Yesterday, Fraser Nelson (on his Spectator blog) accused Balls of lying about debt. (On the substance, I think he has at least half a point – although Hopi provides a zestful rebuttal, on which I’ve chipped in.)
Nelson went on to say:
Five years ago, you could lie like this on the radio and get away with it. Space is tight in newspapers, no one would devote hundreds of words and graphs - as we did - to expose a lie for what is. But the world has changed now. Blogging has brought new, hyper scrutiny. Blogs have infinite space, and people with endless energy, to expose political lying - no matter how small. Your claims can be instantly counter-checked, by anyone. If you stretch the truth, you can be exposed - by anyone.
I completely agree with this in principle, having done my own tiny share of anorakish fact-checking and dissecting of slipperiness here over the last couple of years (such as this). But there’s a big but: a blog, even a reasonably popular one such as the Spectator’s, doesn’t have anything like the impact of a newspaper front page splash.
The only way that bloggers’ forensic work will have any impact on the public is if the mainstream media pick up on it. Bear this in mind as you read Nelson’s description of what happened after he put his post up:
Ed Balls has just called me up about my post from this morning , hopping mad. He instructed me to "take that post down now". … "You should not call me a liar," said Balls. I told him that if he doesn't want to be called a liar, “he shouldn't tell lies”. …
Balls told me if I keep the post up, it will "expose" the sort of publication that we are - and our "political" bias. … You'd think Balls has perhaps by now worked out that The Spectator is rather pleased to consider itself a thorn in the side of this tawdry, mendacious government. "So you will take the post down?" Balls said. I just laughed. He hung up.
Hmm, Ed Balls. He’s a Cabinet minister, right? Probably gets a fair bit of media attention, eh? I wonder whether a furious spat between him and a blogger might be a much bigger news story than a blogger furiously criticising him and then him ignoring it...
Ooh look, there’s Fraser Nelson on Newsnight.