Every year Iain Dale writes a guide to political blogging.
Iain Dale's Blog
During my summer holiday Iain asked me to write a chapter for the book.
It is as follows. I think it’s the worst chapter in the book, so you will have to buy the book to read the good ones!
To blog or not to blog in my capacity as an MP, was a huge decision.
After all, there is many a slip betwixt cup and lip, or in the
case of blogging, betwixt keyboard, and the entire planet.
Every MP guards carefully – especially in the era of 24/7 news
coverage - every public word we utter, in a manner that could
almost be described as paranoid. This is because we have all
watched, in open mouthed horror, the pain endured by colleagues
after a careless whisper flitted from lips to international newswires
in a space of nano seconds.
Surely, only an MP wishing to commit professional suicide
would put spontaneous thoughts or ideas into the public arena -
on a blog?
Blogging is a medium, which by its very ease of unforgiving
transmission, does not provide the opportunity for second
One can easily visualise the dramatic downfall scenario,
brought about via an unguarded sentence blogged and posted late
at night; it would manifest in the form of an off the cuff remark
or a throw away comment, intended to humanise a paragraph.
Such a comment would be a mere sideline to the main content of
the message I would be attempting to deliver in my two finger typing
non Pitman way.
Think; type; save; - done. A ‘ten years taken to get here’ career
taken out by a blog Exocet in just three easy moves.
What would be my excuse when the journalist gleefully nabbed
me? After all, journalists hate bloggers – it is this which makes
blogging such a dangerous pastime for MPs.
Blogging waters are infested with shorthand enabled career
munching journalist piranha, equipped with notepad, pencil and
a scalp hungry editor.
What would be my defence?
Well M’lud, (or a very scary Chief Whip, as has so often been
the case). It was late, there was wine; I was in a particularly happy
carefree frame of mind; Unfortunately, I would, very sadly, be talking
to myself; no doubt addressing my remarks to the wooden
studded panels of the Chief Whip’s door, recently slammed in my
face, with the words “you‘re finished” ringing in my ears.
As we know, all political careers end in failure; however, blogging
provides new MPs, such as myself, with a unique opportunity
to reverse this trend, why not begin in failure?
Whether or not to begin each day playing Russian roulette with
words as bullets, did indeed take some thought.
To be fair, it wasn’t just the danger that blogging can present to
an MP which made me think twice - it was the other bloggers. Did
I want to become a member of this group - could I cut the mustard
with the rest of them?
You can divide political bloggers into two categories:
Those who write egotistical rubbish - the most common form
of political blogger. They use the internet as a means of extending
their already overly large personalities and opinions.
To opine? Is that what blogging is all about? The transference of
the opinion of one otherwise insignificant individual to the indifferent
There are limits, as to what technology can achieve. Blogging
can take the horse to water, but it can’t make it read. The egotist
is largely unaware of this, having dumped his thoughts into cyber
space, he or she will naturally assume that the world’s computer
owning population will have both read, digested, and allowed
their words to influence the daily lives of others.
You can spot them a mile off – they are usually the ones talking
to me at the death by canapé drinks parties.
And then, in complete contrast, unassuming excellence - I
mean that in the most literal way; unlike the egotists, these bloggers
are wordsmiths with serious political attitude.
Whether it’s an incredible brain with political sensitivity, or a
penchant for bright ties delivering sharp clever astute running
commentary, they have no political master.
Uninhibited intellectual thought runs riot across the keyboard
and what is produced is as good as, if not better than, anything
written by any mainstream political editor or commentator. Brain
to screen to reader in seconds. Cue the reason why political journalists
hate political bloggers.
Where are the Emperor’s clothes anyway?
Some journalists, the clever ones, regard blogging as simply
another welcome stage upon which to strut their stuff.
Fraser Nelson, arguably one of the most politically astute journalists
of the day writes the Spectator ‘Coffee House’ blog. A daily
Nick Robinson writes his excellent blog on the run. You won’t
hear anything Nick writes in his blog, spoken on the News.
Both men embraced blogging with open arms in a laudable ‘if
you can’t beat em’ attitude’.
The journalists who hate bloggers are schizophrenic . Whilst
fervently scouring MPs blogs in the gleeful hope of destroying us,
they madly cut, paste, and, print much of what we say.
Every single week my words look back at me from the pages of
The Daily Mail is open before me today, with the words I wrote
three months ago looking back at me from the pages of the society
gossip column. Add lazy to schizophrenic.
Obviously, I eventually succumbed, I found my blog niche;
after all, what is the point in doing something that everyone else
is already doing?
My niche is the de-mystification of Westminster. I like to think
that in some small way I take Westminster with all its strange
quirky ways, into the homes of ordinary people like myself,
through the prism of an MP’s ever so unremarkable way of life.
And here I am, at it again - sat with my laptop on the balcony
of my rented holiday villa in Spain. Far away from the cautious
Westminster atmosphere; nothing to anchor me to the usual second
thoughts, which I do occasionally have whilst tripping
through the corridors of power, pondering on what metaphor I
can deploy to illustrate an observation I have witnessed - which
will now never leave my brain until exorcised by a blog.
No danger of sighting an eminent role model to make me think
“one day I want to be like you - so I had better re-phrase that comment”.
No Whip to shout down the corridor after me! “Great blog
yesterday” to make me think “you are happy with me today”,
which makes life so much easier - so what exactly was I going to
write, which could spoil today?”
No telephone calls from my Association Chairman; no political
emails to deal with.
I am in a very serious blogging danger zone.
If I were to slip up, it would more than likely happen on a night
When the hot sun has gone to bed and the underwater lights in
the aquamarine pool twinkle and beckon; the jug of Sangria on
the table next to me screams, “more ice”; the heady scent of
Bougainvillaea fills the air; and Jose Gonzales plays seductively in
the background, wooing me, egging me on.
There is a beautiful Batik print on the balcony wall of the
Madonna and child, it’s looking down on me; the warm sea breeze
is blowing the candles on the table making them flicker, playing
tricks with my eyes.
Every time I look up, the Madonna frowns and shakes her head
Unfortunately, I don’t think even the Holy Mother can help me
once I have blogged on. It’s between me, the circling shoal of ‘out
to get me’ piranhas; a loaded gun; an Exocet missile; a suicide
wish; the Chief Whip; and the save button.
I wonder why more MPs don’t blog?