One hundred blog posts isn't a major milestone for most bloggers, but it's taken me three-and-a-half years for me to get here, so I'm quite proud of it!
When I started, I wanted to try to write about the explanations that lie just one step removed from the soundbites, slogans, rallying cries, buzzwords, platitudes and shibboleths through which the public are expected to understand their political choices.
So this wasn't to be a blog about esoteric academic thinkers or sophisticated empirical studies. It wasn't to be a heavy-duty examination of political messaging.
It was to look for alternatives to the sterile shouting-matches between left and right, fairness and wealth-creation, authoritarianism and liberalism, proletariat and oligarchy... It was to look for justifications framed in non-technical, colloquial language; for accessible justifications that didn't patronize or dumb down.
I was particularly hoping that my perspective might help sharpen the Liberal Democrat offering to the British people at the 2010 general election, an offering that at that time appeared to me to lack focus and presentational quality. In my view, the Labour government desperately needed to be ousted; the Conservatives were untrustworthy and would be disastrous for the country; and the only alternative - the Liberal Democrat Party - was failing to attain mainstream appeal, despite excellent policies and arguments.
So what happened?I had a go: I considered what might appeal to different current British political traditions; I looked at a range of issues; I précised and rewrote the LibDem case; and I arrived at 6 reasons why I was voting Liberal Democrat. Much good it did! But it was cathartic.
Subsequently, of course, I also ended up blogging quite a bit about coalition because Britain ended up (in line with the above expectations) insufficiently convinced by any of the parties to elect a majority government.
Looking back at my 100 posts, I'd forgotten that, in the guise of a broadsheet perspective, I'd actually proposed a Conservative-LibDem coalition in 2009. When in 2010 that possibility actually arose, I ummed and ahhed before deciding it was a good thing. I still thought so a year later. We'll see shortly whether this view continues in 2012...!
After the election, I reflected on my failings as a blogger, and resolved to stick to my own voice. I've also noticed that many potential blogposts never got written because the itch for observations, questions and chats ended up mostly fulfilled by Twitter.
Among other topics, I came up with some liberal heuristics; tried to identify instinctive responses and inspirations of the three main parties; compared the Big Society and Liberalism; got proved right about the AV referendum; pondered about copyright; wrote a lot about climate change; and reported on politics in my home city of Exeter.
More controversially (not that anyone noticed!), I defended Ken Livingstone when everyone else was damning him; worried about the Woolas verdict that everyone else was praising; urged against campaigns to clean up politics; questioned the point of the parliamentary sketch; unfairly caricatured local government; attacked Jeremy Paxman; got angry with the cynicism of the Occupy movement; criticised the idea of a directly elected House of Lords; and accused the police of helping terrorists.
It hasn't all been politics: I've thrown in a few thoughts on religion, television (particularly Doctor Who!) and radio, just because there were a few thoughts I wanted to share. Looking back, I'm surprised I didn't blog more about the many films I've seen over the last few years. Again, I blame Twitter!
Most viewed postsThe blog currently receives about 1300 page views a month, which is far more than I was expecting. There are a small number of RSS feed subscribers: around 30 according to FeedBurner. Other visitors typically come through Google searches, Twitter and Liberal Democrat Voice.
Blogger managed to lose a heap of web stats before June 2009, but since then the most viewed posts have been:
- Tintin and the Wreck of the Treasured Memory
I strongly suspect this is #1 not because it's great writing but because it crops up high in Google Image searches for Tintin... ;-)
- A General Election blog post (boring boring boring)
I've no idea why this one is popular.
- LibDems: We must do better than this
Provocative title! But I'm proud of this one.
- Exeter's newspaper: neither Express nor Echo?
Presumably there are a lot of Exeter folks interested in opinions about their local newspaper.
- Three Futures for the Liberal Democrats and Tuition Fees
I put myself on the line for this one, and been proved mostly wrong! Popular because it was a timely issue for LibDems.
- The General Election: Reflections on my failure as a blogger
Maybe self-doubt is attractive. Not sure... ;-)
- When councillors get fixated on "progress"
Detailed examination of a local proposal.
- LonWon's 2011 Five Self-Denying Ordinances for the Arts
Again, sadly the detailed stats suggest that the popularity of this post is more to do with people searching Google for pictures of "horse with blinkers" than to do with anyone wanting to know my policy on spoilers...
- Rethinking what the tuition fees issue is about
The partner of #5.
- Doctor Who: The Tomb of the Cybermen
Lots of people love Doctor Who. :-)
One of my proudest achievements was the post about nuclear power featuring in Liberal Democrat Voice's "Top of the Blogs: The Golden Dozen".
My favourite postsOf all 100 posts, I think my best are:
- LibDems: We must do better than this
Bad bill-making practices and voters' cost-benefit calculations about the Coalition.
- Jumping all over the fence
Can my political philosophy find coalition with Conservatives acceptable? Spoiler: yes, but with major caveats. I will need to return to this post...!
- Blah blah blah fairness blah blah blah change
What's wrong with the LibDems' 2010 election campaign material?
- Reflections on the threat to Exeter democracy
Tiny medieval Florence ran its own affairs. Why can't 21st century Exeter? A flawed Boundary Commission process ignores democracy and the status quo.
- When councillors get fixated on "progress"
A detailed examination of a poorly thought-through local road scheme, and why it is that councillors can fail to think things through.
- Liberal Democrat tribalism is the real danger
Why Liberal Democrats need to foster liberal and social democratic elements in the other parties.
- Lon Won's Evil Liberal Masterplan
Give local government more autonomy and local voters more controls. I may return to the council gears metaphor linking people, services and business.
- Why are parties of the Right sceptical of climate change?
Fear of costs, suspicion of the Left, fear of economic disadvantage, muscular contrarianism.
- The Big Society v Liberalism
A common dislike of top-down control, but differences in relation to democracy.
- Why is Any Questions better than Question Time?
The panel, the questions, the camera, the chair, the audience, the medium!
If you like this, you might like...I've never done a blogroll, preferring to highlight interesting individual posts via Twitter. But I'll take this opportunity to single out the following blogs for typically thought-provoking posts:
- Neil Stockley
- Alex Wilcock
- Jonathan Calder
- Jennie Rigg
- Richard Morris
- Max Atkinson
- Caron Lindsay
- Stephen Tall
- Mark Pack
- Mark Thompson
- Simon Bowkett
- Jock Coats
- Ian Eiloart
- Joe Otten
I'm aware there's only one Labour blog in that list (Simon), so I'd be very interested to hear of suggestions for Labour, Conservative or Green blogs that might be worth trying.
What's for the future?
In advance of the next general election, I want to revisit some of these earlier posts containing political and presentational arguments, to explore whether the same arguments apply again.
I hope to document some thoughts and conversations that are almost irretrievably lost in the mists of ancient Twitter history (pretty much anything over a week old!)
I want to develop some of the ideas about local government I've begun here.
And I want to try to blog more often about films. Not necessarily for their overt political messages at all, but because I think that films often force us to imagine ourselves in the position of others. And that has political value in itself.