Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Bloggers at Brighton

This article appears in tomorrow's Liberal Democrat News. The printed version does not include all the hyperlinks, of course...

Bloggers at Brighton

Brighton 2006 was the Conference of the bloggers. Increasing numbers of Liberal Democrats are writing blogs - or weblogs, to give them their full name. Some use these simple websites to keep in touch with constituents or fight local campaigns: others are frustrated newspaper columnists. But together they make up a movement that is changing British politics. No longer do you have to be a Westminster insider to hear the latest ideas and scandal or to have your say. Blogging is open to everyone.

The party recognised this by offering an award to the blogger who "has done the most to promote liberalism in the last year". It was given to Stephen Tall from Oxford at a reception held on the Sunday of Conference. Stephen became something of a media celebrity for the rest of the week, and many other bloggers were quoted or asked to give their views too.

There were so many bloggers at Brighton or watching proceedings on television that their writings gave a far fuller and more colourful picture of events than the mainstream press could provide. Take Ming Campbell's first speech as Lib Dem leader. Paul Walter was euphoric: "It was ... a barnstormer. It reminded me of the best of Paddy's speeches - brilliant!" Anders Hanson was more measured: "The word I would use is solid ... It could perhaps have been delivered more strongly, but then the majority of people will only hear clips on the news."

The reviews for Nick Clegg's speech were uniformly positive. Lynne Featherstone (one of several blogging MPs) thought it was "an excellent speech which really went for the shallowness of Labour's rhetoric on crime, their obsession with new legislation ... and their hideous illiberal approach to dealing with the new threats we face." Tristan, who blogs at Liberal (not so) Alone, said: "He's said some of the very things which led me to the Lib Dems ... Some good jokes. Something for everyone."

It was not all so serious. During the week Lib Dem blogs also offered an account of the bloggers' social at the excellent Evening Star pub near Brighton station, a guide to secondhand bookshops in East Sussex and all the gossip.

No comments: