Monday, 22 December 2008

Liberal Conspiracy and the Liberal Democrats

. Hands-up all those out there from the Liberal Democrat blogsphere who read Sunny Hundal's Liberal Conspiracy? As I suspected a few but not many; so the next question why don't more of you?? You may even wonder why this is worth a whole posting; well, it is one of the top five political blogs in this country and the only one of the top five that actually has a 'liberal-left' mission statement. So, it's the only one likely to challenge the Conservative domination of the blogsphere (Mike Smithson's Political Betting is a neutral site to my mind despite Mike's personal sympathy to the Lib Dems).

Liberal Democrat Voice has a sizable audience but I can't help feeling it is largely an audience of the already converted. It's main competition is Conservative and Labour Home in all reality as these are the main unofficial partisan discussion communities which tend to orientate in the same way. In terms of 'outreaching' I feel LDV is thus something of a different species compared to Liberal Conspiracy; in reality, Liberal Conspiracy has a huge potential as a focal point for wider opposition after the next election returns some kind of majority or minority Conservative government. It is time to add a slight caveat; if it is a minority Conservative government then Liberal Democrat Voice may well be the main beneficiary (along, of course, with Labour blogs). However, in general I would expect it to be pushing Iain and Guido hard; certainly harder than it does now when anti-government sentiment is likely to be best expressed by Conservatives.

Liberal Conspiracy, as a collaborative effort, in some ways has more potential outreach than the likes of Iain Dale who is a very talented individual but nonetheless still an individual (as are the likes of Letters and Dizzy). I suspect, though people might like to confirm or deny this in comments, that alot of Lib Dem bloggers feel that Liberal Conspiracy is essentially the organ of the Labour-left/Compass wing of that party. Jennie Rigg does an admirable job of representing our politics on the site itself but she is to all intents and purposes a lone Lib Dem voice.

Looking down the list of contributors I see the only other listed avowedly Lib Dem contributor is Alix Mortimer who is a prolific contributor to Liberal Democrat Voice. As far as I can see the bulk of the listed contributors are from the 'soft-Labour' left; that is they may not be members of Labour or even supportive of the current regime but when the cookie crumbles that is where their alligence lies. In other words it doesn't strike me as a very politically balanced list; and I have to say this is not just a Liberal Democrat only gripe, there seems to be little input from Green's either (and I can think of at least one quality Green blogger off the top of my head and I am sure there are more).

It is with some irony then that Jennie's article today points to how the Tory press is 'love-bombing' the Lib Dems when there appear to be no similar efforts from Labour either officially (which admittedly is unlikely) or unofficially from 'soft-Labour' types who surely have no desire to see the Conservatives returned to government. In terms of reflecting a plurality of progressive opinion I think therefore Liberal Conspiracies composition is somewhat questionable. If it wants to become a serious challenging force to the Conservative hegemony of the blogsphere then I think a more pluralist approach is required. As for us, the benefits would be obvious in increased publicity for the Lib Dems in the blogsphere...


Irfan Ahmed said...


Me and you have spoken about this issue many times. The Liberal Democrats should have a high share on Liberal Conspiracy and I have to agree LC and PB are the only blogs that are written by writers who are not Tory.

The Tories dominate the Blogosphere hopefully when they get into Government then we shall dominate it. Until then its great that you are pushing to get blog posts published on LC!

Iain Dale said...

Darrell, A very good post, which I shall feature in my Daley Dozen tonight. You are also now added to my RSS.

Darrell G said...

Thank you Irfan and Iain :). Yes, me and you have talked about it extensively Irfan. I can't help feeling there must be other Lib Dem bloggers who feel the same...

Metatone said...

[Side note, I'm not a LibDem, although they have had my vote in a number of elections.]

To my mind, the basic failing of LC is repeated throughout the British blogosphere:

It is focused on publishing, not conversation.

This is not a dig at anyone in particular, I too blog (not on politics) using Blogger, which you use. (LC uses wordpress, but it's not much difference.)

1) The technology of comments is just rubbish. As a result it's rare to get good conversations going.

2) There's no mechanism for "guests" to easily post articles. As such, you either make your case in the mucky comments section, or you can send it to the editorial staff, who might publish it, but it's too cumbersome, so people generally just don't.

3) Trackbacks and pings are supposed to be the saving grace, the nerve system that creates conversations between blog posts. Only, they just don't work properly. Half the time when a WP writer links to a Blogger piece (and vice versa) the signal never gets through.

4) Likewise, LibDemBlogs and other RSS based solutions tend not to easily incorporate the comments...

It is, of course, a lot more work to run an open group blog, not to mention there is more infrastructure involved. You have to monitor and delete troll diaries as well as troll comments. But the best communities do run off stuff like Scoop. (Daily Kos, or slightly more locally, European Tribune.)

The reason is that it helps people to have conversations. Which genuinely gives them a chance to engage with each other.

From all this, I view LC as a huge missed opportunity. It had the founding characters to make a splash and it's become one of the top political blogs. But there's not much actual discussion there, because there's no easy way for interested alternate voices to flit in and out. Hence, there isn't that much of a community either, beyond the authors. And half the time they find the comments such a cumbersome system that they don't really get discussing with each other.

So what am I saying?

- I agree with you that LC doesn't have enough different authors. More Green and LibDem posts would make things more interesting.

