and the Conservative party well.

Him portraying himself in that way doesn’t make him evil, or a bad blogger. But it also shouldn’t make us forget that he is a Tory.

For what it’s worth I think LDV has had in particular a good September, with a lot of pieces from new writers, some but not all crossing over with policy discussions also happening elsewhere in the party.

by Jeremy Hargreaves on September 24, 2007 at 2:53 pm. Reply #

Does anybody give a stuff what Iain Dale thinks? Isn’t he simply the Fox News of blogs?

by littlejohnuk on September 24, 2007 at 3:06 pm. Reply #

Can I point out that I wrote this piece towards the end of July and I stand by it. However, I think that you have brought in some very good writers since then and the site has improved tremendously.

by Iain Dale on September 24, 2007 at 3:54 pm. Reply #

In response to Jeremy Hargreaves, I’m not sure what his complaint is. People know I’m a Tory and they can judge waht I write against that. However, to say that everything I write is partisan is hardly fair. This was the conclusion to my piece…

As a Conservative I probably read more LibDem blogs than most others. I find them consistently more entertaining than Labour blogs, as their authors tend to inject their own personalities into their blogs in a way that Labour bloggers tend not to.

It’s clear that LibDem have harnessed the blogosphere well, and their influence is likely to grow over the next twelve months. I’m not sure what it says about their leader that his blog is rated 100 out of 100 by LibDem bloggers, but they say that the exception proves the rule. The LibDem blogosphere is undoubtedly in rude health.

Can’t say fairer than that, can I?

by Iain Dale on September 24, 2007 at 3:59 pm. Reply #

I like LDV and I think the balance of short ‘newsy’ items and longer ‘thought pieces’ is about right.

If anything I’d like a bit more gossip, but I’ve been stuck out in the sticks for the last 23 years and I miss the sort of tittle-tattle you used to get in the bar of the National Liberal Club in the old days!

by nigelashton on September 24, 2007 at 3:59 pm. Reply #

I think James has a good point with regards the opposition watch articles during the Summer. At times there did seem to be floods of them each day – understandable considering some of the rubbish emerging from the other by-election campaigns but it did make for rather less interesting reading.

Jeremy has some good points too though – Iain’s reputation is too much of a given these days. I do appreciate that he is critical of his party but it’s worth noting that today he was chiding people who would seek to criticise the Cameron project at the Tory Party Conference.

Furthermore, this site has recently seen its op-eds section flourish with some really excellent contributions. In many ways this is the real meat of the site and what makes Lib Dem Voice worth reading each day.

by Barry Scott on September 24, 2007 at 4:04 pm. Reply #

Don’t do gossip, email it to me.

by Guido Fawkes on September 24, 2007 at 4:05 pm. Reply #

There are too many posts! You would have to spend all day on the internet to keep up! Please slow down a bit, I’m getting out of breath.

by humder on September 24, 2007 at 4:13 pm. Reply #

Who cares what Iain Dale thinks? If he doesn’t like Lib Dem Voice, he shouldn’t read it. I don’t read Iain Dale, and I think neither should any self-respecting liberal.

by Moi on September 24, 2007 at 4:16 pm. Reply #

I agree with James, there has been a bit too much opposition watch, mostly about the Tories. It gets a bit tiring and would probably be best placed on another blog.
There is actually no Tory Watch (akin to the (dead?) Labour Watch or Yellow Peril (or whatever the anti-LibDem blog is these days) – perhaps there is scope for one?

There has been an improvement recently though, lots of interesting opinion pieces from varied sources.

by Tristan Mills on September 24, 2007 at 4:16 pm. Reply #

“And it doesn’t question LibDem officialdom in the way that Conservative Home does.”

– Of course it doesn’t, after all, Conservative Home is supporting the Conservative Party. But LDV could of course question the Conservative officialdom, instead.

Actually I think that Iain Dale is sour because Mark Pack has criticised him here. Of course he would prefer, that LDV would criticise Ming instead of him. like it did during Rob Fenwick’s tenure. But why should LDV do that service for Iain Dale and the Conservative Party? Conservative Home is for that Purpose.

by Margaret on September 24, 2007 at 4:25 pm. Reply #

To Iain – I don’t think I do have a complaint against you – you are what you say you are. And yours is clearly not one of the nasty ultra-partisan blogs that all parties have.

But I just don’t think that should blind LDs (as too often it does) to the fact that you are still a Conservative, with Conservative interests at heart.
As you say, people can judge what you say against your party affiliation – but simply too often I think they don’t do that.

So it’s been pleasing to see a couple of comments above along the lines of “who cares what Iain Dale thinks – he’s not one of us”, which on a Lib Dem blog, seems to me a fair point of view.

by Jeremy Hargreaves (officially the 47th best Lib Dem blogger!!!) on September 24, 2007 at 4:57 pm. Reply #

I like Mark’s opposition watch pieces but I agree with James (and have said myself in the past) that they are sometimes in danger of overwhelming the rest of the site.

