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 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 😉

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Fair enough, however, 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.

No, the point of the boycott is to deny it credibility, not represent liberal/left blogs. Iain should improve his own editorial approach to blogging, which includes not linking to non-Tory blogs when he wants to criticise them for something they haven’t said, if he wants that mantle to be taken seriously.

by Sunny on July 22, 2008 at 2:51 pm. Reply #

I don’t read Iains blog as (along with Guidos) it never gives me much insight into politics just Tory falvoured gossip. A list of 100 top bloggers is rather pointless, I would be surprised if there were more than 10 in each party worth reading reguarly.

Iain is to be commended with Mike Smithson
and others for trying to create jobs out of an interest in politics. Boycott or not isn’t this “just a bit of fun”? Is anyone thinking that this list is even remotely like a bloggers Oscar? Will more people read blogs becasue they are listed? If so then Iain is the wrong person to judge their quality. If not then why do we care?

by neil bradbury on July 22, 2008 at 2:57 pm. Reply #

In terms of the “boycott” I agree absolutely with Stephen and I will be promoting the poll on my own blog shortly.

I really don’t understand this hostility to Iain Dale. He has played the game and it has paid off. Much of the time it smacks of petty jealousy.

Where I have been involved in boycotts in the past it has been over things like companies working with oppressive regimes or killing babies. I’m doubtful about the effectiveness of even the most oppressive of boycott campaigns – this one is just plain silly.

If Liberal Conspiracy is concerned about Iain’s domination of the blogosphere then they should come up with a promotional vehicle of their own. I’ll promote that one as well.

by James Graham on July 22, 2008 at 3:50 pm. Reply #

I really don’t understand this hostility to Iain Dale.

James it would help if you read my original post.

by Sunny on July 22, 2008 at 4:18 pm. Reply #

Sunny is referring to one blogpost on the Smith Institute where I referred to “left wing blogs” without linking to any of them. I plead guilty. What was I supposed to do? Provide a dozen links?

Most people who read my blog know that in the past I have gone out of my way to promote blogs of political persuasions other than my own. I reckon the more readers we all get, the better it is for everyone. On the right hand side of my blog I have a blogroll which contains links to many Labour and LibDem blogs, which I read quite often. I have never understood this mentality which says you only read blogs which you agree with. Surely the whole point of blogging is to promote debate. I make no secret of my Tory sympathies, but to pretend that all I ever do is partisanly cheerlead for the Tories is lazy thinking. Those of a more dispassionate nature than Sunny will recognise the many occasions when I have not been afraid to critique the right when I think they are barking up the wrong tree.

Anyway, if Sunny wants to boycott this year’s poll, that is his perogative. Liberal Conspiracy is actually doing rather well so far, and deservedly so.

However, LibDem Voice needs a few more votes if it is to finish where it ought to! Get voting!

by Iain Dale on July 22, 2008 at 4:22 pm. Reply #

I agree with James Sunny come up with your own list of top blogs over at Liberal Conspiracy and I’ll give you coverage just as I will once the Lib Dem Voice critieria are listed for this year and as I have for Iain.

I’ve noticed that many of the Scottish bloggers, including myself, are being non-partisan in their nominations and I have been nominated for Iain’s awards by a Tory and Labour blogger thus far, that I’m aware of. Many others are using this as a way to highlight the blogs of all shades that they actually enjoy.

by Stephen Glenn on July 22, 2008 at 4:26 pm. Reply #

I think few of the problems with the Top lists kept by Iain Dale are:
1) Last time he chose the people who ranked the blogs. The views of these people aren’t necessarily the same as of the whole blogosphere, or for instance in the case of Lib Dem blogs, the whole Lib Dem blogosphere.
2) Last time he chose the blogs which to be ranked. This might have excluded some blogs which might have earned to be in the Top 100.
3) Last time he compiled the results. He didn’t promise, that the results were based only on the opinion of those people interviewed, or how much their opinion weighted, and how much for instance his own opinion affected in the final results, nor did any independent party observe that he didn’t tamper with the results.