- However, I think the solution is more openness, rather than better selection.

Darrell G said...


It is interesting that you say the 'British blogsphere' because I think you are intimating that we are streets behind the US especially in this regard.

1) Comments are always tricky I agree and cumbersome plus there is the added issue of to moderate or not. I have noticed that when I have posted on Daily Kos for example, several conversations at once start-up.

2) Again I agree although I tend to think this depends on what kind of blog you are running be it individual or a group one. In LC's case it should to my mind be aiming for the Daily Kos model where it is quite easy to sign-up and post.

3) True although I have to say that this is a gripe I have about LDV which doesnt incorporate them at all.

Seems to me what you are basically saying is that there is a lack of interactivity all round which is particularly relevant to a case like LC which is attempting to be much more a community than an individuals efforts. If there was a facility for voices other than the authors to be heard easily beyond the comments then the calls for greater inclusion wouldnt be so vociferous but as you say it's limitations mean that in practice groups that feel under represented end up in practice calling for more authors.

Alix said...

Great thoughtful post. The Lib Dems are definitely under-represented on LC, but TBH part of the problem is that two of those that are on there (me and Mat Bowles) just don't post cos we are lazy/disorganised. Which is our fault, not LC's. I've been giving a lot of time to LDV lately because I think it's worth it for various reasons. But it is worth our making more of an effort on LC and we have a Plan to do so - a conspiracy within the conspiracy if you will.

On LDV, you're of course quite right that it preaches to the choir. But, aside from its obvious value as a Lib Dem talking shop, I think it does have campaigning potential and it could do a lot more "outreach" work. I have another half-formed Plan for that.

I seem to have rather a lot of Plans. Fruition? Only time will tell...

Alix said...

PS. I predict Metatone's post about the rubbish nature of commenting on most blog systems will spawn a Love Letter to Livejournal from Jennie and/or Mat ;-)

Metatone said...

Well I don't think we're streets behind the US because of any particular virtue on their part. They just had earlier penetration of internet into society - and a bigger media and software market, etc. They got started first and so I think we can learn from some of their experiences.

I suppose I get too preachy about these things, I didn't mean to suggest that all other models are invalid. You need an ecosystem of all the kinds of blogs, individuals, authorial groups, etc.

My concern is that the "dKos model" (we can argue about what that is exactly some other time perhaps) is the one that seems to be missing in Britblogs. And that it's a big opportunity missed.

[And one that perhaps will end up being picked up by the right?]

It has downsides... the comments section sprawls and isn't always easy to follow... but it does seem to get more people involved than the straight-down comments - and that to me is a valuable thing - especially when community building.

In passing, I suspect it's not a good choice for a political party (like the LibDems) because there you want to protect the core brand... you want a bit of separation between the tinfoil hat poster on the financial crisis and the latest official blog. But I think it's a mistake to think of a community like LC in those terms...

Darrell G said...


Thanks :). I agree that LDV has potential I just feel that it is a slightly different market in that it will reach out in a similar way to Conservative and Labour Home most readily to our immediate membership and support.

I agree that LC is definatly worth our while and will be interested to see if your inner conspiracy works. However, I do feel radical changes need to be made in terms of direction. Let's be honest; lord help you if you don't agree with Sunny. Jennie's post critical of his piece on Nick Clegg nearly got spiked the other day and wouldnt have seen the light of day if several people hadnt seen it appear and disappear on the site.

I think Metatone has just replied so lets see...:)

Jennie said...

There is, apparently, a plug-in for Wordpress to LJify its comment structure, but getting Sunny to install it, or even to consider the value of it, is not something that has borne much fruit so far.

At the end of the day, although contributions come from a lot of writers, the site is Sunny's, and it's up to him the direction it goes in. All the rest of us can do is nag (and I think I have been doing enough of that lately to push myself towards persona non grata status...)

Darrell G said...


True on the US getting the internet first. As for your concerns about it being picked up by the right; just imagine a collaberation between say Iain, Letters, Dizzy and Con Home (Guido has a slightly different market I think) and the pulling power that would have.

You are right about the downsides and I dont agree with the limit of one post per day (3 or 4 seems a fairer figure to me) although I can see it's purpose to stop one person or a small group dominating.

The comments do sprawl but like you say in terms of creating a vibrant community it seems to me that the plus sides outweigh the minuses. You are right it's not a good choice for an official blog but the nature of blogging doesnt lend itself to the success of official party blogs in any case....

Metatone said...

Just one more bang on the openness drum... being more open makes you less dependent on busy individuals to represent particular points of view!

PS.. Livejournal's comment system is a lot better and the community space is a way to run a group blog. Although it's still easier sometimes for non-members to join up to some other systems and get posting.

I've never run an LJ server though, so I don't know if those elements are easy to change. And I think we're all wary of the future of the company...

Darrell G said...


I take your point that the site is Sunny's but that's not it's purpose really is it; at least it's not really the stated mission. This is why I find his going on at Iain on LC to be frankly bizzare because Iain has never pretended his site is anything other than his own for his own blogs, opinions, etc...

Sunny is actually running a site which has as it's stated aim to be a community site.

Jennie said...

LJ communities are really good, I'm a member of many, but the one downside is that you have to get people to sign up for LJ to really use them effectively, so they don't solve the dropping in and out issue that well.

