Sunday, 11 July 2010

Please Don't Vote Random Blowe

In A Ruler of Men, the American storyteller O Henry joked, "a straw vote only shows which way the hot air blows". Quite so, but as I mentioned in an earlier post, between now and the end of July a fair number of regular bloggers (see here and here, for example) will ask their readerships to vote in an annual straw poll of the nation's political blogs, organised by the magazine Total Politics.

Most see this as nothing more than a bit of fun and perhaps a little recognition for their hard work. But I'd like to make a request: if you are one of the 10,000+ unique visitors to this blog in the last month and have enjoyed reading it, please don't bother to vote for it in this year's poll.

Let me explain. I know others are deliberately opting out and some have very specific reasons - in protest against the magazine's decision to interview BNP leader Nick Griffin for instance. There is also clearly a great deal of enmity against the popular Tory blogger and 'aspiring' (read: failed) politician Iain Dale, whose company Biteback Media owns Total Politics. As I am never likely to meet Dale, I find the strength of feeling against him hard to properly comprehend - yes, he can be a pompous twat, but having occasionally checked out his blog, more than anything I've found it incredibly dull. Anyway, Dale is both a Tory and a blogger - and let's face it, most Tories and all bloggers have a tendency towards a little pomposity from time to time.

My own reasons for asking people not to waste their time voting for my blog are as follows:

1. It's like comparing oranges and orangutans

At first glance, there seems like an similarity, but then you realise that one has little in common with the other. The straw poll is just a crude popularity contest, unlike the annual Orwell Prize that at least has an interest in the calibre of individual pieces of writing.

Moreover, Total Politics attempts to lump together a wide range of individual opinion into extremely broad and arbitrary categories - what constitutes a 'Left-of Centre' blog covers a huge range of profound disagreement. My own blog is listed on the magazine's website as 'Green', presumably because I sometimes write about climate activism, which ignores the fact that far more posts are about policing issues. Not once have I ever endorsed the Green Party, although I have a lot of time for its MP Caroline Lucas. If you are a regular here, you'll know that at the last general election, I didn't vote for anyone.

The trouble is, everything has to be made to fit within the narrow viewpoint of Dale and people like him who are trapped inside the Westminster bubble, evidently incapable of recognising that politics is not just a restricted profession carried out by political parties and tribal party supporters. Incidentally, this viewpoint doesn't just apply to Tories either. It includes the sort of arrogant Labour leftwinger who would dismissively sneer, "of course there were also the anti-party crowd, but they’ll never amount to much and can be ignored" - as if the Labour left has amounted to much on its own over the last decade.

2. It's just a marketing tool

The annual blog poll is organised primarily as a means of promoting a magazine that I neither read nor have any interest in, in order to generate more profit for its publishers. Now, as far as advertising and marketing goes, I'm usually in agreement with the comedian Bill Hicks. Encouraging bloggers who eventually end up on a 'Top 100' list to add a commercial advertising badge to their sites without demanding payment in advance may well be clever marketing - but seriously, that's all it is.

3. There's the APCO issue

If you care about such things, the sponsorship of the poll by a US lobbying company with links to BP and tobacco industry astro-turfing (see my previous post and this from Sourcewatch) cannot just be discounted as irrelevant - especially for something that's just 'a bit of fun'.

4. If you want popularity, join the commentariat

Tthere are a number of blog writers who would love nothing more than to be discovered and then offered regular gigs on the Guardian's 'Comment is Free' site or in the New Statesman. Others seek greater recognition inside whatever political party they happen to belong to. That's their choice and I guess crude popularity contests may help them on their way to stardom. But this isn't that kind of blog.

Fundamentally, I just don't give a shit whether this site is more or less popular than another, any more than give a shit whether the things I write about are popular or not (the apparently 'lost causes' are the only ones worth fighting for anyway). Visitors drop by for the same reasons that I read the sites listed in the 'Blogs of Note' column on the right of this page - because they are occasionally curious about an individual post. The rest are basically my mates (morning everyone!) or people have a particular interest in policing issues or things happening in Newham.

So please, don't vote for me. It's not worth the time or effort and there's no way I'm advertising someone's dodgy Tory shit-rag here for the next twelve months. I decided a long time ago that I'll only ever promote causes I actually believe in and care about.


I see Phil at AVPS has set up a 'Top 100 Worst Blogs Poll', which at least has the virtue of not surreptitiously advertising a minority-interest magazine. If you thought this post was utter bullshit, then please go ahead and vote for me there!


Mike Law said...

I thought about asking the readers of my blog to vote for me, but I don't think three votes will get me very far!

Anonymous said...

Relax,Kevin,no chance of any nomination from me. Actually though , were it to be a head to head with Newham Nettles, --I would probably increase Mike's tally to four.

At least he seems to attract more comments. I suspect you have a strategy out of posting long articles frequently,and at the very least, daily. Hence implicitly squeezing out or restricting heavily the capacity for response. Not so libertarian eh ?

Kevin said...


Actually no, there's no strategy, I'm just a horribly verbose libertarian. One that hasn't stopped you from commenting...

Mike Law said...

Whoa, anon 12 July. I'm not in competition with Kevin. And I don't understand the point you make about comments on his blog and mine.

I'm quite happy for people to post comments on my blog and, like Kevin, I only refuse to run with those that overstep the bounds of decency.

I dip into Kevin's blog a couple of times a week and I'll state that I don't agree with everything he posts but I respect his position and the eloquence with which he states it. What I find particularly interesting about this blogpost is Kevin's view on blogging per se. So much so that I intend to write a small piece on my blog (either tonight or tomorrow) about my views on blogging.

Like Kevin, I cannot see how blogs can be graded in comparison with other blogs.

In any event, thanks for the support; however, should you vote for me it would still give me a total of three votes - one of my readers is my mum and she told me today she'd vote for John Gray!

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