A Liberal Goes A Long Way – R.I.P.?

by Stephen Tall on March 1, 2008

Been a bit quiet around here lately, hasn’t it? Four and a half months, to be precise since my last posting. I could make lots of excuses… I changed jobs at the start of the year… I’m house hunting… I have enough on my plate as a councillor… etc.

But actually the real reason is both more practical and philosophical than that.

First, the practical bit. Acting as commissioning editor of Liberal Democrat Voice is a darn sight more time-consuming than I thought it would be, or, I suspect, than it looks. The theory is great. As LDV has, I guess, by some little way the largest readership among the Lib Dem blogs – over 20,000 unique visitors a month, and growing – you might imagine we’d get a steady stream of submissions from activists and MPs alike.

But it doesn’t quite work like that. What tends to happen is that we get a spurt of articles, which sometimes end up buried on top of each other, and then fallow periods, when no-one writes a sausage. Moreover – as any Editor knows – it’s one thing to commission pieces; quite another to receive them back by the deadline. The ratio of articles requested to articles published is probably something like 7:1.

Let’s turn to the philosophical bit. When I first took over at Lib Dem Voice from Rob Fenwick, back last summer, it felt a bit like I was house-sitting: it was a nice place to stay, but it didn’t seem right to make any changes, or put my own personal stamp on it. So I happily kept up both this blog, and LDV, in tandem: this place for my personal political reflections, and LDV for the more tribal party political stuff. In truth, I felt both sites suffered from my split affections.

In that sense, the leadership contest gave me the excuse I was looking for to rest this blog and focus 100% on Lib Dem Voice – which is what I’ve done since October. I’m pleased with what LDV has achieved during that time, in particular that we successfully covered the leadership contest in a neutral but not bland way, and that readership has grown even since the result was announced (I thought there would be a sharp dip). This is thanks, I should emphasise, to the whole ‘Collective’ which runs LDV, and, of course, to the many contributors to it.

But which do I enjoy more? That’s a different, and difficult, question. Lib Dem Voice has a bigger reach, within and beyond the party, than this blog would ever achieve. It’s also fun to be in e-mail correspondence with various folk, inside and outside the Lib Dems, and to invite them to submit articles on a wider variety of topics.

Those are the upsides. The downsides are that it’s not ‘mine’ – I feel more of a responsibility to the Lib Dem Voice readership than I ever did for those readers who turned up here. This is my blog, my gaff, my rules: if you don’t like it, don’t read it. You can’t have that mindset when you’re a member of a team website which is the unofficially official/independent party members’ website. Also, I write less than I used to, and with a narrower remit. This blog covered all sorts of topics – political, social, cultural – most days of the week. The content I generate for LDV is pretty much exclusively political, and usually to do with the Lib Dems. Sometimes I find that frustratingly constrained.

The question remains… what should I do with this blog? Do I officially admit defeat and shut it down? Or do I write very occasional pieces for it to keep up some pretence that it remains a ‘live’ blog?

Well, you’re my readers (if I have any left) – what do you reckon?

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I think you should keep this blog on ice, first because of the archive which contains many interesting articles, second because you might some day in the future feel like giving up LDV for somebody else and revive this one, a more personal blog.

by Anonymous on March 1, 2008 at 9:02 pm. Reply #

Stephen, As I told you the other day I really regret the fact that you don;tblog here any longer. I think you are wasted on LibDem Voice. You created something really worthwhile on this blog and now you’re about to throw it all away. I really think you will regret it. Try to keep this going too. I don’t think there is a conflict with LDV.

by Iain Dale on March 1, 2008 at 9:30 pm. Reply #

Stephen, I think you should keep this blog because you might occasionally want to say something that is a purely personal opinion and isn’t close to the Lib Dem consensus.

I write a group blog representing Lib Dem councillors in a particular area, and sometimes feel I have something to say that isn’t relevant to the group. Maybe I need a second outlet too.

by Paul Hulbert on March 1, 2008 at 9:52 pm. Reply #

I’ve been reading the blogs since November last year so haven’t really read much of your writing. I am intrigued to read more considering your high reputation. You’re obviously a very talented writer with a loyal readership…keep it up!

by Jo Jo on March 1, 2008 at 11:23 pm. Reply #

I associate myself with Mr Dale’s comments.

by Paul Linford on March 2, 2008 at 7:22 pm. Reply #

Stephen, as a ‘non-political’ reader, I’d really like you to come back here more frequently.

As someone who is a LibDem voter, I can’t say that I’m interested enough to follow the ins and outs of policy debates &c at LDV. Lazy I know, but not blogging here means that some of us miss out on a perspective that otherwise we’d have to wade through a lot of other stuff to get.

And the other point is: it is precisely through getting to know someone in politics personally that we can start to overcome some of the lack of esteem that everyone in the field is held in. Knowing that you exist in a real world, and not just a political one, means that your views are more likely to be listened to and trusted. Not blogging here would be, as Iain says, a lost opportunity.

by Rish on March 2, 2008 at 8:16 pm. Reply #

I hope this Liberal goes on a bit further.

Even if you only post a photo-shoot with some cute kittens and / or a set of links to what you think are your best LDV pieces, every other month.

One day you may get fed up with doing so much of the work on LDV; one day you may just wish to retire and return to your own little niche; one day you may have loads of free time – nah, I won’t go into the realms of fantasy 😉

I’m one of the people who’s frequently not got round to writing those LDV pieces you’ve asked for, and sorry for that; I’ve also had stretches where for one reason or another I’ve not been able to keep up my own blog. But I’ve always found it nice to come back to. I’m sure you will with yours, too, and I’ll be one of the many who enjoy reading it when you do. Just because you’re a workaholic, remember that lots of us are forgiving of those who post infrequently, so keep the option open!

(Manly pats on the back)

by Alex Wilcock on March 3, 2008 at 12:04 am. Reply #

Wondered where you’d disappeared to – would have helped if I’d read your previous blog entry really – can’t claim pressure of time for that one after 4 months….

Just presumed you’d blackballed my email address

Deb xxx

by Anonymous on March 3, 2008 at 2:22 am. Reply #

Rish above captured my thoughts exactly. I’m never going to be someone who wades through a party political blog; since you stopped writing here I don’t read any political blogs at all! Please come back!

by Anonymous on March 3, 2008 at 9:16 pm. Reply #

Alex Wilcox

Are you trying to copy Tony Blair with that cup of tea?
It really looks silly.

by Anonymous on March 4, 2008 at 9:07 am. Reply #

Stephen – you should try to keep this blog going, even if it only benefits from the occasional post.

You haven’t won the accolade that you this blog has received by writing the bland or ill considered that fills too much of cyberspace. You write with wit and considered incite. You allow your readers to know you, in a way that enriches your blog. We get a taste of what’s shaped what you think, your personality, without a deluge of internecine rant. Your take on issues is worth reading – please don’t let this space go.

Oh – and how about a few more pieces in ‘Comment is Free’ too?


by Jonathan D on March 4, 2008 at 10:08 pm. Reply #

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