Personally I think that Mark should take more of the credit and create his own blog for them! Then we can continue to have the best of them (e.g. Shapps/Youtubegate) discussed on here without losing either the depth or the balance of LDV.

by Joe Taylor on September 24, 2007 at 5:24 pm. Reply #

I think it’s healthy for Liberals occasionally to read non-Liberals; we don’t suspend our critical judgement for each other, though, so we certainly shouldn’t treat another party’s cheerleader as holy writ. I sometimes read Iain’s Diary because it always helps to know what the opposition is thinking and he rarely joins his colleagues in foaming at the mouth, though having had a slow connection means I’ve occasionally given up after 20 minutes of his ads loading 😉

Iain Dale Says: Can I point out that I wrote this piece towards the end of July

It must be very irritating when the world has long passed your comment by – but if you’re going to go all dead tree press, Iain, you can hardly complain about it 😉

And my summer would have been much less entertaining without all the mockery of Grant Shapps. That weren’t purely because Mark was partisan. They were because Mr Shapps was an embarrassing prat – and I suspect every blogger except Iain would admit that Mark was much less partisan than Iain’s much-ridiculed defences of the man.

by Alex Wilcock on September 24, 2007 at 5:44 pm. Reply #

I think the issue is that like Iain says he wrote the piece back in July whilst Grant Shapps was making a twat of himself. If instead Iain took the view that this is a review of the year and not the last two seconds he may have been more balanced.

by Ryan Cullen on September 24, 2007 at 7:42 pm. Reply #

Thanks for feedback, guys.

Fwiw, I think there are some things we can learn from ConHome, which (eg) attracts far more MPs/PPCs’ opinion articles than we do.

But LDV has never intended to be a ConHome copycat, and a good job, too. For all that it’s a fantastically successful website, its existence has regularly given a fillip to Tory opponents, and has done much to undermine the Cameroon project.

That might be good for ConHome’s site traffic, but it’s not good for the Tory party’s future. Which is why ConHome is so popular with non-Tories.

by Stephen Tall on September 24, 2007 at 7:50 pm. Reply #

I’d say that ConHome and LDV have different aims, so it’s hard to compare them. While both sites carry lots of party news, CH was set up to campaign for a particular viewpoint within the Conservative Party (or at least to push the debate within that party in a particular direction) while LDV has – from what I’ve seen at least – always sought to provide a platform for all voices within the Liberal Democrats.

by Nick Barlow on September 24, 2007 at 9:01 pm. Reply #

Is it just me, or does Iain place “Clowns to the Left of Me” at 40 (new entry) and Bernard Woolley (Clowns to the Left of Me) at 59 (new entry)?

by Richard Flowers on September 24, 2007 at 9:09 pm. Reply #

It’s interesting that if you look at the most popular individual posts on LDV this year, there’s a good mix of party news, having a pop at the silliness of other parties and opinion pieces at the top of the lists, though opinion pieces generally are a bit less popular.

Hence the deliberate intent of LDV to provide a mixture of all three, brought together on one website.

by Mark Pack on September 24, 2007 at 9:27 pm. Reply #

Not sure I agree with Iain Dale’s view on LDV, never the less I think Lib Dems should read his blog. As a Liberal Democrat, I read Iain Dale blog almost every day, yes on occasions (usually to rally the Tory troops when by elections are on) it has been very partisan, but he’s never denied his affiliation, and it’s easy to spot the partisan polemic from the reasoned article. I think it’s healthy to have my opinions and values challenged intelligently , and sometimes nice when (all to rarely) iain agrees with us.

by david on September 25, 2007 at 9:37 am. Reply #

A few pieces by MPs just before conference gave the impression of a more establishment site than LDV deserves.

by Peter McGrath on September 25, 2007 at 12:23 pm. Reply #

I am independently minded and sometimes criticise the party, although I am a member and I do agree with it sometimes.
Whether my contributions are any good or not is another question. If Iain Dale doesn’t like them, then that may well be a good thing.
For my taste there is too much superfical politics on LDV, but columns like these seem to be the most popular so it may as well stay as it is.

by Geoffrey Payne on September 25, 2007 at 12:48 pm. Reply #

Iain wrote some petulant words about my own ranking too. Doesn’t seem to like the results of a democratic process much. And particularly not being criticised by anyone. Whether it is fair comment or not. He has yet to acknowledge never mind apologise for super sloppy reporting re the Grell case … four days on and counting.

by Chris Paul on September 25, 2007 at 3:08 pm. Reply #

The very lack of editorialising is what gives the charm to LDV’s meander through the world of political events, opinion and debate.

I find LDV refreshing because the range of voices actively demonstrates how a comprehensive perspective can only be reached by giving space and weight to multiple viewpoints – sure, there are and will always be gaps (as well as perennial problems of equity and equality), but that remains a challenge wherever you look.

This lightness of touch avoids prejudicing the reader and it keeps the subject interesting; I don’t want to jump to any conclusions and parrot back any received opinions after being told how and what to think, I want to be able to follow the logic and reason things out for myself.

I’m open to altering my views, but I remain resolute in my convictions. Now I’m guessing here, but non-liberals won’t like any of this because they don’t understand it.

by James S on September 25, 2007 at 5:15 pm. Reply #

I ceased reading during the by election campaigns as it had just become infantile. However its improved enormously since then with some really good content

by David Morton on September 25, 2007 at 6:43 pm. Reply #

I was more impressed by Iain Dale’s self-serving revisionism here:

“There are all sorts of theories as to why the left wing blogosphere in Britain hasn’t really taken off…”

BTW, I dimly recall something else happening in July that may have coloured Iain’s thinking on this… tell me, Iain, is there a chapter on sock-puppeting in your expert guide to blogging? I only ask because you really do need to start taking multiple personalities into account when you do a head count.

by Tim Ireland on September 25, 2007 at 7:04 pm. Reply #

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