And yes, the stated aim of the site is to be a community, but every community needs one or more people to steer it, and LC's is Sunny. As far as I am aware from the last conversation I had with him on this, he thinks that LDs are over-represented, rather than under.

It's all a matter of perspective I guess, and when he is the one paying for the hosting, etc, it's his view that counts.

Darrell G said...


I agree that every community needs somebody to steer it but there is a fine line between steering and dictation in this instance. Successful community sites can also be self-financing.

When was the last critical article of the editorial line actually published other than your own the other day? It seems to me that only got published basically because it was too embaressing not too after several people had seen it go up and then down again.

Aaron Heath said...

Actually I think Sunny does a good job.

He's a strong editor. He demands a certain level of discipline from his writers and he also has a clear idea of where he wants LC to go. His understanding of the medium is surely evident by the site's success, no?

I would say, and Sunny may disagree, that he's a Labour sympathiser (if not the in-the-bag apologist many claim he is), and that Liberal Democrat policy should be better represented.

However, it's not like LC writers aren't horrible to Labour when they're in the wrong, because they (and Sunny) are.

I think that *current* Lib Dem members should engage more (to be fair to Jennie - she is very engaged).

You know we're not all Labour supporting writers, even if we're not openly Liberal Democrat...

Aaron Heath said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Aaron Heath said...


LJ is clearly a great medium, but I always have loads of issues signing in to the open-id system used. Even if I have two accounts (flickr and

Or I would comment more regularly on Teh Yorksher Gogberino - one of my fav blogs.

Darrell G said...


Thanks for popping across to comment. I would like to question what you mean by discipline at this point because it seems to me there is a danger that discipline means in this instance adhereing to not disagreeing with Sunny.

When Jennie did she was very lucky to have her post published which as I say seems to me only to have occured because people saw it go up then down. I am not doubting LC is successful but it will hit a glass ceiling which it will never break through if things continue as they are....

I agree that Sunny is not an apologist of any kind and speaks out where he thinks Labour is wrong. However, like I have said that to my mind put's him in the Compass zone and when push comes to shove Compass is still partisanly on Labour's side.

It should because how else do you explain the seeming alienation of the Liberal Democrat blogsphere from LC? I know that personally you feel politically close to the Liberal Democrats however, I am not even sure this is an entirely Lib Dem issue as I say though obviously as a Lib Dem it is that concern I am pushing the hardest.

In terms of the existing writers well I will let them speak for themselves...:)

Jennie said...

Aaron, you can always comment as anon, if you like, I only do post-facto moderation. However, I think I ought also to do a post about LJ's open-id log in system. You're right that it can be a bit of a pain.

Darrell, I can't tell you when the last article critical of the editorial line was posted, and I include mine from the other day in that, because I don't know what the editorial line IS. I know what Sunny's personal views are in a lot of things (although by no means all), but I don't think that's the same thing.

I'm quite surprised to hear Aaron say that Sunny has a clear idea of where he wants LC to go - I wish he'd share it with the rest of us. In fact, that has been my main issue from day one - a total lack of clear direction and guidance from anyone, unless and until I do something wrong, at which point I am told that I ought to have known...

I am wary of the fact that I am now airing dirty linen in public, but it's been aired in private to no avail so many times now that I don't know what else to do.

Darrell G said...


Sorry, that was a bad choice of words...when was the last article taking issue with Sunny's personal views published?? Not including your own....

Jennie said...

Oh, there are quite a lot of articles published with which Sunny wouldn't personally agree; I can think of a couple which are rebuttals of his articles too, although perhaps not in as open terms or as close in posting time as mine the other day was.

Darrell G said...


So, why cant the rebuttals be in open terms?? I'm actually going to have a rummage around now in the archives and see what I can find....

Jennie said...

Darrell, to be fair, there's not many traditional news organisations would tolerate open attacks on the editor in chief, and Sunny comes from that journalistic background.

I'm fairly amazed that I haven't been told to sling my hook yet, and I suspect that having this conversation is not making things any better.

At the end of the day, whatever anyone else might think about it, LC is Sunny's site, and he can run it whatever way he likes.

Darrell G said...


LC or blogs are not traditional news organisations and I have to say even newspapers potentially allow open attacks on the editorial line in the letters pages. Also, most newspapers have a variety of of contributors who do not always parrot the editorial line.

This may well come down to what you were saying previously about a lack of clear direction might it not?? People like me want LC to better reflect the community it claims too while you are intermating Sunny might feel LC is more a newspaper he runs on the web. Somewhere therin there is a tension.

I think he would be ill-advised to do so; LC is already vulnerable to the charge it doesn't accurartely represent the community it claims too and doing so would make it more so....

Meral Hussein Ece said...

I regularly read Sunny Hundal's Pickled Politics collective blog, because its a collective and its contributers are diverse!
Totally agree we need to branch out and contribute to a wider audience, and not just amongst ourselves.

Anonymous said...

Why is it that whenever I read 'soft left', I'm really tempted to burn the corduroy jacket & the belle & sebastian albums and start wearing leathers and listening to Megadeth? Maybe it has something to do the old Groucho Marx joke about not wanting to be part of any club which would have someone like me for a member...

