So why did I do it? Why did I abandon the world of political blogging? Simple. I’d had enough of it, and when you stop enjoying something it’s time to quit. Since 2005 I have developed my blog into one of the top three political blogs in the country. Over the last year a million people have visited the site, so it has an audience comparable with many mainstream media sites. But it’s just me. I don’t have an army of writers and support staff and it’s begun to take its toll.
Blogging has been an immense force for good over the last few years. It has uncovered major stories and held the media and politicians to account in a way with even fifteen years ago would have been unthinkable. It’s given thousands of ordinary voters a voice. Before blogging was invented the only outlet for a normal person was to write a letter to their local newspaper, where it might or might not be printed. Blogging has, to an extent, democratised the media and opened it up to voices who would never have been heard before. And several brilliant writers have emerged from the blogosphere, to reach a much wider audience.
In the 48 hours since I announced I was quitting blogging, much has been written about the apparent gradual death of the blogosphere. After all, I’m not the only one to leave in recent months. Labour MP Tom Harris, the best individual Labour blogger has also quit, for similar reasons to me, and there have been others including the excellent LibDem blog, Mark Reckons. However, the great thing about blogging is that there are always plenty of people ready and waiting to take over the mantle. The blogosphere, after all, is far wider than Guido Fawkes, Will Straw, Tim Montgomerie and myself.
Up until recently, the right dominated the blogging world but over the last twelve months the left has caught up. Sites like Left Foot Forward, Labour UnCut and Next Left have challenged the hegemony of the right. Many people believe it is easier to blog when the political party you support is in opposition, and that’s why Labour supporting blogs have become more prominent recently. While it is true that it is more fun opposing, I have never bought into the argument that government supporting blogs have to be slavish in their support. But the trouble is, no one remembers the occasions when you criticise the party you support. However critical you are, the other side will always point out the occasions when you have said what a brilliant job David Cameron is doing. And he is! Most of the time.
But while the blogosphere has generally been a force for good, it can also be a very ugly place. It’s certainly not for the faint-hearted. If you stick your head above the parapet you have to expect that people will want to shoot it off, but the abuse you can attract is way beyond what normal people would regard as acceptable. And frankly, I can do without it. I may have made many new friends through blogging, but I have made too many enemies – some of my own making, some not. I now host a weeknight talk show on LBC 97.3 and however combative the arguments become on the radio, they are positively civilised compared to the rows in the blogosphere. Long may it remain so.