The link to her post of my answers is here and in general Jennie's blog is worth a read if you are a Liberal Democrat, or even if you aren't and you want to know more about the party.
The ecology of the blogosphere at the time was already starting to take on the sort of "long tail" shape that has since become much more pronounced. There were a number of blogs that were highly prominent. Iain Dale was arguably the most famous of these. The erstwhile Tory parliamentary candidate and publisher had carved out a niche for himself with "Iain Dale's Diary" where he readably and prolifically held forth on his political views and sometimes other more frivolous topics such as his favourite music. Because Iain was (and is) so well connected, having been involved in Tory politics and more widely for years he was often able to get stories and information about breaking news before us mere mortals and hence was genuinely able to compete with major media outlets as well as set the agenda himself. Of course Iain has since gone on to bigger and better things hosting the drive time show on the now national LBC radio. He does still occasionally blog but nothing like he used to.
There were various prominent "self starter" online writers around this time that I used to enjoy reading such as Recess Monkey, Dizzy Thinks, Letters From A Tory, A Blog from the Backroom and others many of whom have either fallen by the wayside or update their blogs much less frequently than they used to.
Order Order" run by the at that point enigmatic Paul Staines. The site itself dealt in scandal and attacks which seemed largely indiscriminate. If you were a politician (or even an apologist for them in Guido's eyes) you were a target. Stylistically the pieces on the site were similar to opinion pieces in a tabloid newspaper. Think "The Sun Says" but slightly longer form and with red writing to add emphasis where necessary.
Guido was intriguing though because unlike most of his contemporaries he seemed able to regularly break stories. "Conspirators" were sometimes the source of these (continuing the Gunpowder Plot linked theme) but like Dale, Staines seemed to be very well connected.
I first came across Order Order following Staines' somewhat disastrous Newsnight appearance in March 2007 where Michael White got the better of him. It wasn't helped by the fact that Staines had insisted on being in shadow and not be referred to by his real name in order to protect his anonymity. Of course White revealed his real name almost immediately during the interview rendering the shadowing pointless.
But despite the car crash nature of this I wanted to know more and became a regular reader of Order Order.
I'll be honest, it's not my style. In fact it's almost as far away from my style as it's possible to be. There are smears, attacks, sarcasm (OK that is a bit like me), mocked up photos to illustrate points (very tabloid), nicknames for the most hated politicians and so on and so on.
In the end though it comes down to what you count most for online writing. Some favour well constructed arguments. Some value rigorous evidence. And while Order Order has its fair share of these, what Staines treasures above all else is viewing figures. And who is to say Staines is wrong in this? In 2008 his was right up there among the most read blogs in the country. In 2014 it is still right up there. He has been able to leverage these figures to ultimately get a column in a national newspaper (The Daily Star Sunday initially and now The Sun on Sunday). Very few bloggers can say that. He is also almost unique among political bloggers in the UK in that he has actually been able to earn a living from his online writing. In fact he has been able to employ several other writers and bring them into the Guido stable. Most notably former "Tory Bear" blogger Harry Cole who Staines once described in a comment on my own blog as "the unchallenged reigning playboy of the blogosphere".
I have met Paul Staines on a couple of occasions. We were on a British Computer Society panel in the run up to the 2010 election and together on a judging panel for some political awards following that same election and had a lunch together with a few others. I have also debated with him on the radio down the line a couple of times. He remains the only person to have turned me down to be a guest on my podcast by just saying he didn't think it was worth his time (which in some ways was commendably honest of him). All the other declines I have had have been much more polite than that. It made it clear to me that he can be very brusque and doesn't mind offending people. Indeed looking at the output of Order Order he obviously thrives on it.
He has a number of political scalps to his name. Most notably former Gordon Brown spinner Damian McBride following the whole "Red Rag" debacle in 2009. This episode demonstrated that Guido has real power and was not to be trifled with.
It would also be remiss of me not to point out that on many occasions Staines (and Cole) have very kindly linked to my work. There are some times when things I write about (usually civil liberties or drugs policy) accords with the libertarian Guido philosophy.
So that's a potted history from my perspective. Now Order Order is 10 years old. But where does that leave us with respect to the question posed in the title of this post? What does the decade of Guido tell us about online political writing?
