Today marks a big moment – not just in British blogging history, but in British political history. The decision by cabinet ministers to go to ConHome calling for the health bill to be dropped is a breach of collective responsibility, that much is clear. That they have briefed ConHome anonymously makes very little difference – Tim Montgomerie is a scrupulous character who can be taken at his word. These cabinet ministers, whoever they are, are angry. And they want this bill dead. Or perhaps “taken out and shot”.
What is particularly instructive is the choice of medium. I won’t be so trite as to say that this is a coming of age for the blogosphere – that moment came long ago and the big political blogs are now an established part of the political geography. But what this represents is an escalation of the elevation of blogs as a platform for shaping actual policy. These cabinet ministers are going to ConHome because they know this is a potential route to getting the bill dropped.
In times gone by if you wanted to reach the Tory grassroots you’d have gone to the right wing press. Now there’s a growing realisation (in all major parties) that political blogs speak to a specific and crucial constituency – opinion formers and activists.
Although our politics are poles apart, I have always have had a soft spot for ConHome editor Tim Montgomerie. And although his definition of where the “mainstream” of British politics lies seems a fair distance from the actual mainstream, that’s clearly just the tactics of a canny operator who wants to shift that mainstream. Well today he’s certainly shifted the centre of gravity in the Conservative Party towards his blog, and his grassroots voice.
And what of us in the Labour blogosphere? Our part of the web is still maturing, but the pace is picking up. Our style may be different to ConHome’s, but at LabourList we promise that we’ll always speak for the grassroots, and for all of the different strands of opinion within the party. It’s what we’re here for. Influencing and shaping debates and policy is a huge part of what political blogs do – and must do.
It’s great to see the mainstream media begin to catch up with that reality, at last…