Liam Murray technically agrees, but then takes issue:
Where he’s misguided and getting a little irritating is this faux naivety Hopi affects – “why are they doing this?” / “can’t they see how important these things are?” Of course they can Hopi but this is national politics…
None of us were blogging in the dog days of the Major administration but I don’t believe for a minute that a young Hopi would’ve been crying foul about all the ‘Tory split’ stories, demanding substance and disavowing any interest in the gossip surrounding Major.
I can’t answer for Hopi, but I can say that this sort of point – the imperative to be fair in one’s writing while also being a partisan – is worth keeping in mind. There can be a tension between a commentator on politics and (in however small a way) a public participant. My own answer is this:
You will not get a balanced overall coverage of politics from my blog. I’m likelier to cover stories that (I think) reflect well on Labour or badly on other parties than vice versa. I’m partial not just in what I think but also in what I choose to write about.
But – other than when I’m joking – I won’t say anything I don’t believe to be true. I won’t attack the Tories on a charge I think to be bogus (although I probably won’t defend them). I won’t defend Labour when I think they’ve screwed up (although I probably won’t attack them). I try to be fair in what I say, although not necessarily balanced in what I don’t say.
I don’t actually mention the majority of political stories. I tend to write when I think I have a point that’s getting little or no attention, or when I think I have a novel way of looking at something. Most of the time, I have nothing to add, so I don’t try.
And there are plenty of other people, in blogging or the older media, ready to play equivalent roles as supporters of other parties and opponents of mine. While my blogroll has a strong centre-left slant, you can find plenty of criticism of the government via those links.
Here’s an objection to my approach: ‘If you truly think Labour is worthy of support, warts and all, then why not be as open about the bad bits as the good? The overall case you make would still be pro-Labour. Otherwise you seem like a party hack.’
Reply: My views on ideology and policy come first; they motivate me to support Labour; that conditional support then motivates me to think about which of my views I want to air. If you’re a commentator with a partisan allegiance, I don’t think there’s any obligation to wash your own party’s dirty linen in public for the sake of even-handedness: just don’t go around pretending that it’s all spotless, and only call the other parties out when their own linen genuinely is dirty.
I’m somewhere between ‘impartial analyst’ and ‘slavish propagandist’, and I like to think I’m just about in the respectable part of that spectrum.
Specifically on trivia, personalities and media swarms:
There’s a difference between: (a) decrying a certain sort of coverage of one’s own party but gleefully propagating it when the other lot are on the ropes; and (b) decrying this coverage of one’s own party but generally ignoring it when it’s the other lot. (a) may be hypocrisy but (b) is just partiality, and there’s nothing inherently disreputable about that.
And yes, I have my moments of chucking froth at the other parties, be it on David Cameron’s dangerous cycling or Brian Paddick’s lack of impact in the mayoral race. I’m weak.
But I’m not beyond ridiculing and snarling at my own party too when the mood takes me. And as for personality-based gossip coverage of Brown’s trip to Washington, I do love this photo. Sorry, Hopi.