Anyway, perhaps this is only true of my experience of writing there, but I tend to think of LC as a place for political orphans. Generally speaking, the LibDem, Labour & Tory blogospheres are self-referential cliques, with members who mainly chatter amongst themselves with the aim of advancing their party's agenda.

By contrast, a significant number of the contributors to LC don't really belong anywhere, either because they're too critical of the existing parties, too idiosyncratic in their thinking or simply don't spend all that much time thinking/writing about party politics. I wouldn't go so far as to proclaim its neutrality, but it does provide a valuable service for those of us who're a bit awkward.

None of which really detracts from your main point. Any blog would want more Matt or Jennie or Alix etc, because they're all enviably good. Any blog should be judged on the quality of the content, so good contributions from any party should be met with a big hug.

(Yeah, I realise this comment might've moved me over from 'soft left' to 'hippy left', but there you go.)

Neil said...

Sorry, really shouldn't have signed in with an OpenID account unless I knew what I was doing. And I evidently didn't.

Jennie said...


(thanks Neil)

MatGB said...

Darrell, the blog equivalent of a letters page is the comments area, and in many (if not most) of Sunny's posts, a huge number of the commenters are critical of his position. I certainly am, especially when he's talking about economics or the Lib Dems (not so much when he's slagging of Gordo, naturally).

LC rarely posts any sort of "blogger X has said this and I disagree" style posts, mostly because we've all got our own blogs for that sort of thing. I personally think we probably should do more of that sort of thing, but then, y'know, I think I should post more and don't.

Jennie's fisking of Sunny was unusual for the site, not because it was going through what Sunny said, but because the site doesn't normally do that sort of post, full stop.

So the question "how many posts are critical of Sunny" isn't really fair, as very few posts are critical of other bloggers, even off site ones. We tend to stick to issues, a lot, or politicians, because, y'know, they put themselves up for it.

Metatone: LabourHome uses the same engine as dKos. At the time LDV was set up, I thought it was a mistake to not copy that model. TBH, the more it took off, the more I think that I was wrong, I dislike that model, myself.

I do agree that linear comment models with poor conversation tools are limiting to the conversation, and that LJ does have a much more conversive system (Their OpenID implementation is faulty as they've never upgraded from the pre-release code, they were the first site to introduce it after all). For a logged in user, the way comments and notifications work is very good at building up a conversation.

I offer the fact that I moved to Yorkshire to live with a crazy girl from the internet as proof of this.

LJ are planning on overhauling their method of domain mapping soon (part of their contract with the Indy as it happens), at which point it might be very easy to set up an open access community blog with its own domain through them, no install needed. I, while I dislike the owners of LJ, am very very keen on the direction the management team they've apponted is taking it—they could easily take it back to pre-eminence, it was the first 'blogging' platform after all.

I need to do a test install of the new version of Wordpress, then bug Sunny/Robert to upgrade the site to it, then have comment threading turned on. I first need to confirm it works though.

Aaron—part of the problem with engaging is that, well, there are only three of us (and half the time Jennie's posts are a joint effort between us anyway, except the netcast, which I wouldn't want to do). And even when not posting, I engage in the comments. But when Sunny repeats in a post something I've already linked him proof is wrong in the comments to a previous post of his? Engagement has to be two way, it gets a bit frustrating at times.

I have many many posts planned in my head. They never get much further than that. That's down to me. But the other issue is, of course...

When the site was set up, with a big fanfare, there was quite a team of writers. From all over the political blogosphere.

I read it as a who's who of "non aligned bloggers who should be Lib Dems". But how many Lib Dems members were there in the list? There were two Green Party members, several Labour members (Sunder being most prominent), some guardian journos, etc.

But how many Lib Dems were there?


That's why a lot of Lib Dems remain suspicious of the site.

Sure, I should've been on the list (see me=lazy), but people didn't know that.

What does the FAQ say about parties? It mentions Labour as a good choice. Does it mention the Lib Dems? Nope.

That annoyed a huge number of people. I see the site as a good thing, and was engaging there from the beginning, as I'm sure you recall. But a lot of Lib Dems were put off, once again, by what looked like an americanises misuse of the word liberal to describe yet another Labour supporting site.

That's not what it was, it's not what it is, but that's what it looked like. Politics 101, PRof M Rush, 1999, University of Exeter:

In politics, perception is all.

The site looks like a Labour site. It's not the intent, but that's what it looks like.

And Sunny's 'direction' is unknown to me, and I've been on board since February, and have asked him a few times for guidelines. It needs to be sorted out, and we really need at least one more Lib Dem, as the Jennie/Mat gestalt brain is getting a bit swamped, and Alix is busy with her pro-blogging stuff ;-)

(taught her everything she knows donchaknow...)

I think I've been typing for too long now, so I'll blame the whiskey for any incoherence and go to bed.

Darrell, you're right, it would be good to have a few more Lib Dems in the comment boxes (or even submitting guest articles). I sometimes feel like a lonely voice telling the idiots that they really ought to read a policy summary before jumping off on one. And Alix has had it far worse than me.

Sunny said...

Hi Darrell,

An interesting and thoughtful post, though I actually have a problem with the main thrust (not the view that LDs should engage more but the other one).

This actually follows on from what Neil says just above me. Liberal Conspiracy isn't a place for each of the parties, rather it a space to argue for more progressive liberal-left politics, and then try and define what that is, and then act towards to.