Well I think one thing it tells us, as if we didn't need telling already is that tabloid newspapers do not exist by accident. When political writing began online the barriers to entry were (and still are) effectively zero. There was no need for the blogosphere to mirror what happened in the world of newspapers. And yet through many, many thousands of experiments in self-starter one-person-band blogs (at least in their initial form) we have seen the one that has risen to the top in terms of readers and income is the one that probably most closely resembles a tabloid**.
No matter how much people like me might argue that there is an audience out there for more nuanced and subtle forms of writing, it is clear that the most success and power has been bestowed on a blog that would probably be offended if either of those adjectives were widely applied to it. The truth is there is an audience out there for my sort of writing but it is nowhere near as big as the audience for a bit of good old fashioned attack journalism.
Perhaps the most important lesson to learn from Guido's success though is that you have to be prolific. Staines must have devoted a massive amount of his time to Order Order in the first few years. There were regular posts on most days (usually several). To be able to produce that much content that is interesting and attracts an audience is not easy. Iain Dale once referred to it as "feeding the beast" and he is right. Another way of putting it might be "you're only as good as your last piece and there needs to be another one along in a minute or you're dead".
See I'm not as snappy as these top bloggers am I?
As an addendum to this piece I wanted to point out one other thing. Every now and then, Paul Staines goes off piste and writes a longer form piece on Order Order which does go in depth in analysing issues. It is usually related to the financial markets or fiscal policy where he has particular expertise having worked in the City previously. They are often very readable and would not be out of place in The Economist or a similar publication. But I know from having discussed with him that they get many fewer viewings than his usual tabloid fayre hence he keeps them few and infrequent so as not to distort his brand too much.
* Of course as time has gone on the blogosphere has increasingly become subsumed into the mainstream with brands like The Guardian, The Telegraph and others hoovering up the best and the brightest bloggers.
**Indeed Staines has cited former Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie as an important influence on him on more than one occasion.
Every day, it seems, something happens in the world of football that I find objectionable. A player is arrested or sent to prison; a manager becomes involved in some financial duplicity; a club is bought by some oligarch with a questionable record on worker safety or human rights. As I read these stories, or discuss them with friends around the Norwich City matches I attend, I ask myself: what would have to happen at my club before I stopped going?
That bond with a club, and with the sport itself – the obsession with fixtures and standings, player transfers and managerial changes, and the rituals of watching on television or live – is incredibly hard to break, and I’ve never managed to detach myself, no matter how bad the quality of play at Norwich, or in the tournaments I follow, has become, let alone how much the culture is warped by money and the pressure to succeed.
For plenty involved with football, results are the only issue. The contortions with which fans, colleagues or clubs will defend the transgressions of their most important players can often seem tragicomic. The recent Uruguayan attempt to excuse centre-forward Luis Suárez after he bit an opponent for the third time in his career – accusing the English press of conspiring against Suárez despite them having just voted him Football Writers’ Footballer of the Year – was particularly risible, but far from an isolated incident. Suárez’s bite and the sanctimonious circus around it were hilarious. His racial abuse of another opponent, Patrice Evra, was not, and I’d feel unable to support someone who behaved like this.
Lately, several lower league sides have signed players on release from prison – the most common offence is causing death by dangerous driving. Internet debates about whether the team should pass up these opportunities on moral grounds or recruit anyone who will improve it become rather heated, and the advent of Twitter has helped fans who want to pressure their clubs into abstaining. No player is bigger than their team, and there are means of protest: a refusal to cheer his goals, for instance, or a call for his departure. But any loud objections to a successful signing are liable to be shouted down on social media or in the stands. So I’d probably keep going, though if the board appointed an indefensible manager – a Fascist sympathiser like Paolo di Canio at Sunderland, or one with a recent conviction for tax evasion like Steve Evans at Crawley Town – then I’d have to reconsider. I decided that if City ever appointed di Canio, I’d cancel my season ticket until both he and whoever was responsible had left. (Evans seemed less likely, managing further down the pyramid.)
Aware of how irrational my passion is, I worry that whenever the line is crossed, I’ll re-draw it. But I like to think that if my club became owned by someone like Thaksin Shinawatra, the Thai politician who bought Manchester City in 2007 whilst being investigated for human rights abuses, I’d stop going rather than celebrate the wealth he brought. Some Mancunians did stop. The nearest I’ve come to renouncing Norwich was in 2001, when Giovanni di Stefano, an advocate for Saddam Hussein and Slobodan Milošević, legal representative of Serbian warlord Arkan and convicted fraudster, planned a takeover, seducing fans with promises of new players from Italy, Yugoslavia and Iraq. He failed, and tried to buy several other clubs, briefly becoming a director at Dundee, years before his imprisonment for deception and money laundering.
