Thoughts on politics and life from a liberal perspective

Friday, 10 February 2012

The day the blogosphere went mainstream

I had an interesting experience this morning in my car. I was listening to Today on Radio 4 and one of the main stories was that three Conservative cabinet ministers had called for the health bill currently going through parliament to be scrapped. One of them was also calling for Andrew Lansley to be sacked as Health Secretary.

Seismic stuff. Of course it was all anonymous but there is no doubt that a call like this is very serious for the government. I would now be surprised if the health bill is not radically changed if not dropped altogether.

But the most eye-catching thing for me as a blogger was the medium through which these ministers decided to air their views. It wasn't through a national newspaper. It wasn't through one of the political correspondents of one of the TV channels. Instead it was via the Conservative blog ConservativeHome.

In a post entitled "The unnecessary and unpopular NHS Bill could cost the Conservative Party the next election. Cameron must kill it." the site's editor Tim Montgomerie reveals the thoughts of the ministers that contacted him and calls for the bill to be scrapped and Lansley to be moved on. He argues forcefully that Cameron's best move in opposition was to detoxify the issue of the NHS and his biggest mistake in government has been to allow this work to be reversed.

Everyone who has had dealings with Tim will tell you that he is very polite and very straight dealing. He is also generous and has linked to posts on my blog on numerous occasions. Nobody will be in any doubt about the veracity of what he has reported.

You could almost hear the gritted teeth from Nick Robinson as he explained about the grass roots blog and how it had the exclusive on the radio!

There are many from the fourth estate who still think that blogs are for cranks and losers in their mother's basement. You only have to listen to some of the testimony at the Leveson inquiry to hear this. But what Tim has done with ConservativeHome is build up a website with a very wide readership (from politicians and people who are supporters of all parties and none) where Conservatives can air their views in a frank way and get feedback on them. Even before today it was very good at setting the agenda but today for me is the day it went mainstream. By giving the story to Tim the ministers have allowed him to frame how this debate is being covered in the wider media today and also has the hook of being from a site that is predominantly grass roots. It could well have fired the starting gun on a process that will kill one of the government's major pieces of legislation. You don't get much more mainstream than that.

I expect other correpsondents from the press, TV and radio media will be taking note of this and they may well not like what they see.

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