What I said at the Lib Dem Blog of the Year awards

by Stephen Tall on September 23, 2012

Last night witnessed the seventh annual Lib Dem Blog of the Year awards. You can find out all about the nominees and winners here. Particular congrats to Mark Thompson, winner of the overall Best Blog prize. It was my great pleasure to introduce the awards, and here’s what I said (more or less)…

My name’s Stephen Tall, co-editor of Lib Dem Voice, and it’s my pleasure to welcome you to the seventh annual Lib Dem Blog of the Year awards. The BOTYs as they’ve become affectionately known with a nod towards our party’s love of single entendre. And I’ll come onto that later.

I believe by the way we may have some journalists in the room and I hope you’ll extend the same courtesies to them as our friends in the press do to us. No really. Just look upon them as surprise guests as welcome in our midst as a fact in a Polly Toynbee article. And smile at them in the same way Nick Clegg does when he hears Vince Cable’s going to give another round of media interviews not talking about the leadership.

2006 in Brighton was where it all began.

You may remember…
All the media wanted to talk about was the future of our leader…
We were down in the polls…
Vince was being right about the economy…
Somewhere Simon Hughes was mid-speech saying ‘And ninthly’…
No-one was quite sure what to do with Lembit…

I think you’ll agree we’ve all come so far since then.

And so’s blogging. When I first started out, back in 2005, there were scarcely a hundred Lib Dem bloggers to rub together. So to speak.

And yet even to talk about blogs now seems almost retro with generating the buzz today. Blogging is bigger than it was all those years ago, but among Lib Dems it’s on the decline. At its peak there were 250+ Lib Dem bloggers. Today there are around 200 active Lib Dem blogs curated at Ryan Cullen’s aggregator. And it’s not all because they’ve left the party.

The reality is the online world is now all around us. There are Lib Dems using every possible medium – Twitter, Facebook, YouTube – to get our distinctive liberal campaigning message out there.

Lib Dems have always used pioneering methods to talk to voters in a real way. Our Focus leaflets were just that – a vital way we could talk about what Lib Dems were achieving because we knew the media would ignore us.

Well, we’re not ignored today! Today we have a completely different challenge: to walk that tightrope between championing what the party is achieving in government – because we can be damn sure no-one else will – while not being afraid to call out the party when we think it’s got it wrong.

We saw a clear example of how we – bloggers and others in the party – can do exactly that earlier this year when the Government announced its Communications Bill, aka the internet snoopers’ charter. It caused an outcry. Opposition was mobilised online. As a direct result the Bill was downgraded to Draft. It’s not dead yet, but it’s less alive as a direct result of folk in this room and beyond mounting the virtual barricades.

These awards are called the Blog of the Year Awards. But actually they’re campaigning awards. They recognise Lib Dems around the country who’ve used the tools at their disposal to try and create a better society. So tonight it’s the BOTYs and we celebrate. The rest of the year we get off our botties and campaign.

Thank you and I hope everyone, both the winners and those nominated, have a great night.