The Iain Dale Total Politics top blogs list

by Stephen Tall on July 22, 2008

I have a confession to make, dear reader. There’s an email I’ve been, erm, sitting on while I try to work out what to do with it. And it’s from Iain Dale.

If you read his blog (what do I mean ‘if’, of course we all do) then you’ll already know what it’s about. If not here’s the copy ‘n’ paste skinny:

In early September TOTAL POLITICS, in association with APCO WORLDWIDE will publish the 2008-9 Guide to Political Blogging in the UK. It will contain articles on blogging by some of Britain’s leading bloggers, together with a directory of UK political blogs, and a series of Top 20s and Top 10s. The book will be available at the Green Party, TUC, Labour, LibDem and Tory Conferences, where TOTAL POLITICS will have exhibition stands.

We’re asking for your votes to decide the Top 100 UK Political Blogs. Simply email your Top Ten (ranked from 1 to 10) to toptenblogs@totalpolitics.com. If you have a blog, please encourage your readers to do the same. I’ll then compile the Top 100 from those that you send in. Just order them from 1 to 10. Your top blog gets 10 points and your tenth gets 1 point.

The deadline for submitting your Top 10 is Friday August 15th. Please type Top 10 in the subject line. Or you can of course leave your Top 10 in the Comments on this post. Once all the entries are in a lucky dip draw will take place and the winner will be sent £100 worth of political books!

So, what was my dilemma? Well, Sunny Hundal over at Liberal Conspiracy has summed it up rather well:

Now, I have nothing against Iain Dale personally – he’s a lovely chap and I was invited to the Total Politics event and we had a good chat. But Iain Dale is trying to position himself as the granddaddy of the entire British blogosphere by doing these lists and I think his editorial approach to blogging makes me hard to take that seriously.

Sunny cites two big beefs with Iain’s approach to blogging.

First, he’s an avowedly partisan Tory for all that he’s sometimes introduced as a ‘political commentator’, a phrase which suggests an objectivity that Iain doesn’t pretend to have. And, secondly, that he’s an, erm, avowedly partisan Tory, who sometimes disses those he doesn’t agree with in a not altogether fair way.

Both criticisms are fair enough, at least some of the time. Iain Dale’s blog is precisely that: the views of one man (albeit increasingly a one-man industry). I won’t pretend that I don’t sometimes get irritated by Iain’s snipes at Lib Dem Voice – claiming that we’ve ignored stories, or are too late with them, comparing us snarkily with ConservativeHome – when the most usual explanation is that LDV is run on a purely volunteer basis, and occasionally those volunteers cannot respond to each and every breaking political story within a matters of hours.

But I decided that LDV should promote the new Guide to Political Blogging when I saw what Sunny’s proposal was:

this year I won’t be submitting a list of my top blogs. Other liberl-left bloggers are welcome to make their own submissions but I would also urge them to boycott this exercise.

Because a boycott strikes me as such a pusillanimous response. Occasionally boycotts can have a point: maybe as a gesture of dissent when any real action is impractical or undesirable for another reason; or maybe to name and shame those you think will respond to such tactics. But generally it’s an admission of failure, of weakness: “I don’t like what you’re doing, or how you’re doing it. I am therefore going to pretend it’s not happening in the hope that someone else will do something else in a better way in the future.”

It’s ironic, really, as Sunny himself half-concedes the point:

The Tories are always desperate to push this idea that they dominate the British blogosphere and no one else is worth listening to. The lazy journalists who can’t be arsed to do any original research buy into this.

The idea that a boycott of this competition by non-Tory bloggers will somehow make lazy journalists sit up and take notice strikes me as distinctly odd. I remember, back in the 1990s, Ken Livingstone defending himself against those who accused him of selling out the Wapping strikers when he decided to write a weekly column in The Sun: “I boycotted the Murdoch press for five years. And then I realised it was still there.”

There’s an old political saying: No opposition without proposition.

So, I decided LDV should boycott the boycott, and instead provide a link to Iain’s blog with the details of how you, dear individual reader, can submit your votes should you so choose.

And as an alternative Lib Dem Voice will shortly be announcing its own annual blogging competition, the third Liberal Democrat Blog of the Year awards – including some brand new categories – the winners of which will, as is traditional, be announced at the party’s autumn conference in Bournemouth in September. Who knows? It might even generate some publicity for good, liberal blogging. It certainly has in the past 😉