Why I Write

Political Blogging

At the risk of sounding like a PBS telethon…

Why isn’t there more good journalism out there? Gawker paints a depressing picture for those of us who toil away in the often thankless business of writing.

Hamilton Nolan writes:

Many writers believe that our brilliant writing will naturally create its own audience. The moving power of our words, the clarity and meaning of our reporting, the brilliance of our wit, the counterintuitive nature of our insights, the elegance with which we sum up the world’s problems; these things, we imagine, will leave the universe no choice but to conjure up an audience for us each day.

Time and experience have long since disabused me of any such idea. Fortunately, writing about politics and public policy – if immensely frustrating at times – is also its own form of reward.

Nolan concludes:

Maybe there is a talented young writer out there with a dream of starting the very best, smartest magazine or website that has ever existed, and building it into their very own historic legacy. I am here to tell you that it will not work. The business of media has very little, if anything, to do with quality journalism. If you aspire to be a Writer of Legitimately Good Things, the best you can hope for is to get the prestige spot that is paid for by the garbage. To hope for a prestige spot that is not paid for by garbage, or by a lone rich wacko, or by a new advertising technology, but instead by the mass audience that will flock to your brilliance is to ask for too much. If you are able to get a job writing good stuff, you are one of the lucky ones in the big Exercycle of Mindless Entertainment that is “the media.”

Now, political writing certainly shouldn’t be an easy career option. After all, it takes a certain arrogance to expect to be remunerated for sitting at a keyboard ranting about the state of the world and pontificating on the “obvious” solutions to society’s ills, particularly when there are people out there doing real work like serving in the armed forces, providing healthcare, creating world-class art, working out how to get to Mars or producing amazing, unthought-of new consumer products.

There are certainly times when my own efforts at political writing seem depressingly far from the high ideal set out by George Orwell, and much closer to the ranting of the pub bore or the slick keyword focus of the SEO marketer – though having done this (with varying levels of commitment) for four years now, I hope that I am somewhat better than when I started out.

Earlier this week I was at a talk given by Dan Hodges about his general election book “One Minute To Ten”, and got chatting to a senior journalist from the Sunday Times. I put to him that while political blogging may have been ripe with promise ten years ago, the format seems to have dried up today, and readers left with the choice between established legacy media outlets or the latest viral clickbait funnelled through social media.

He didn’t disagree, and hammered home the fact that many readers currently have almost zero loyalty to any specific news outlet, and instead get their news according to what happens to be trending on social media or appear in their (often bias-reinforcing) news feeds. This trend is reflected in the traffic stats for Semi-Partisan Politics. A sizeable minority of traffic now comes through Facebook in particular, and there is always the temptation to devote time and effort to promoting pieces on Facebook to get more eyeballs on the latest piece, even if it brings in few potential long-term readers with whom one can develop a relationship.

The one positive trend at present is the growing and thriving community of Brexit bloggers and campaigners coalescing around eureferendum.com and the work of Dr. Richard North to promote Flexcit – by far the best (and only) properly thought-through plan for how Britain might best leave the European Union and re-emerge as a globally engaged, prosperous sovereign democracy.

If only the same collegial, rigorous and dedicated spirit could be found elsewhere in the political blogosphere as exists among many of my fellow Brexiteers (see links in the sidebar on the right), journalism in this country – particularly citizen journalism and the concept of the campaigning blog – might not be in quite such a parlous state.

Regardless: whatever the people at Gawker say, Semi-Partisan Politics will continue to grow and flourish as we enter 2016, and will campaign – loudly and unapologetically – for the following goals and ideals:

 

Brexit: freedom from the European Union

Democracy and national sovereignty

Constitutional reform and a federal UK

Separation of church and state

Healthcare reform, not NHS worship

Smaller, smarter government

Free speech, without restriction

Fighting timid centrism on the Right

Fighting empty virtue-signalling on the Left

 

If you agree with these objectives and enjoy this blog’s coverage of UK politics and current affairs, please do consider using the PayPal tip jar to make a small regular contribution or a one-time donation:

 

 

Any reader donations will 1) be a personal ego boost to myself, 2) help me to do more original reporting, like the successful live blog of last year’s UKIP annual conference, and 3) help me promote this site and the work of other like-minded writers – particularly in the crucial effort to win a “Leave” vote in the coming Brexit referendum – so that we can actually make a difference.

Small donations from individual contributors are not only greatly appreciated by me, but also help to preserve independent journalism and commentary in general – so that nobody has to rely exclusively on the BBC, the Guardian or the Telegraph to understand what’s going on in our country and around the world.

But it’s not all about the money. What matters even more than that (for me) is spreading the word and sharing the message – and these days, like it or not, that means social media. So if you read something you like here, don’t just sit on it. Share it on Twitter or Reddit. Email it to a friend. Be that person on Facebook who posts provocative political articles on their timeline.