To this extent, I'm less focused on pushing the fortunes of political parties, than I am in pushing the right candidates, ideas and campaigns.

During the HFE bill vote - the Labour party voted more progressively than the Libdems or (definitely) the Tories. In other cases the LDs have a much better policy than Labour (Id cards, the Iraq war, maybe even tax) etc.

So I'm afraid this idea that Libdems should try and take over LC won't work because I won't allow it :)
If anything, as I've told Jennie, pro Labour people are under-represented on the site compared to the other parties (with the possible exception of Greens). But that is because there's isn't much to argue for Labour on a progressive standpoint.

So my point is, you're still looking at this through a party-political prism. LC was not conceived as such a project. Neil is completely right - many of us party political orphans.

The way forward, for me, would be to spearhead particular candidates, ideas and campaigns - not parties.

Darrell G said...


I would like to think this blog is not a 'self-referential clique'. It is of course natural that alot of my posts are about or concern the Lib Dems but that has never been my blogging aim to write about purely the Lib Dems or issues immediatly relevant to them.

I also don't think that characterisation is true of blogs like Iain's, Guidos, Letters etc. Its also not true about a goodly number of Lib Dem blogs; it only tends to be true of those that see themselves purely as news blogs and usually provide news of their localities. I suspect the same is the case for Labour so I really do not see where that characterisation is coming from, in fact I think it is flat-out wrong.

The point is LC is supposed to be a 'coming together' and it isn't to be blunt. I am told most Lib Dem bloggers avoid it which is a bit of a huge problem considering the Liberal Democrats are a significant party in terms of membership and parliamentary representation. It should follow that Liberal Democrats in the blogsphere want to interact with something like LC but the vast majority obviously do not....

If all it is is an awkward squad then the chances of it ever challenging the likes of Iain or Guido are zero to zilch to be honest...

Sunny said...

Also take on board MatGB's latest point and what Jennie has said above... I'm going to try and talk about direction a bit more over the holidays.

As for spiking Jennie's post - that's wasn't because she took a position contrarian to mine - lots of people did that during the David Davies debate... and most people on the site disagreed with my position on the Windfall tax (to the point that I believe Conor and Lee also wrote anti-Windfall tax posts)... but my view is that line-by-line fisking isn't editorially right... though articles that stand by themselves are.

Metatone's post about comments is spot on... but I've been trying to think oof this on a wider scale - not just comments but also how articles themselves could be grouped together. I'm constantly experimenting with different ideas... and always open to them. We'll try and LJ type comments thread, but to be honest I don't see if that much of an improvement over the current system...

If I've missed out any more points please let me know.

Darrell G said...


Are you then saying that each of the parties are not important because they obviously are. Is it not a natural thing that a number of the 'conspirators' will be committed one way or another?? If you want to draw people together do you not need those people as much as the 'awkward squad'??

You really are setting up a desperate straw-man in saying we want to take it over. All we want is fair and balanced representation within something that purports to be some kind of community blog...i'm tempted to say its paranoid nonsense. However, what am to say...Iain Dale can see the weaknesses in it, no doubt the vast majority of the right-wing blogsphere can but you cant....

How do you explain the alienation of the Lib Dem blogsphere from LC?? Is this a good thing?? And it isnt just me as Irfan has said and I have also been reliably told most Lib Dem bloggers 'avoid it like the plague' I cant help but wonder why...

As I have also said this will all have ramifications if coalition time comes....and the concrete ramification will be a Tory government with Lib Dem support because not even I will oppose such a thing if it seems like is now the case that the Tories are more interested in listerning to what the Lib Dems have to say....

Darrell G said...


What is wrong with 'line-by-line' fisking, as you call it, i tend to just view it as acceptable way to respond to an article?? At some point a response is going to have to refer to what it is responding too....

Charlotte Gore said...

Lib Dems! Let's put aside our differences. Let's not quibble over all this stuff about parties and all that boring nonsense. That's not important. What matters is ideas.


Policies. No need to be ideological about it. Be pragmatic!

So come on, let's just agree, like adults, that voting Labour is the right thing to do because, really, no matter how evil, corrupt and incompetent they are, it's about ideas. And the Tories have worse ideas.

SO yes, let's forget party. Forget ideology. Vote Labour and keep out the Tories! Liberal Left Unite!

Darrell G said...


Is it just me or are we scarily close to agreeing on this?:)

Charlotte Gore said...

Depends. If you took my comment at face value as something I believe - that we should basically hold our noses and vote Labour - then no, we do not agree.

If you took it as my interpretation of what "Liberal" Conspiracy is trying to achieve... then we agree.

Darrell G said...


I took it as your interpretation of what LC is so rather shockingly that means we agree. It must be getting close to Christmas; the season of miracles and strange happenings :)...either that or a gigantic tear in the fabric of reality is about to open some place real soon ;)

Sunny said...

The point is LC is supposed to be a 'coming together' and it isn't to be blunt. I am told most Lib Dem bloggers avoid it which is a bit of a huge problem considering

I think many were suspicious of the fact I used 'liberal' without it being explicitly Libdem (as Charlotte keeps pointing out!) and because I obviously buy into the left-right divide more than the liberal-authoritarian one.

