This weekend marks the end of an era.Tim Montgomerie leaves ConservativeHome and starts a new job as Comment Editor of The Times.
Tim launched ConHome (as we now refer to it endearingly) back in 2005. Almost from Day One it acquired a degree of influence over the inner workings and machinations of the Conservative Party. It was instrumental in ensuring that party members retained a vote in the leadership election. Over the years Tim has developed the site into something that has become a must read for elected politicians, party members, opponents and journalists. Cabinet ministers know that they need to treat ConHome with the same level of seriousness that they do a national newspaper. Tim has become the ‘go-to’ pundit for the broadcast media, sometimes much to the irritation of the party hierarchy.
ConservativeHome blazed a trail for the group blog. It took the other parties some years to catch up, and some would argue they never have. The likes of LabourList, Left Foot Forward and LibDem Voice have never been able to attract more than a fraction of ConHome’s readership or influence. To an extent this has been because none of them have had a front man with the media saviness of Tim Montgomerie. It’s not an exaggeration to say that he has been able to play the media like a violin. He knows what causes controversy and he knows what kind of surveys will garner media headlines. In short he has built up the site to become something that simply cannot be ignored. So important did it become that a few years ago Michael Ashcroft decided to buy it. Some thought that would signal its inevitable decline, but they underestimated both Ashcroft and Montgomerie. Ashcroft knew full well that any sign of editorial influence could fatally damage the site and Montgomerie was never someone who would give up that editorial independence. There have been countless occasions when I have read a Tim Montgomerie editorial and thought ‘hmmm, I bet Michael disagrees with that’. And that’’s exactly how the relationship should be between proprietor and editor. And I don’t see this changing now that Paul Goodman is taking over.
So as Tim leaves I want to pay tribute to him for what he has achieved. he really has left a lasting legacy and he will not be an easy act to follow. I really hope he enjoys his new role at The Times and that he won’t miss the smell of the greasepaint too much!
I have written the odd thing for ConHome over the years but Paul Goodman has asked me to become a regular columnist. I have no formal affiliation with the Conservative Party any longer and have made clear that I don’t want to write a partisanly Tory column. So instead Paul has agreed that I will write a political diary column, which will appear on the site each Friday morning. I think they’re going to call it Iain Dale’s Friday Diary. It is intended to be a little satirical and humorous and will look at all aspects of politics.