2016 is already off to a good start – pageviews and comments are at their highest ever, and an appearance on a certain major national political TV show (to be announced soon) is in the works. Onwards and upwards!

Many thanks to all my readers for your continued generous support.

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A Merry Semi-Partisan Christmas

Political Blogging 2

Onward to 2016, with your help

2015 has been a very good year for this blog. The frequency of posts increased dramatically as we covered the general election and its aftermath, and we have kept up the pace ever since. There are now new articles nearly every day, as well as a more lively Twitter feed.

The net result has been an increase in readership of nearly 400%. This blog is still small, but a number of articles have caught the attention of influential MPs, journalists and activists. And nobody recognised or wrote about the eventual cause of Labour’s general election defeat before this blog, though many others have subsequently swooped in to take credit.

My writing is syndicated at Guerilla Policy, where I seem to be the lone conservative voice amid a sea of unabashed lefties, and I am proud to contribute regularly to the excellent campaign group Conservatives for Liberty.

Semi-Partisan Politics will continue to grow and flourish as we enter 2016, and will campaign – loudly and unapologetically – for the following goals and ideals:

 

Brexit: freedom from the European Union

Democracy and national sovereignty

Constitutional reform and a federal UK

Separation of church and state

Healthcare reform, not NHS worship

Smaller, smarter government

Free speech, without restriction

Fighting timid centrism on the Right

Fighting empty virtue-signalling on the Left

 

If you agree with these objectives and have enjoyed this blog’s coverage over the past year, please do consider using the PayPal tip jar to make a small regular contribution or a one-time donation:

 

 

Any reader donations will 1) be a personal ego boost to myself, 2) help me to do more original reporting, like the successful live blog of this year’s UKIP annual conference, and 3) help me promote this site and the work of other like-minded writers so that we can actually make a difference.

As I swiftly learned this past year, writers don’t get paid very much (unless you are Owen Jones). This blog is written in my spare time around a day job, usually between midnight and 3AM, and is available to everyone free of charge.

However, small donations from individual contributors are not only greatly appreciated, but also help to preserve independent journalism and commentary in general – so that nobody has to rely exclusively on the BBC, the Guardian or the Telegraph to understand what’s going on in our country and around the world.

If you are happy getting all of your news, analysis and commentary from the BBC or the big national newspapers, then by all means carry on. But if you value independent writing which is not beholden to any party, clique or the Westminster establishment, then please consider helping to ensure its continued existence by donating a couple of quid to the independent sites which keep you coming back for more.

But it’s not all about the money. What matters even more than that (for me) is spreading the word and sharing the message – and these days that means social media. So if you read something you like here, don’t just sit on it. Share it on Twitter or Reddit. Email it to a friend. Be that person on Facebook who posts provocative political articles on their timeline (but all things in moderation).

With the help of my informed and generous readers, 2016 will be another record-breaking year for Semi-Partisan Politics.

Many thanks to all of you, and a very Merry Christmas.

Christmas Wreath 2

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Picking Your Battles

I remain relatively new to this whole blogging business, and am still very much learning the ropes.

And while I am largely making it up as I go along, what with posting pieces on the culture and politics of two different nations, interspersed with classical music excerpts, architectural musings and the odd cat picture, I do try to stick to a few strictures passed down from others that seem to have served them quite well – post regularly, engage with your readers, link selectively, and so on. This seems to be working fairly well, but there are some occasions when the pieces of advice I have read or received come into conflict with each other. For example:

1. Post something, anything, about every important story that comes up. That way, people will learn to keep coming to your blog out of habit, your readership will go up, etc. etc.

and

2. Focus on quality. Pick your battles, and only weigh in on those stories where you have strong and original opinions. Your posts will be better informed and more enjoyable to read, and your readership will go up, etc. etc.

This is tricky for me. I tend to have opinions about most things, and if I had unlimited hours I could certainly commit a lot more of these thoughts to this blog. But aside from the time constraints, I often feel that by the time I come to a story, others have already dissected and analysed it in a far superior way. There’s no point in parroting the words of someone who got there first, without having anything interesting to contribute. And that leaves the question of what to do with all of the articles that capture my attention and interest, but about which I have few original thoughts to add.

For example, George Miller, writing at adamsmith.org., has an excellent piece reminding us that the recent failures of the private security firm G4S (contracted to provide much of the security at the upcoming London Olympic Games) should not be viewed as an indictment of outsourcing, or of the private sector in general. It is concise, well-written and chimes entirely with my own beliefs, but I have nothing really to add to it.

And therefore in future, rather than constructing a throwaway, waste-of-time blog post about such articles, or ignoring them entirely on my blog, I have decided to offer a kind of “daily summary” at the end of each day, with a few select stories of interest and a line or two from me about why they are worth a read. Hopefully, once this has a chance to bed down and establish itself, it will become a popular feature of this site.

I would be interested to here in the comments section below from any readers who have any other suggestions, insights or advice that they could offer.

In the meantime, I am going to proceed as planned.