I think some Libdems do avoid it, but I have great relationships with other Libdemmers, who I constantly urge to write for us and engage (James Graham and Neil Stockley both have open offers too). My point is, its not I haven't actively encouraged many Libdemmers to come and write. So you can't say LDs are suspicious because not enough write... because I've gone out of my way to ask many to write, including Charlotte btw.

You also say:
Are you then saying that each of the parties are not important because they obviously are. Is it not a natural thing that a number of the 'conspirators' will be committed one way or another?

I'm saying to me that specific parties are less important than having progressive candidates across all the parties.
My way of comparison, I actually told the Compass lot that LC might get a point in the future where it may support a more progressive Green or Libdem candidate over a Labour one. They balked, I stuck to my position and it remains as such.

Within that, people are welcome to support the progressive candidates of their party of choice... but I know, recognise and constantly want to highlight that fact that each party (even some tories) have MPs I would agree with and think are quite progressive. If we can support them, why not?
Hence the decision to look past party adherence.

What is wrong with 'line-by-line' fisking, as you call it, i tend to just view it as acceptable way to respond to an article??

I think its not really an article. Besides, if people want to do that, they're welcome to do it in the comments of the original article.

Charlotte - heh.

As I have also said this will all have ramifications if coalition time comes....and the concrete ramification will be a Tory government with Lib Dem support because not even I will oppose such a thing if it seems like is now the case that the Tories are more interested in listerning to what the Lib Dems have to say..

the other ramification would be that the Libdems would become junior partners with a bunch of socially authoritarian twats who will think that the likes of Nadine Dorries are 'rising stars'. Then, no doubt, I will turn our ire on the Libdems along with the Tories.

Darrell G said...


I dont think where you draw your political lines in the sand is really a problem; I tend towards your line though I think the debate tends to get a little abstract and actually is something of a doing it for its own sake in my eyes...I happen to think left-wing politics are liberal by lineage and definition (a comment that might end this bareful trend of me and Charlotte agreeing on something :) ) but thats just my own view....

Sorry, but I just dont buy it to be honest, I dont think Lib Dems think of the term liberal as being their private property and I think most of them don't because most of them think of it as a Labourite blog...

In fact, I can remember being pilloried over one issue (I think it was Damian Green) being pilloried (on another blog) for regurgitating some of LC's pro-Labour twaddle (not a precise wording).

While I think it all sounds very noble that you want to look past party-adherence you cant actually move from that into a position where as when it comes to balancing your contributors list they cease to exist.

Yes but there is also an issue of lenght there and substance. Jennie's post would have made an awful comment because simply it was so long. As long as there is sufficent substance to it then it becomes an article in it's own right....

Your point about the Tories not being civil liberties stars is well made and one I have made often enough myself but the reality is that in any coaltion the Lib Dems are going to do what is best for advancing their policies...since Labour could easily be called social authoritarian twats as a result of many of their policies it's pretty much a lose-lose on that score in any case...

The point that is relevant to this debate is that LC could be playing a role in this process which it say you have invited others to write; well given what Charlotte just said I can see why she wouldnt do it but I cant help feeling that her hostility is actually symptomatic of a feeling on the Lib Dem blogsphere that LC isnt a truly representative plurality....

Darrell G said...

Incidentally, if either James or Neil wander by then I would be interested to hear why they dont write for, if you are out there??

Lee Griffin said...

Conversation is key, acceptance is also. In reality most blogs don't get a frequent level of comment like this article has. You can look at Iain dale or devil's kitchen but there isn't much quality in the noise. I've, in the past, tried starting up discussions on centre right, Iain Dale's diary and other just doesn't happen, for much the same reason it doesn't happen on LC.

The audience is set on these blogs, already, and they don't like people questioning the order of things, and generally they (we) just repeat each other and our own sentiments. It's human nature I guess, in a political sense.

Don't get me wrong, there are plenty that are happy to engage. But unfortunately there are also a few, unfortunately supported by prominent people involved with LC, that create the immediate atmosphere of shutting down discussion.

Unsurprisingly I think LC needs to become more liberal when it comes to comments, and that actually means coming down harder on those that agree with us that are so ready to try and scare off "new blood" that don't agree with us because of a Left/Right political tag.

In the end, without our "enemies" debating with us freely, how can we attract new "friends" to join in against them?

Sunny said...

C'mon Lee, you can't honestly claim Sally destroys the discussion over at LC. She usually reacts in an OTT manner only when the right-wing trolls come over to throw the typical abuse. And I'm certainly not going to defend the likes of chavscum.
this has nothing to do with the general level of debate, since LC is usually quite healthy... though its natural that emotive discussions (like on Palin and abortion) will attract more abuse. Such is human nature.

.I happen to think left-wing politics are liberal by lineage and definition (a comment that might end this bareful trend of me and Charlotte agreeing on something :) ) but thats just my own view....

As do I. By the way, I also flirted with the Libdems for quite a long time after the Iraq War launched and have always been well disposed towards the party. One attack on Clegg I'm afraid isn't the whole history.

Sorry, but I just dont buy it to be honest, I dont think Lib Dems think of the term liberal as being their private property and I think most of them don't because most of them think of it as a Labourite blog...

I'm assuming you've seen the commentary on it on CG's blog. That was the main sort of discussion around LC for ages on libdem blogs.