After a recent game at Fulham (who rose from the bottom division to the top after Mohammed al-Fayed bankrolled them) practically confirmed Norwich’s relegation from the Premier League, several friends said we’d gone as far as we could without our board, comprised mostly of local businessmen, being replaced by billionaire investors from overseas. Fans on forums call for it, too, but I’d prefer not. “Soul” is a relative concept, and always has been for football clubs under capitalism, but I’d rather we didn’t sell it, and besides, so many oligarchs now own English clubs that such takeovers no longer guarantee success: Indian poultry giants Venky’s relegated Blackburn Rovers, while Russell King’s links to Bahrain’s royal family proved false and he was jailed after his fraudulent acquisition of Notts County. If such a fate befalls Norwich, I’ll support a club so removed from top-level football that no such commercial interests would touch them – I’ve earmarked Clapton FC, with their vocal anti-Fascist support, as my back-up option – but until it becomes absolutely untenable, I’m sticking with City.
The Daily Mail reports that are packing on the pounds to better reflect the expanding waistlines and larger rear ends of many Americans:
Manufacturer Humanetics has developed the new model after studies found that obese drivers are 78 percent more likely to die in a car crash.
Dummies have traditionally been modeled on a person weighing about 167 pounds with a healthy body mass index.
The new super-sized dummies are based on the measurements of a 273-pound person with a BMI of 35.
A BMI of over 30 is considered morbidly obese by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Seat belts, air bags and other safety features have all been designed for thinner people and don’t fit larger people in the same way,
Chris O' Connor, CEO of Humanetics, told ABC. Typically you want someone in a very tight position with their rear against the back of the seat and the seat belt tight to the pelvis,’ he said. An obese person has more mass around midsection and a larger rear which pushes them out of position. They sit further forward and the belt does not grasp the pelvis as easily.’
A similar conclusion was reached in a 2010 study from the University at Buffalo and Erie County Medical Center.
A sign of the times?
Iain answered ALL the questions for ALL the committees, despite each page of the question form being headed with "please only answer these questions if you are standing for X committee". I have therefore had to do some editing on these answers, mostly removing "why are you asking me this? I'm not standing for this committee" type answers. I hope that I have amalgamated the ones where there were similar questions asked for different committees fairly.
You can find links to other candidates' entries here
Once I have answers from each candidate they will go in their own post and be linked via their name below. The columns alongside the names show which committee each person is standing for.
|Alice Thomas (F)||Y|
|Belinda Brooks-Gordon (F)||Y||Y||Y|
|Candy Piercy (F)||Y|
|Cara Jenkinson (F)||Y|
|Caron Lindsay (F)||Y|
|Catherine Royce (F)||Y||Y||Y|
|Dawn Barnes (F)||Y|
|Elizabeth Jewkes (F)||Y|
|Humaira Sanders (F)||Y|
|Jane Smithard (F)||Y||Y||Y|
|Jenny Woods (F)||Y|
|Jo Hayes (F)||Y||Y|
|Judith Ost (F)||Y|
|Julie Smith (F)||Y|
|Justine McGuinness (F)||Y|
|Kaavya Kaushik (F)||Y|
|Katherine Bavage (F)||Y|
|Kay Barnard (F)||Y|
|Kelly – Marie Blundell (F)||Y|
|Kirsten Johnson (F)||Y|
|Linda Jack (F)||Y|
|Liz Lynne (F)||Y|
|Mary Reid (F)||Y|
|Merlene Emerson (F)||Y|
|Pauline Pearce (F)||Y||Y|
|Rebecca Taylor (F)||Y|
|Rebecca Trimnell (F)||Y|
|Ruth Coleman-Taylor (F)||Y||Y|
|Sandra Gidley (F)||Y||Y|
|Sarah Ludford (F)||Y|
|Sharon Bowles (F)||Y|
|Shas Sheehan (F)||Y|
|Sian Reid (F)||Y|
|Sir David Williams||Y|
|Sue Doughty (F)||Y|
|Susan Juned (F)||Y|
|Zoe O'Connell (F)||Y|
If you're standing in the elections and haven't recieved a question form, comment on this post or drop me a tweet or an email with your email address so I can send it to you.