I would have expected The Guardian to be more sophisticated about both politics and weblogs. But something must have slipped for them to run a particularly clueless piece by former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith about political blogs.
Duncan Smith reckons right-wing bloggers have become a new power in the US, responsible for forcing the resignations of left wingers (in his view) Eason Jordan and Dan Rather. On the left, on the other hand, he argues that blogging and the power of Internet-mobilised communities has driven the Democrats into the arms of wild-eyed liberals.
So what about Britain? “The blogosphere will become a force in Britain, and it could ignite many new forces of conservatism,” Duncan Smith writes. “The internet’s automatic level playing field gives conservatives opportunities that mainstream media have often denied them.”
What forces of conservatism? Every analysis I’ve seen of the British populace shows that they are eager for continuing social democratic reforms. Where the political spectrum in the US has moved decisively to the right in the last 20 years, in the UK the reaction to the rightward tilt of the Thatcher years has been a clear swing to the centre left. The extremes on both sides have been moderated at the same time.
The problem the Conservatives (and conservatives) face in the UK isn’t a lack of media. It is that they have not yet undergone the successive reforms driven throught the Labour party by Neil Kinnock, John Smith and, finally, Tony Blair. With the failures of William Hague, Iain Duncan Smith and now Michael Howard, the Conservatives have yet to find their Kinnock — and certainly there doesn’t seem to be a Smith or Blair on the horizon.
And the media situation is nothing like Duncan Smith’s fantasy. With most media groups in the UK controlled by conservative owners, it’s hard to see what opportunities have been denied. In the US, the mythology — and it’s clearly a myth — about the liberal media has a powerful hold. In the UK no one pretends the media is anything other than on the right. What about the BBC? The best testament to the Beeb’s stance is that it regularly attracts howls of range from all three major parties in Britain. All of them reckon the BBC is institutionally against them. Which shows it is doing something right.