Iain Dale retires

December 20th, 2010 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Iain Dale is the most widely read UK blogger. I read him and Guido almost every day.

He announced last week that he is going to stop blogging. This has made news not just in the blogosphere, but also in the mainstream media.

Looking at some of the reasons why Iain has quit, I can understand his decision. There are times when it does get pretty challenging.

Well, I am afraid this is the blogpost where I tell you that I am giving up blogging. This decision has been coming for some time and was nearly made a month ago, but I couldn’t quite bring myself to do it then. Well, today I can.

There’s no single reason, but let me try to explain as best I can why I can no longer blog in the way I have been doing over the last five years. First of all, let me say what it’s NOT about. It’s got nothing to do with the Conservatives being in power. There’s this myth that blogging in government is less interesting than in opposition. I’ve never bought that argument. I think I have been quite open in making clear when I think the coalition have got things wrong, but I accept that is not the perception, and probably never will be.

I agree it is not less fun in Government. I thought it would be, but I am finding no shortage of things to blog on – in fact my challenge is the topics I miss out due to lack of time or resource.

I’ve been thinking of going through the year’s posts and counting the number of times I have criticised or disagreed with the Government. It’s several score at least.

The truth is, I no longer enjoy blogging and I think that this has been evident for a few months now to my readers. I hate the backbiting that goes along with it. I hate the character assassination that is permanently present.

I’ve always said I’ll give up if I don’t enjoy it. But unlike Iain I don’t get too bothered by the haters out there. The more someone spews venom at me, the more I think that I must be doing a good job for them to feel so threatened. If someone I respect criticises me, I take that very seriously – but they tend to do so in non-personal terms.

So I can’t see myself ever giving up because of the haters. Quite the opposite – it encourages you even more.

I no longer enjoy the pressure of feeling I have to churn out four or five pieces every day. I used to enjoy sitting in front of the TV at home in the evenings and writing blogposts at the same time. I can’t do that any longer as I am on the radio every weekday evening. And when I am in the office during the day I have two companies to run. Something has to give.

This is where I can totally empathise with Iain. Once upon a time the blog was not an “obligation”, just fun. But I do feel a sense of (mainly self-imposed) obligation to try and do around 8 – 10 posts a day, to cover off major issues and to be topical.

There are days and weeks when I am exhausted from trying to manage the blog, actually earn money from Curia, contribute to InternetNZ’s activities, do various media obligations, and a near non stop range of meetings and speaking arrangements.

Even getting up at 5 am doesn’t leave enough time, and friends have to put up with me trying to catch up on a backlog of e-mails while watching DVDs on a Friday night.

To cope with what will be an even busier in 2011, I will be soliciting some volunteers to help with certain aspects of the blog. I’ll provide details in January. I’m also going to learn the value of the word “no” and start declining speaking requests – not all of them, but some of them.

And if I am honest, I now feel that my blogging is having a negative effect on various aspects of my business and broadcasting life.

I estimate I could probably double my income, if I gave up blogging. Partly due to the extra time I would have to do business development – in six years of business, I’ve never responded to an RFP or solicited a client. It has all been word of mouth. Also the blog makes me too risky a choice for many government sector clients.

I’m working 9am to 10pm five days a week. I enjoy it. I relish it. I thrive on it. I’m running a very successful publishing company which is, I believe, on the brink of great success. I’ve achieved a lifetime’s ambition of having my own daily radio talk show. I am not about to put either of those things at risk. And frankly, I’m not going to put my health at risk either. As I said above, something has to give in this life I am now leading, and I am afraid it is the blog.

The health factor is real also. I left Parliament, partly because of the insane hours. They’re not as bad as when I was at Parliament, but it is a long way from a 40 hour week.

But at the end of the day, my challenge is to get a better balance, not to give up blogging. I’ve actually been debating politics online since 1996, and blogging is just a continuation of that. If I can get the balance right, I hope to blog until I am happily (or grumpily) retired.

I have also decided to give up all party political activities, as they too have hampered aspects of my business and broadcasting career in the past. I am, and will remain, a Conservative supporter, but that’s as far as it goes.

I made that decision after the 2005 election, and it was the best thing I have ever done. I will attend the odd party conference if it is interesting, but have managed to avoid any roles or offices.

The only party role that might interest me in the future would be on the Board of Directors, but I suspect it would be incompatible with my blogging as you can’t really have a Party Director criticising a National-led Government, even mildly.

Finally, I’d like to thank all my readers for sticking with me through good times and bad over the last five years. To the many enemies I have made along the way, I’ll just say in a very Nixon-esque manner, just rejoice in the fact that you won’t have me to kick around any longer. For the moment, anyway. For the most part, I have enjoyed the blogging experience and made a lot of friends through it.

Iain’s departure is a real loss to the UK blogosphere. I always enjoyed his blog, as he was very reasonable and fair. And it was a great way to keep up with UK politics.

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UK Labour’s dirty politics

April 13th, 2009 at 11:52 am by David Farrar

Most readers will be up with the latest in UK politics, but for those who are not, let me tell the story from the beginning.

The centre-right (like in many countries) has had stronger voices in the UK blogosphere. The two most popular blogs are run by Iain Dale and Guido Fawkes (Paul Staines).

Dale is a former Conservative candidate and staffer. Also a successful politics niche publisher who through his blog has become a very influential commentator – both online, and in the traditional media. He also happens to be gay, making it very hard for Labour to stereotype him as a typical consservative Tory.

Paul Staines is not a member of any party. He is basically a wealthy libertarian and while he is from the centre right, he has attacked many Conservative figures also including David Cameron and the Party Chairwoman over her expenses. Staines does a lot of investigative journalism and has been responsible for a couple of very senior resignations from within the Government.

None of the left wing blogs caught on to the same degree, so UK Labour set up LabourList and got Derek Draper to run it. Draper is a former Labour activist and lobbyist who swapped careers to become a psychotherapist after it was revealed he boasted to clients that he had so much influence he could get tax breaks for clients.

The LabourList website is nominally independent but has rarely criticise the Government, and has launched personal attacks on Dale and Staines, calling them racist (because Dale defended Carol Thatcher’s golliwog comment).

Then we have the revelations this week, that Draper was working with a senior advisor to PM Gordon Brown to set up another website – Red Rag – and this one would be full of smears about Conservative Party MPs. The advisor, Damian McBride, is very senior – Brown’s former personal press secretary and now Head of Strategy. He has resigned.

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The News of the World has full coverage of the attempted smears.Also good coverage in The Times.

The strategy included:

  • spreading rumours that Shadow Chancellor George Osborne took drugs and had sex with a prostitute, including that they allude to non existent secret tapes.
  • spreading rumours about the mental health of Osborne’s wife and suggesting this will be used as an excuse to demote him.
  • challenging Cameron to reveal details of an “embarrassing illness”, ie a venereal disease and demanding he release full medical records.
  • Accusing a gay Tory MP of promoting his partner’s business interests in the Commons.
  • