Sunday, February 08, 2015

Why Liberal Democrat blogging is in decline

At the end of last month Mark Valladares published a post noting the decline in the number of Liberal Democrat bloggers. (I included it in a Six of the Best at the time.)

On 26 January 2011 there were 235 blogs listed on the LibDemBlogs aggregator: on 26 January 2015 there were only 109.

Mark saw the explanation  for this remarkable decline as lying chiefly in the diminished fortunes of the party - in particular, people's unwillingness to put their "head above the parapet for fear of being shot at".

In response to Mark, Alex Marsh wrote a post suggesting a wider range of reasons, not least the rise of social media such as Facebook and Twitter. (To be fair, Mark mentioned this too.) He also questions whether blogging in our party is any more in decline than political blogging in general.

Does this decline in Liberal Democrat matter?

I think it does. I love blogging, and a political party should be buzzing with ideas and full of people who want an outlet for their own.

Twitter appealed to me as soon as I tried it (though, to be honest, partly as a way of promoting Liberal England.

I might have taken to Facebook if it had been around before I started blogging - I have always blogged in rather a Facebook style, sharing lots of interesting links - but I have never been able to think of a way of using it that this blog or twitter does not already provide.

Besides, for me Facebook has failed to shake off its origins on university campuses. Not everyone who wants to read your words is a friend.

Alex makes a good point when he writes:
A post like this one – a response to something posted by another blogger – would undoubtedly have been much more common four, five, six years ago. Now it feels a bit old school. Many bloggers are still commenting on the news, current affairs, opinion polls and the like, but there is less of a sense that being a blogger is being part of a community debating issues among themselves.
That is right, though I think I can claim to be better at linking to other Liberal Democrat blogs than most.

These days people are far more likely to link to an article in the Financial Times of the Economist than to one on another blog.

But then there are many bloggers whose ambition seems to be to become the next Peter Riddell. Some even want to be a Royal Commission.

I also find, and this may be a generational difference, that some bloggers are prone to regard a post questioning their ideas as a personal attack. Put it down to the remorseless rise of identity politics.

When I gave a talk on blogging in Leicester last year I spoke of the "punk ethic" of blogging. You don't need anyone's permission or any qualifications to start. You just do it.

That is not the ethic of most bloggers today, with the result that a lot of blogs read like newspaper comment articles. To me the point of blogging is to do something different, not just mimic what has long existed.

I also note that Mark has commented on Alex's post saying:
I always think that the best bloggers give us a window into their hinterland, as well as being interesting on Lib Dem related issues, and that’s a point which deserves further thought.
I agree, but I suspect that some would describe Liberal England as being all hinterland and no coast.


Frank Little said...

I would love to have more people engaging in arguments as a result of my blog posts. So far I have attracted only annual stereotyped attacks from the BNP (or whatever they call themselves these days).

Jennie Rigg said...

IMHO the big problem has been the twin death of google reader and Livejournal - although the latter limps on. Nobody blogs in most spheres except us oldies who have been doing it forever, because nobody READS blogs any more.

Alex S said...

But what a hinterland. It gives Liberal England 'personality' and charm and aesthetic appeal as well as food for thought on political and topical matters. That, and the historical sweep, is what sets your blog apart from the rowdier political blogs. Long may it continue.

Jonathan Calder said...

Thank you, Alex!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for an interesting article.

I consider myself an ex-Liberal, ex-Liberal activist and ex-Liberal blogger.

My take (please feel free to completely ignore it), is that 'thinkers' who would once have serious mused and mulled over the great issues of the day with others from political parties no longer consider large political parties as vehicles for profound social change.

Consider: 38 Degrees and Change.Org have risen during this period and that the chant of 'All London Parties are the Same' is everywhere.

When the three main parties line up to repeat each other to talk about the 'Threat to the Union' of the SNP winning most of the seats in Scotland, rather than celebrating the power of democracy and pledging to work with it, no matter what the outcome it means that the parties are no longer a safe haven to democratic thinkers.

Little wonder then that the blogging stops.

What is the point of blogging about the development of a healthy democracy and the art of the possible when even the Liberal-Democrat Party has given up on building a constructive future based on embracing rather than lobbying against, change.