Tuesday, June 13, 2006

My Top 10 Political Blogs

Okay, so this will quite possibly bring me even more hatred, ridicule and contempt than the Top 10 Political Journalists list did...but for the sake of completeness, here are the adversaries I deem most worthy.

It is quite clear that there are two political blogs that are currently way out in front of the rest in terms of visitors, frequency of posts, volume of comments and general political influence, and there is no use pretending otherwise. The real challenge for the rest of us is for a liberal or left-of-centre blog to come forward and challenge these two front runners, or at the very least, provide a distinctive and authoritative left voice in what is currently a rather right-leaning political blogosphere.

It's also a very fast-changing world. At various points in the last year my Top 10 might have included the likes of Honourable Fiend, Westminster Village, Ming's Dynasty, Talk Politics and the Apollo Project - all now sadly defunct. Anyway, here goes.

1. Iain Dale's Diary. I don't of course agree with all of Dale's views - he is after all the former chief-of-staff to David Davis and a former Conservative candidate. But his blog offers an unrivalled insight not only into what's going on in right-wing circles but also which stories are pressing the buttons of the right-wing press, with whom he evidently has close personal links. Unlike many at the top of their professions, Iain is a generous-minded character and often features posts from other less widely-read blogs (like mine) on his site. Pips Guido Fawkes to the top spot solely because his blog is updated more often and covers a slightly broader range of subject matter.

2. Guido Fawkes. Love him, hate him, you certainly can't ignore him. What I love? The complete and total irreverence for all forms of authority and the sheer chutzpah (and apparent lack of regard for the libel laws) with which he publishes his exposes. What I hate? The druggy references - the real-life Guido was a major player in the rave scene of the early 90s - and the occasional boasts about betting coups, such as making money out of the death of John Smith. But these are but minor personal irritants. This blog is, basically, essential reading for anyone with a serious interest in contemporary politics.

3. Labour Watch. It won't surprise many people to know that a Lib Dem councillor is behind this. But if you can put that to one side, this blog is a superb journalistic resource for anyone interested in the decline of New Labour as a governing force. Not only will you find here most of the national news stories charting Blair's gradual demise but also a host of local examples of what the author calls "Labour mendacity, corruption and failure." There are cleverer, wittier anti-Blair blogs out there, but none which manage to reflect so well what's really happening on the ground.

4. Political Betting. I thought long and hard about whether this is actually a blog - in truth it's more a one-man punditry factory, and a hugely influential one at that. But either way, you can't fault Mike Smithson's political analysis, even if the punditry is geared towards the betting markets rather than as an end in itself. It is to some extent a victim of its own success though - each post routinely gets over 100 comments and it is hard going to plough through all of those to see whether the point you want to make has already been made by someone else.

5. Conservative Home. The third right-wing blog to make my Top 5, illustrating the current centre of political gravity in the blogosphere. But Tim Montgomerie's CH is a very different animal to Dale's Diary. Whereas the latter is very much about Iain's personality and views, Tim is an aggregator par excellence, culling together all the big issues of the day with particular emphasis on Tory matters. If I have one criticism it's that too much of it tends to lead back to the mainstream media rather than to other blogs, but that may change as the blogosphere grows in importance.

6. Nick Robinson. I don't like mainstream media blogs generally. Most of them aren't real blogs in the accepted sense of the word - Trevor Kavanagh's being a good example - and even the Guardian's much-vaunted Comment is Free (not a blog, but a blogging platform) is fairly restrictive in what it will let you link out to. As a BBC blog, Robinson's suffers from the same problem, but he does at least respond to comments and, unlike some other MSM bloggers, is often more outspoken online than he is on screen. Oh, and his analysis is spot-on too - most of the time.

7. Skipper. Very much a personal choice, but there's a far amount that Skipper - aka politics lecturer Bill Jones - and I have in common. He lives in the North, his views are distinctly left of centre, his blog aims to be serious yet unpretentious, and he demonstrates that you don't need to be in the Lobby and/or London to write authoritatively about politics. Like me Skip also updates his blog most days, and aims to provide a big-picture overview of what's happening rather than break individual stories. But unlike me, he tends to give Mr Blair the benefit of the doubt most of the time!