As for 'Labourite' blog - how would you define that? A Labourite blog wouldn't spend as much time attacking Labour would it?

Your point about the Tories not being civil liberties stars is well made and one I have made often enough myself but the reality is that in any coaltion the Lib Dems are going to do what is best for advancing their policies...since Labour could easily be called social authoritarian twats as a result of many of their policies it's pretty much a lose-lose on that score in any case...

I don't see how the Libdems could conceivably join Labour right now anyway, since their policies on ID Cards, CCTV and other issues are diametrically opposed to Labour too. In fact I would probably oppose that too. In fact, I'm not even convinced Labour deserve to win the next election, so that point about coalitions is rather moot.

Darrell G said...


This really isnt about the Clegg piece; if you read further down on this blog you know I am far from uncritical of Clegg myself. It comes down to wanting a balance in the contributors which I dont feel exists like I have always said to address a wider issue.

I've seen some of it ye however I cant help feeling on this issue that her hostility is more than just symptomatic of her own politics but actually speaks to a wider problem although I would certainly not argue the Lib Dems should 'own' the term liberal in a crude way.

However, there is no doubt in my mind that both as individuals and as a party we have a important role to play in it's definition and a stake in the term if not ownership; if that makes sense.

Simply, i've defined it in terms of 'soft' Labour or 'fellow travelling' both above and in the main post. I am not talking about the Lib Dems joining Labour but I am talking about the reality that if things carry on as they are this party will have a descisive role in determaining which of the big two forms a government.

You say you are not sure if Labour desserves to win the next election. I happen to think you are right and think that a hung-parliament would do a measure of good for the country as well as us.

Darrell G said...


Well I have had some success there in that there was actually a debate on the Tories and the Met last time I posted in Iains comments. So, it is not all doom and gloom on that score.

I dont think the audience is set although most readers do tend to be politically aligned that is certainly not the case all the time. Maybe they dont but thats part of what blogging is about isnt it??

I agree about attracting 'enemies' as well as friends but I think part of the reason LC doesnt at the moment is that Iain and people like that have made it clear that they see the same problems I have indentified with LC and dont see it as reflecting a plurality which they might be interested in engaging with more.

Charlotte Gore said...

Sunny has asked me to write for LC a couple of times. I've even told him I'll write him a piece - a couple of times - and then ended up changing my mind.

I think really my political beliefs make me antagonistic towards Liberal Conspiracy more than my concern about the lack of plurality. I tend to think if I did write for it I'd get labelled a lefty blogger, which I do not want, and I'd probably be accused of blatant trolling ;)

I just do not accept or believe that 'left' and 'liberal' are something that one person can be at the same time, any more than I believe that Cameron can be a 'liberal' and a 'conservative' at the same time.

Darrell G said...


Maybe you should consider representing that view on LC then. It is after all a controversial and not one I agree with which wont surprise you.

As to your concern about being 'tainted' in some way I guess that is your choice but it strikes me as being a bit puritan. Does me leaveing comments on IDD's make me a Tory? I rather think not....

Neil said...


It's possible the 'self-referential clique' line came across as more negative than I intended it to be. All I meant is that - in general - members of party blogospheres link to one another and write to advance/critique/debate the politics or policies of their own parties. This is an entirely natural and positive thing. But it remains true that the non-aligned among us don't have a Bloggers4Labour or a LibDig or a ToryHome, and so LC fills that void quite well.

As for challenging Guido, well, Sunny's going to revoke his ban on the use of red italics.

Martin said...

Could Tory Dominance just be that while they are all busy running blogs, we are busy delivering Foci and canvassing and surveying our local residents...?

MatGB said...

Oh look, the leaflet delivery cultist gets things wrong again. Martin, we have proportionately more bloggers per member than any other party (according to a number of metrics, most obviously Dale's lists and the aggregation on Lib Dem Blogs). But most of us do our blogging at times we couldn't be out delivering stuff, like for example when the five-year-old is off school and being looked after, or in the late evenings when she's asleep and we can't leave the house.

Neil, you wrote as I did, and to an extent I agree with you. I'd been blogging for many years before I joined the Lib Dems, and only put my current only active blog onto the aggregator in March this year (by request of people at conference). I'm not really interested in talking to Lib Dems on my blog, if I want to do that I'll submit something to Voice. I'm much more interested in a site like Liberal Conspiracy (I was going to set up my own very similar site about two years ago, but life got in the way), and have been very supportive of what Sunny's done with it, I think it's going to be much more useful medium term for national issues.

I do think a lot of Lib Dems could get a lot of headway with local blogs—I'm working on revamping my locap party sites, they were already powered by Wordpress, they're going to morph into something akin to blogs as and when I can get the contributors trained in basic usage.

Thanks for the compliment BTW, I think I really ought to try to write more, I don't realise at times how "good" I can be at blogging compared to a lot, it's weird, my ego doesn't like the idea that I'm good at something (Jennie's does, but she gave him a name years ago).

Sunny, I think getting all partisan over it is actually misleading (and I've been guilty of that despite my avowed non-partisan stance, sorry). The other big issue with LC is that the Liberal Democrat blogs have spent a lot of time over the last few years discussing what it means to be liberal. There isn't complete agreement, but by the underlying terms, Liberal Conspiracy has a lot of people that self describe as liberal but aren't by the definitions most of us find acceptable.

