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Thursday 16 April 2015

Tories Astroturf Blog Fail

When talking to Frances Perraudin of the Guardian last month - you can still see the profile that resulted HERE - she asked why there were not so many well-known left-leaning, or at least Tory-sceptical, blogs around. I believed that there were: despite Sunny Hundal having scaled back Liberal Conspiracy, there were plenty of others. My conclusion was that there was, if anything, a shortage of right of centre ones.
Someone seems to have agreed with that, as Sebastian Payne over at Spectator Coffee House - one right of centre blog repository that needs no introduction - has observed. Two apparently pro-Tory blogs have just opened for business. However, and here we encounter a significantly sized however, neither has deigned to let the world know who is running them. Both are conspicuously anonymous in nature.

And what content Publicly Inconvenient and Pestminster have managed to generate is so small as to be of little use: the former has amassed just 24 posts since opening for business in February, and the latter 42. Er, Hello? Zelo Street is on its 237th post in that same period - you might as well not bother. These don’t even qualify as one-person set-ups. So why is the Speccy advertising them to the world?

Well, as Jon Stewart might have said, two things here. One, (thankfully) former Tory MP Louise Mensch has promoted them, as “a couple of new anonymous blogs worth checking out”, telling “My favourite is Pestminster, which has some cracking stories on Nigel Farage being absent from South Thanet. The latest one catches him pretending to make an announcement in South Thanet when he actually did it at his local George and Dragon, in Downe 70 miles from the seat … Publicly Inconvenient is another good policy blog”.

And two, which Payne has not mentioned (so I will), this comes down to the problem the established press and its cheerleaders have with social media. Most of that established press is on board for the Tories, yet online presence is either hampered by a paywall, in the cases of the Sun, Times and Telegraph, or the need to compete with the click-bait generating “sidebar of shame” so beloved of Mail Online.

As I pointed out recently, the Sun has set up SunNation, free to view, and with full-time hacks employed on it, yet most of its Retweets come from other Sun hacks and pundits. This attempt to get the centre-right message out there has thus far been a flop. And the hard-copy papers are having little success in kicking the Tories’ opponents.

So it should surprise no-one that Pestminster and Publicly Inconvenient - the first bashing UKIP, the second attacking Labour - have sprung up. Payne is right to ask if CCHQ is behind either of them, and anyone sceptical of the response would be right so to be. But, a quiet message to whoever is behind these sites - if you think you will make a jot of difference to the General Election campaign, forget it.

Hardly any Twitter following, formula knocking copy, and launching into a crowded field: whoever on the right thinks this will clear their social media blockage is, as they are wont to say on Merseyside, not dealing from a full deck.

1 comment:

Andy McDonald said...

Aside from these blogs being as, to paraphrase Bill Bailey, rebellious as Enya, they suffer from a central problem - one shared by Guido and all the right leaning press.

A news source - be it a paper or a blog - needs to be informative, thought-provoking and entertaining. And kicking down is never as entertaining as kicking up.