Yes, I’ve used that one before….
But I am going to try blogging again this year… See how it goes… I didn’t stop last year, I just got out of the habit, and once you’ve ground to a halt there never seems to be a compelling enough reason to start again. And it’s less of an effort to blog for other sites with established readerships, which I did a fair bit in 2012; I did pieces about my trip to Moscow to observe the closing stages of the Pussy Riot trial for Labour List, the New Statesman, Huffington Post, Louder than War, Punk News, the F-Word and others I forget, reaching a far wider audience than my obscure little blog ever would. And a piece for Labour List about why MPs should be interested in local, national and international matters. And some articles on food waste, and a few other things.
I also still have my website, and two Facebook pages – I don’t ‘do’ Facebook but they somehow look after themselves. (The staff do it). One is general stuff; the other is specifically on food waste, following my introduction of a private members’ bill on the issue in spring 2012. They all get way more hits than my blog ever does.
Basically to get a blog’s traffic up you have to post regularly and frequently, as the likes of Tom Harris used to. At least several times a day, every day. Twitter has undoubtedly provided a distraction for a lot of the people who a few years ago would have been writing or browsing political blogs, and has also more or less killed off blog comments, as Hopi Sen recently noted. You tweet a link to a blog post and people reply to the tweet, not the post. Which can be a bit annoying when you want to get a proper discussion started. It has to be said, I’m finding Twitter increasingly irritating. It creates too much ‘brain fizz’ and not enough space for considered thought.
It’s obvious from end of year tweets that many journalists/ bloggers are disillusioned with the notion of trying to engage with people online. It’s become received wisdom. Don’t read the comments. Block the trolls. And that’s not because they only want to broadcast, rather than engage. It’s because they’re fed up with the over-argumentative, the eager to be offended, the abusive, the rude – and, most annoying of all, the self-righteous ‘what about’ brigade. How dare you write about X, Y or Z – what about people dying in Syria? No matter whether the topic you choose to write about is trivial or important, highly topical or off-the-wall, someone will always pop up with ‘what about’…
In some cases it’s valid – I sort of tackled the “why are you talking about Pussy Riot, what about….” in a piece I wrote for Louder than War, but it’s still annoying. Writing about one topic doesn’t mean you don’t give a damn about the things you don’t write about. Sometimes it’s better to let other MPs make the running on particular topics, if it’s their shadow portfolio, or they have expertise, or a local connection. Steve Rotheram on Hillsborough for example. I sat in on the debates on that, and heard great speeches from Steve, Andy Burnham, Alison McGovern, Clive Betts, Maria Eagle and others – but there was no need for me to speak.
And sometimes, it’s the very opposite. There are issues that I think no-one will talk about if I don’t. I did a Westminster Hall debate on the damage being wrought to our Marine Eco-systems last year, and no, it’s not the burning number one issue for constituents in Bristol East, but someone has to care about it. And if not me, then who?
Anyway, I am going to try to blog a bit more this year. We’ll see how it goes.