Well…actually, there’s more to it than biggin’ up Puffles and Bestest Buddy.
I was one of the ‘lurkers’ who would read Iain Dale‘s original blogposts on a regular basis in those innocent days when political blogging was still in its infancy. As a civil servant, it was an insight into ‘the other world’ of politics – the politically polarised and sometimes/often vicious world of party politics that bubbles below the newspaper headlines.
One of the things that put me off from going down the blogging route was the sheer levels of hatred and poison that seemed to emerge in the comments posts – in particular personal insults. A microcosm of why many talented people choose not to go into party politics? Quite possibly – after all, why would anyone willingly put themselves open to that level of scrutiny and abuse? It’s one of the reasons I started tweeting through Puffles (I think has picked up far more followers than a pic of my ugly mugshot ever would) and is one of the reasons why I waited until I left the civil service until starting this blog.
Blogging in the ‘political’ sense has matured since then – I think – with the emergence of what I would call ‘current affairs’ blogging. That plus a number of big names finding their feet bouncing off blogs, tweets and news reports means that people are finding out about things far faster than mainstream news would allow – and that we also have access to expert analysis in a way that we couldn’t even have dreamt of 20 years ago.
What I like about this expansion of “current affairs” blogging is that it is issue or event-based, and that the blogger concerned analyses and/or comments through the prism of their area of expertise and life experience. For me, the three big areas beyond party politics that have come to the fore in recent times have been those of law, journalism and public administration. Law and journalism bloggers have been splendid in their coverage of the problems of News International – and I have found that the insights that they have raised have gone far beyond anything any of the mainstream political commentators (esp those who are choosing not to use social and digital media) have come up with.
The cuts being brought in by the Coalition have also brought up a new breed of public administration bloggers – of which I’m one. The scale, pace and manner in which the cuts have been brought in has meant that there are more than a few people both inside and outside the system who have been blogging and tweeting about what has been happening inside the public sector. What I like about the public administration bloggers is that they are broadening people’s understanding of what public administration is all about. This then allows the general public and those in the party-political field to ask more targeted questions of the institutions that those elected to public office are charged with holding to account.
One of the things one of my old directors told me is that once you’ve spent a few years in a policy environment in the civil service, it is very difficult to be politically tribal. This is because your job involves picking holes in your own and other people’s arguments, ideas and policies. This holds true with myself. When you’ve been inside an institution for such a length of time, it’s difficult not to become “institutionalised” – which, in part is what I have become after 7 years in the civil service. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as the insights from time in the Whitehall jungle have been really useful in looking at a lot of the stuff that is going on outside of it, as well as how Whitehall news is (mis)reported.
So, when it comes down to who to vote for in the Total Politics Awards, broaden your horizons to those who cover politics with a small ‘p’ as well as those who engage in party-political blogging.