Richard Horton: A Thousand Flowers

Richard Horton, one of the judges for the Orwell Prize for Blogs 2010 and winner of the Blog Prize 2009 as ‘Jack Night’, looks at the blogging year.

For me, the read is over. The short list for the Blog Prize is done at last. As we sat around the inevitable kitchen table, folding laptops and squaring papers, I was asked what I thought stood out in the entries as a whole. In no particular order, these are my thoughts on a good year for political blogging.

In my acceptance speech last year I described political blogs as short levers. Well from the volume of entries there are now a lot more of us and our levers are getting longer. When the likes of Guido and Iain Dale speak, there is an audience waiting to listen. Bloggers are standing for Parliament. Bloggers have raised the money to free a prisoner. Bloggers have gleefully and very publicly shredded every major party advertising campaign. It seems that bloggers have opinions that matter outside of the hall of mirrors.

Another emerging theme is that the left leaning side of the blogosphere has begun to catch up. In 2009, the right seemed to have organically grown good stuff. Last year whilst LabourList and Liberal Conspiracy were on my browser favourites list, I did not go there expecting a rattling good read. A lot of it felt self conscious, too on message, forced, whipped into line. Perhaps that is the burden of being on the weakly governing side of the argument, dissent feels disloyal. This year however in both the long list and short list there are voices from the left that can entertain whilst they inform and importantly it is not all “my party right or wrong” any more. Should we have a change of government I will be watching to see how far the tables turn and whether the blogosphere’s anti-politicians turn their guns on the new team, carry on kicking the losers whilst they are down or both.

Lastly, although none of them made it to the long list, there were a good number of very local blogs dealing with very local politics. This has got to be a good thing because for every troll with a blog, there is a local crusader with a real issue or a local politician making a genuine attempt to open the curtains of local democracy. Political blogging doesn’t have to be about the big national stuff to matter; in fact some of this very focussed writing is exactly the stuff that you can scratch a window with.