A big moment for the NHS – and for blogging

February 10, 2012 8:03 am

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…

  • Anonymous

    I’m glad Labour has finally woken up to the attack on the NHS, I thought Miliband and Burnham so far had been weak very weak on this , thank god they have  found some  back bone and do not tell me they have been doing it for a while it was pathetic.

    • Ian

       it was lightweight under HEaley but Burnham said ages ago he would repeal, all that has changed is everyone has followed us in saying ‘drop the bill’. In the big issues we are being proved right.

      • Dave Postles

         I think Burnham’s playing a blinder; sadly, Shirley Williams is not.

  • Ian

    I think Mark it is significant a blog on the right of Cameron has these minsiters coming to it.

    In fact I go as far to suggest this could be the first in a long war over Cameron’s future.

  • Janiete

    It is significant that the mainstream media are only interested in Montgomerie’s blog because it has generated a Westminster interest story. On the ground, there is widespread anger about the NHS reforms from all political viewpoints but as yet, the press and broadcast media have not reflected that. People are extremely angry about the push to put NHS provision in the hands of the private sector and the absolute denial of any democratic voice in this process.

    The mainstream media has a very long way to go before it recognises it has a responsibility to report the view of the people not confine itself to narrow journalists’ interests and the Westminster bubble. Until then the blogsphere will continue to be the only place for public discussion and traditional media will continue to decline.

  • TomFairfax

    Maybe more pertinent is that Tim Montgomerie is seem to be a person of integrity and that is not a word associated with the press currently.

    Realistically he has to play honest broker and referee between different views from different perspectives from individuals he has no leverage over, as part of the day job.

    In the press it’s all about pushing the proprietor/editor’s agenda and protecting circulation.

    I suspect it’s wanting to be taken seriously, and not being written off as part of any paper’s ‘out to get Cameron’ campaign that should be considered. Plus only having to rely on one person to keep their identities secret.

    If this had been in the press, names would have been asked for, and doubt cast on the report.

    It’s a credit to his reputation, not ConHome.

    There’s no reason you can’t achieve the same if you want to Mark.

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