In the run up to this year’s General Election there was much talk of how a change of government might lead to a change in the political blogosphere. It has had a right wing bias from its inception in the sense that, amongst the most-read, more of them have been right of centre in their output and authors’ political affiliations than centrist or anything further to the left. The oft-cited reason that this was due to Labour being in power during the genesis years of the political blogosphere could only be put to the test by a change of government.
And oh, how we waited.
But today, Total Politics (via Iain Dale) published its annual list of the top 100 political blogs in advance of this year’s Guide to Political Blogging. Whatever one thinks of TP’s methods of polling (explained in full back in 2009), this allows for a year on year comparison either side of a General Election to see if the change of stripes at the top has affected the hierarchy of political blogs.
The first and most obvious comparison to undertake is right-wing vs left-wing. Obviously this should really be broken down into more precise categories since the political ecosystem does not exist along a linear RW-LW spectrum, but most of the blogs concerned do break down quite easily into RW-LW, plus it gives nicer results. So without claiming to be strictly scientific and looking only at the top 20, in 2009 there were 13 RW blogs and 3 LW. In 2010 those figures are closer together at 9 RW and 6 LW. The most prominent rise by a blogger’s mile is Left Foot Forward. Having not featured at all in TP’s 2009 poll it is now 3rd overall. Labour List has not only survived Derek Draper but risen, incredibly, to 6th. Somebody buy Alex Hilton a drink. The rest of the LW top 20 are Tom Harris, Hopi Sen, Liberal Conspiracy and Next Left.
Looking at the remaining 30 from each year, this pattern is borne out. There is still a perceptible RW bias but it has lessened overall. I haven’t done the actual maths because classifying all those blogs along RW-LW lines would lead to a lot of non sequiturs. Best to see for yourself.
Other changes include a doubling of the mainstream media’s presence in the top 50 (but only from 5 to 10) and a decrease of 1 in the number of MPs’ blogs (Nadine Dorries has dropped out, the rest remain the same). Of the total 14 dropouts from the top 50 there is a good mixture of political allegiances. Breaking them down into (Total Politics’) more precise categories we find, LW = 4, Conservative = 3, Lib Dem = 1, Libertarian = 1, MSM =1 (thanks to The Times’ paywall), Green = 1, Plaid =1, (N/A = 2).
Overall, one can’t help but feel that, despite prior predictions, the change of government has had little effect. Rather, it is the quality of writing that has kept the top at the top and brought others up the rankings. To suggest that Left Foot Forward is more successful because blogging in opposition yields more readers would be to ignore the quality of its writing. Perhaps that quality rises in opposition because it is easier to criticise, which would explain the continual dominance of Guido Fawkes. But for every example that proves a theory there is one that disproves it. Say what you like about Iain Dale’s blog, it certainly isn’t out to attack and criticise.
If a blogger known for an allied but balanced viewpoint can trade places with Guido at the top of the rankings then maybe the safer theory is to say that content remains king and the colour atop No. 10’s mast is irrelevant. Of course, it might be that the slightly unusual pastel shades of the current administration’s livery best explain the general stasis within these rankings…