Elephant in the Room: Ideology in political blogging

I’ve been meaning to post this for a while but somehow didn’t quite get around to it.

Back in July director of LSE’s Polis media think-tank, Charlie Beckett, posted a great analysis of where the UK political blogosphere will go if/when Labour lose the next general election.

I won’t rehash his article, you can read it for yourselves. However, I do want to highlight an important observation he makes that is regularly overlooked: the influence of political ideology on political bloggers.

Many commentators fall back on the argument that right wing bloggers have the flexibility to attack the government while in opposition, while left wing (predominantly Labour) bloggers have to more or less put up or shut up as the party in government.

But Charlie rightfully suggests that the respective types of blogging carried out by left and right wing bloggers may also be influenced by their personal, political preferences.

Or more specifically as Charlie puts it:

Perhaps the individualism of blogging better suits the less collectivist mentalities on the right.” while “the fragmentation of leftwing blogs is very much a reflection of the divided nature of the post-Iraq, post-Blair left.”

But then Charlie (perhaps deliberately?) undermines this position by reflecting candidly that maybe this cacophony of voices and opinions is “a tribute to the variety in style and substance of what we call political bloggers.”

And that line is perhaps the key takeaway for political analysts, commentators, journalists and PROs.

Political bloggers are lumped together on party lines primarily (although not always) by others – most often the political analysts, commentators, journalists and PROs.

Blogging allows grassroots politicos the opportunity to become active around an issue or series of issues that may not always fall on party political lines. We then retrospectively interpret these as party political as our political system is clearly delinated and doesn’t really allow us to think beyond the Lib/Lab/Con/Green(?) silos.

Of course there are some caveats: Sites like ConservativeHome, LabourHome and Lib Dem Voice are clearly party affiliated, but it can be agued that they are affiliated only in name as many of their ideas differ from the official party line.

Similarly, many political bloggers happen to be party affiliated. But again, this doesn’t mean they always follow the party line. I would go further and argue that joining a political party will become more and more irrelevant for politicos (as it already has for most of the population.

As David Wilcox has already argued:

It used to be that you joined associations because it was a way of meeting like-minded people and getting help, facilities, information and other things difficult or costly to organise for yourself. These days it is much easier to find people and resources online.”

Moreover, blogging allows politically motivated people to organize themselves around particular issues that reject or cross traditional political party boundaries.

Charlie poses the question:

What will happen to political bloggers when the government changes?"

I want us to consider this point another way – what will happen to government  when political bloggers change the way we (self)organize ourselves into issue driven groups, no longer reliant on the traditional and formal structures of membership organizations which have been built on a model first established by thinking during the early days of western Enlightenment more than 200 years ago.

The answer to that question says a lot about the condition of political debate in this country. Both left and right have seen the internet as a chance to push for power.

Technorati tags: Blogging, politics, Charlie Beckett, Enlightenment


  1. Sunny Hundal wrote an interesting piece in the Guardian a while ago about Political Blogging on the Left and I think there are some similar themes that come out – ie people may still use traditional political labels for themselves, but the freedom of blogging and the internet allows far wider interpretation of ideology than the traditional channels.
    …and then you see that the number one searched term on Google USA today is ‘bristol palin’, followed at number two by ‘palin daughter pregnant’ and have to remind yourself that political blogging is not all about fluffy ideology and policy interpretation. As political blogs fight for attention the vitriol can reach heights that ‘traditional journalism’ would be reluctant to go to…….

  2. I agree that the communicational tool that is blogging allows for far more ideas to be covered than may otherwise not have been, such as political. Unlike journalists, bloggers are only representing themselves, and as a result have far more freedom about what they write.
    Also the new trend for sueing the papers left, right and centre, seems to have had a strong influence over what writers are willing to cover and the tone that they cover it in.

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