As part of our ongoing political bloggers series, Total Politics talks to Laurence Durnan, editor of Political Scrapbook, about blogging under the coalition, political gossip and the future of left-wing politics.
When did you start blogging?
I wrote a few posts for a local Labour blog early last year. They seemed to catch on so I started Political Scrapbook in the summer, which had the freedom to be a bit edgier and pursue stories more aggressively. It was during this period that the left was starting to get its act together with LabourList etc, so it was exciting to feel part of that vanguard.
What is the purpose of your blog?
Political Scrapbook posts run on a spectrum from tittle-tattle at one end to more solid muckraking at the other. Blogging is great fun anyway but I would say our contributors are ultimately driven to make life difficult for the right.
There are other sites with a more serious tone but there’s really no shame in (attempting to) be amusing — ultimately people want to be entertained. The blogs I loved to read were always sites like Recess Monkey, Guido Fawkes and Tory Bear. I hope our site has developed its own voice now but these certainly had an influence over our house style, alongside print publications like Private Eye. An accessible, populist approach also means that you have a decent audience ready when you get a genuine scoop. Blogs get stick from the snootier journalists for being gossipy and insubstantial, but last time I checked all the so-called quality newspapers had diary columns. If you write something that doesn’t stand up you’ll be strung up by your opponents within an hour of clicking "publish".
As a self-described "left-leaning" blogger, how has blogging changed for you after the election and the change of government?
There is something to be said for the adage that blogging is for opposition and not government. With Labour in office it was no coincidence that the right-wing were the earlier adopters of blogging in the UK; the reverse was true in the States, with a strong liberal movement online galvanised by George W Bush’s presence in the White House. The prospect of a Tory in Number 10 was something we did everything to dent. But when it came to pass there was still a small part of me thinking “this may be an amazing period to be a left-wing blogger”. Some of the 1980's best music, comedy and art was inspired by the harshness of Thatcherism.
What is the future for left-wing politics?
It’s difficult to pick just one but I think Left Foot Forward has struck gold with their “evidence based” formula. It’s pithy, well researched and — crucially — great fodder for the lobby.
Least favourite blogger?
The left loved to hate Donal Blaney, who was a bit like Richard Littlejohn on crack. He vanished after a richly-deserved hatchet job by The Guardian but perhaps the blogosphere is a less interesting place without him? Come back, Donal!