The US usage of the word liberal to mean "left wing psuedo-Socialist" is one that I find unfortunate, there are already words for what the USian anti-trade protectionists and tax-and-spenders are, and it isn't liberal.

You've also got people like Aaron, Chris Dillow, Justin, etc who are liberal. But the lack of an attempt at a definition, combined with the, I think, misplaced mention of Labour in the FAQ, put off a lot of people within the Lib Dems who take their liberalism seriously.

You're off course right to say that not all Lib Dems MPs are as liberal on some issues as I would like, but social, economic and political liberalism are related beasts, but not the same, Vince has sated he's an economic liberal but socially more conservative—I have no problem with that, put him in charge of the economy and leave the social issues to other liberals.

But I have one big issue with what you've stated later that I really need to pick you up on.

"the other ramification would be that the Libdems would become junior partners with a bunch of socially authoritarian twats who will think that the likes of Nadine Dorries are 'rising stars'"

Would they? Two issues. Dorries is a 'rising star' to some members of the Conservative and Unionist Party. Others can't stand her and think she damages their image. She is not, and most likely will not be, a frontbench speaker any time soon.

Ruth Kelly is in the Cabinet. John Reid and Charles "I have never been a liberal" Clarke were both made Home Secretary.

Quite frankly, I want a Liberal Government. I don't care what party labels are attached, I don't care the partizan composition. I want a Govt that realises that demonises young politicised muslims is counter productive, I want a Govt that's prepared to look at the facts on drugs policy, that doesn't try to drive every pub in the country out of business, that doesn't want to catalogue the entire country into a database state.

That's why I joined the only party that's consistent on all those issues, but it's very clear I don't care for the partisanship.

But attacking me (which is what you're doing) for saying I'd happily work with, for example, John Bercow or Alan Duncan, but accepting Labour people who'll support John Reid and Ruth Kelly in the cabinet?

No. Not acceptable.

I don't care for party labels. The electoral system makes parties a means to an end.

Labour came to power, with my support, in 1997, on a pledge to change that. In fact, Labour came to power in 1997 with a manifesto I was almost 100% behind, and probably still would be too. Why? It was very very similar to the Lib Dem manifesto of the time.

The Lib Dems have barely moved position. The Labour party has, and the New Labour project has abandoned the coalition it built.

Saying it's not OK to work with those that support Dorries is something that makes sense. But only if you equally condemn those who support Reid and Kelly.

I'd rather make my alliances on the issues where I can, and work with it.

And that's also why I want to get as many people voting Lib Dem as is practicable—they're the only chance we've got, at the next election, to make a real difference. That's why I joined them.

After that? We'll see.

Niaccurshi said...

"C'mon Lee, you can't honestly claim Sally destroys the discussion over at LC. She usually reacts in an OTT manner only when the right-wing trolls come over to throw the typical abuse."

I can, she brings the tone down, people like her stop legitimate opponents of ours from discussing their views simply by being able to post that bullshit, and in turn makes people like me not want to get involved with the hypocrisy that starts growing from her words.

She's OTT on everything she says, the irony is that she is a Labour troll, but that is tollerated as long as she keeps shouting "troll" at the Tories.

Lee Griffin said...

"I dont think the audience is set"

Darrell, let me clarify, I meant that the people that engage on the site are generally the same faces. We see a few people now and again start to comment so it's not completely static, but it's not like it's a growing community. But yes, the audience of silent readers could well be floating in their views.

Sunny said...

There isn't complete agreement, but by the underlying terms, Liberal Conspiracy has a lot of people that self describe as liberal but aren't by the definitions most of us find acceptable.

See, the name isn't a way of saying 'these are people who call themselves liberal', which always annoys me. It's a brandname that is meant to be ironic - like 'ha ha, we laugh at people who think there is a liberal conspiracy that runs everything'. In that context, you can have liberal mean whatever you want, because its actually laughing at paranoid conservatives.

She is not, and most likely will not be, a frontbench speaker any time soon.

Ruth Kelly is in the Cabinet. John Reid and Charles "I have never been a liberal" Clarke were both made Home Secretary.

But as I said, I don't rate this Labour govt either... so I can see why Liberals would balk at joining it.

Also, Nadine Dorries is rated highly by ConHome... she has grassroots support and the right-wing media love her. She is their Sarah Palin, and she isn't going anywhere.

Darrell - by the way, a lot of lefties also dismiss LC as 'libruls' if you see their blog-rolls... so we're attacked by both sides for being on the other side or not sitting on one side enough.

It's not a battle I will win, or can win... unless I have strong Labour and strong Libdem voices on there that constantly argue with each other. That would be counter-productive, for me. So, for now, I'm happy to sit on the fence.

Darrell G said...


Its worth pointing out that the Tory domination of the blogsphere has a direct impact in terms of media coverage...figures like Iain Dale are well in the media limelight so it would be wrong to dismiss blogging as a 'side issue' as you seem to do...


Oh come on; i'm not calling for you to make LC a 'slugfest' which is what you seem to think from what you say. It maybe that 'strong Labour and Lib Dem voices' would not always disagree....I am happy for you to 'sit on the fence' in that sense which is how it should be with LC.

All I want is a balanced list of contributors....

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