Thursday, August 26, 2010

The BOTYS - Liberal Democrat Blog of the Year suggestions

So, finally, we've got to the Big One, the Grand Prix, the Cordon Bleu Jaune: the Liberal Democrat Blog of the Year.

There are lots of fantastic Lib Dem Blogs out there, but my suggestions for the shortlist are in my opinion the pick of the bunch. They all have different strengths, specialities and reasons to love them.

First up, the best blogging elephant in the history of the world's very fluffy diary.

Key strengths: strategic capitalisation and making up funny nicknames for people; explaining things about tax and the economy in a way that's not only comprehensible, but interesting; taking the time to really deeply analyse an argument; a love of Doctor Who.

Specialities: the economy - nobody can explain how to deal with a deficit quite like Millennium. His analysis of the Coalition's first hundred days shows why. Also special aptitude for dealing with the crap that the Fail and its evil brothers and sisters come out with. I loved his report of what his Daddy Richard would have said at the Special Conference on the Coalition:

During the election, we we're attacked – attacked by both other parties – for our policy on immigration, and it was because we allowed them to frame the question, to define immigration as the "problem".

Immigration is NOT the problem – the problem is housing, the problem is jobs, the problem is employers forcing wages down, the problem is pressure on services… immigration is a scape-goat for these things, a convenient excuse from a Labour government that had let down its own voters.

Conference, I live in Tower Hamlets, one of the most diverse Boroughs in the United Kingdom. And, yes, despite lying in the shadow of glittering wealth at Canary Wharf, one of the poorest. Look at our history: Huguenots in Spitalfields, Chinese in Limehouse, Jews in Cable Street, Bangladeshi in Brick Lane… these weren't people coming to "sponge" off us; they were coming to take up the opportunity that a free and Liberal society offered.

David Cameron is being hailed as "the new Disraeli"; when Disraeli was Prime Minister there weren't any Little Englander worries about immigration; people were welcomed for the talents that they could bring.

Britain is built on immigration. We are stronger for immigration, for all those people with get up and go who got up and came here, to these lucky islands.

But it's more personal than that. My partner is Alex Wilcock – you may have heard the cheers for his intervention – and his Mum is a "Non-EU immigrant". If there'd been a cap on immigration, I might never have seen my Alex.

This little pachyderm sums up for me what liberalism is all about. He's been on the shortlist for the last 2 years - will it be 3rd time lucky for the top prize?

I had thought that Mark Thomson's Mark Reckons blog would have been an absolute certainty for the shortlist if not the award before his announcement last week that he was stopping blogging.  He has had a ground-breaking almost 2 years and his absence will leave a huge void.

Key strengths: strong, evidence based posts on controversial subjects like drugs; clear headed stuff on political reform; live Question Time chats; in depth interviews with key people like drugs expert Professor David Nutt.

Specialities: a strong voice in the Blogosphere against blanket prohibition without evidence, particularly in relation to drugs. I still think his post linking MPs' expenses to the safety of their seats, which was picked up by Polly Toynbee, did more to advance the cause of political reform than anything else in my lifetime. And then there was always the fact that his blog contained more common sense per square inch than most.

Here he writes in response to a father, whose child was bitten by a dog, who called for a ban on dogs "anywhere children play". Well, that's plenty of scope for a start, including houses.

Mark's response was to express sympathy for the child's injuries but to then say:

I am sorry for the injuries and distress caused to Mr Evans and his son but I just wonder what he thinks the result of such a ban would be. He already makes it clear that he has dogs and he muzzles them. I expect most law abiding and responsible dog owners already do this anyway.
So what we would be left with are the people who do not give a flying toss about the law or responsibility still letting their dogs off in the play areas. In my experience* these people will just ignore any rules so the result is likely to be that the responsible dog owners find one more place they cannot take their dogs. I also wonder how you would define "where children play".
"Banning" things does not stop them from happening. It does however mean more money being spent on trying to enforce the rules and various other side effects. People should think more carefully before calling for bans.
We are really going to miss his approach and I hope that his circumstances will allow him to resume his blog at some point in the future. He had also become an excellent representative of the liberal viewpoint on the media.

My third choice is going to be Jennie Rigg, which I'm sure will be much to your surprise because I never mention her and I never ever say that she's one of my favourite bloggers and I hang on her every word, do I ? Her blog is plain speaking, often provocative and passionate.

To me her key strength is that she reaches outside the confines of the political blogosphere - she writes for ordinary people, not just political junkies. I liked how she basically did a series of personal tailored manifestos during the election  this one to a friend of her's with no interest in politics. She explains what the Liberal Democrats stand for  in appealing and engaging terms, and she'll tell the Coalition Government exactly what she thinks of it, as she did here in a recent post talking about their crusade on benefit fraudsters:
If ever there was any doubt about the fact that the Golden Rule* (he who has the gold makes the rules) is still fully in force, compare the media coverage of and political rhetoric about the two crimes I mention in the title of this post. Benefit Fraudsters are scum; feckless, worthless criminals; living immorally off our taxes. Tax Evaders are barely mentioned at all, and when they are they are mentioned in the kind of force-of-nature way that rapists are mentioned in victim-blaming discourse...
Her specialities can be summed up as freedom, feminism and fandom. The range of things she can write knowledgably about, though, is enormous -science, law, the reality of living on a low income.  I like her reality checks on the "blokeosphere" and her attempts to change things.

My final suggestion is Cicero whose Songs often scare the living daylights out of me but are prescient warnings of danger ahead. See this prediction on house prices from the start of the year:
The outlook for the UK in 2010 is now as grim as it has been for nearly 40 years. Many argue that the fall in sterling will rescue the economy. Unfortunately British manufacturing now comprises only 11% of the economy and the bulk of economic activity is now in the public sector- all a falling Pound is doing is importing inflation. So in addition to emergency government spending cuts sometime in the mid year, we will see much higher inflation- and a rise in interest rates that will finally undermine the UK housing market. Although self-interested groups have been pointing out that housing has become more "affordable" the fact is that this affordability is based on ultra low interest rates. They fail to note that the historic average Bank of England base rate is 5%. Meanwhile the ratio of price:rent in the UK is still 20% above its long term average. The combination of inevitably rising interest rates and large job losses in the public sector can only mean a significant real fall in house prices. Either the currency will collapse or housing prices will.
His specialities are international affairs, particularly, but not exclusively, affecting Europe in general and those Baltic states he loves so much specifically. In fact, here he can see the positives in Estonia entering the Euro and sets out the challenges ahead for the UK.

He recently predicted a grim future for the US if the right wingers get their way - and the comments his post attracted kind of proved his point.

You have to read his blog from behind a pillow sometimes, but he shows the need for those who believe in a  distinctive, liberal, internationalist future to keep working , not just here but across the world.

So here ends my series of posts on the BOTYs.  Whoever you are going to nominate, don't forget to let Helen Duffett of Liberal Democrat Voice have your e-mailed nominations by tomorrow on

1 comment:

Jennie Rigg said...



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