I’d like to suggest that beside the annual blogging competition, LDV would compile its own list of TOP 100 Lib Dem blogs, based on the democratic opinion of the Lib Dem blogosphere and perhaps also registered users of the LDV.

by Anonymous on July 22, 2008 at 4:47 pm. Reply #

Anonymous, let me address your points…
1. Correct. But there is no perfect system. I asked a dozen LibDem bloggers to rate 100 blogs.
2. Partially correct. At that time there weren’t many more than about 120 active LibDem blogs so they were fairly self selecting.
3. Incorrect. Of course the ratings were of the people who voted, There was no weighting, and my opinion was not a factor. Indeed I kept all the results in case I needed to prove it at any point, just as I am keeping all the voting records now. Why on earth would I tamper the results? Life is too short.

by Iain Dale on July 22, 2008 at 4:53 pm. Reply #

Thank you, Stephen, for linking again to what was undoubtedly my finest hour in the media. 😛

by Will on July 22, 2008 at 5:10 pm. Reply #

Sunny is referring to one blogpost on the Smith Institute where I referred to “left wing blogs” without linking to any of them.

Hi Iain, would you like me to offer more examples? Would that make the point?

by Sunny on July 22, 2008 at 5:19 pm. Reply #

Yes Stephen you are a very good blogger ;@)

Does Iain Dale have to comment on every blog post he is mentioned in?

You’re both as bad as each other…

by Jo on July 22, 2008 at 7:24 pm. Reply #

Why on earth would you tamper the results Iain?

I find it hard to believe you are totally unbiased in this when (for example) you mentioned every other Lib Dem blogger apart from me on your site (you even remembered bloggers who have only written 18 posts – it’s quite easy to write a list of Lib Dem blogs they are written down the side of…well…’Lib Dem blogs’. If you do things like this they should be as independent and unbiased as possible otherwise certain bloggers end up losing face and getting irritated. Of no use or entertainment to anyone but yourself Iain, probably.

This is probably the reason why I don’t link to any Lib Dem bloggers on my blog anymore – as unless you write a definitive list – certain bloggers will get pissed off and that doesn’t get anyone anywhere…

by Jo on July 22, 2008 at 7:28 pm. Reply #

I think I’ll knit this evening….

by Jo on July 22, 2008 at 7:32 pm. Reply #

Jo, if I am attacked, I will defend myself.

As for your blog, when you drew my attention that it wasn’t on the list I immediately added it. There is now a SUBMIT A BLOG facility for anyone else whose blog is not on the directory. A directory like this can never ever be totally comprehensive. It is only as good as the information we receive from bloggers and blog readers.

by Iain Dale on July 22, 2008 at 7:53 pm. Reply #

Like I said…knitting…less hassle more productive…

by Jo on July 22, 2008 at 8:07 pm. Reply #

If you don’t like Iain’s blogging list why not just Abstain in the Commons and say No in the Lords like you usually do.
That way you can act really tough while making no sense whatsoever.

by Bill Quango mp on July 23, 2008 at 12:45 am. Reply #

“If you read his blog (what do I mean ‘if’, of course we all do) ”

* rolleyes *

This is like “all teenagers carry knives” when in fact it’s less than 10%…

by Jennie on July 23, 2008 at 1:09 am. Reply #

Well. There are of course problems with a self-selecting group of bloggers and blog readers voting in this way, particularly if the biggest pimps of the exercise are the big three right wing blogs. There is a self-fulfilling positive feedback loop for the right. And reducing the number of votes to ten from twenty will also surely reduce the diversity of the collective pick? But I’ve pimped it. And I will vote too. But it is not and cannot be what it says on the tin the way it is set up at present.

by Chris Paul on July 23, 2008 at 6:28 pm. Reply #

PS The Total Politics blog directory is good. However it is disappointing not to be on the face of the Dale blog in a list there. Most bloggers’ reciprocal links to Iain ARE on the face of the blogs.

by Chris Paul on July 23, 2008 at 6:30 pm. Reply #

Yes, a boycott is silly. But I will simply be abstaining from this annual blog beauty contest business (which seems to go on for about six months in various forms).

by Paul Walter on July 24, 2008 at 9:53 am. Reply #

Boycott is absurd. For anyone who cares, I listed my top 10 here:

by Julian H on July 24, 2008 at 10:15 am. Reply #

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