8. Recess Monkey. The humour on this blog can sometimes seem a bit impenetrable to those not well-versed in the ways of Westminster, and a lot of the comments on it are somewhat incestuous. But what's clever about this blog is that, although it is written by a journalist, Alex Hilton, it reads as if it really is written by a bunch of 20-something researchers in MPs offices, of the type that congregate outside the Red Lion on Friday afternoons in summer and then go and shag eachother. That said, it's undergoing a slight dip in quality at present - three months back, it would definitely have been placed third on my list.

9. Forceful and Moderate. What sets this apart from other Lib Dem blogs is not the quality of its political analysis or aggregation - Jonathan Calder's Liberal England is much better at that - but the sheer brilliance of its main writer, Femme de Resistance, although it is technically a group blog. Like many bloggers, she doesn't post often enough, but when she does it's always worth reading. In contrast to all the other pseudonymous bloggers on this Top 10, all of whose identities are actually fairly well known, I have no idea who Femme de Resistance is, but I suspect she's a journalistic star of the future.

10. Bloggerheads. Just as you don't judge a book by its cover, don't judge this blog by the design. Tim Ireland is the "twisted genius" behind it, and, for the most part, it is brilliant anti-Blair agitprop, if slightly pre-occupied in recent weeks with the fate of noisy anti-war protester Brian Haw. Tim's sheer creativity rivals that of Guido and ought by rights to make him as influential on the left as his right-wing counterpart, but he suffers slightly from that peculiarly British problem, of being too clever by half. He also doesn't allow unregistered users to comment, which is, frankly, a pain in the arse.

And that's it. If you want to know who I think is bubbling under, you could take a look at my "Best of the Blogosphere" blogroll once I've got round to rebuilding it which will list what I think are the Top 40, but they will be listed alphabetically, not in order of preference.

Finally, there are three blogs on that would make it into any other Top 10 but which are not political blogs in the strictest sense although they do touch on political issues, and those are Tim Worstall, Dr Crippen and, pre-eminently, Rachel from North London, the single best writer so far thrown up by the blogging medium. If by now you're bored of reading about politics and need to get back in touch with your emotional side, suggest you make yourself a coffee and read this.

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Rachel said...

Oh goshm, thank you so much Paul. That is really, really kind of you.

Wooter said...

"Guido: This blog is, basically, essential reading for anyone with a serious interest in contemporary politics."

HAHA - this makes me laugh.

wonkotsane said...

Nick Robinson? You're having a laugh, surely?

Steve Graves said...

Totally agree about Nick Robinson's blog - let's face it, in his position he hardly needs to bother too much but the fact that he clearly does try pretty hard earns him brownie points in my book.

Femme de Resistance said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Femme de Resistance said...

Thanks! :D That fairly made my day, it did! :)

I'm a nobody really... desperately trying to finish writing up a science PhD and unsure what I'm going to do when I submit (hopefully within the next couple of months).

Inamicus said...

Being "best of the rest" after Iain and Guido isn't such a bad place to be :)

leon said...

Aha, looks like us at Pickled Politics will just have to try a bit harder...


bebopper said...

Anyone uses the double "really" can't possibly be a "talented writer". I must hear the bloody phrase a dozen times a day (usually from women )and it's driving me nuts.
Mostly agree about the blogs, although I didn't know four of them

Tim Montgomerie said...

Thank you for this Paul and you are right about ConservativeHome's failure to link to enough 'new media' sites in the news and comment round-ups. I'll try and do better in future!

Iain Dale said...

I'm blushing...

Paul Linford said...

Thanks for all your comments on this.

Rachel, you don't need to thank me, honest. Your story, and your writing, has inspired so many people.

Femme de R - good luck with whatever you decide to do but you're far from being a nobody.

Tim - thanks for such a gracious response from a giant of the blogosphere to a relative newcomer like me.

Iain - sorry I made you blush ;-)

Guido Fawkes Esq. said...

Will redouble my druggy references and gambling coups. Noticable that you don't criticise the boozing. :)

Not convinced about the libel thing. Of course if Lord Levy isn't crooked Guido could be in a spot of bother.

Paul Linford said...

I did say "apparent" disregard for the libel laws. I know from our previous correspondence about Ron Davies and Mr Hague's sexuality that it is more apparent than real!

Boozing is asbolutely fine by me, Guido. Unlike Mr Dale I am a fairly enthusiastic boozer myself. The drugs stuff is just a personal thing. There are some people who use drugs very cleverly but others who end up being controlled by them. I just think that in general it's a bad idea to be blase about them.

Jean said...

Here is a picture of the infamous 'J', courtesy of Rachel and her fan club.

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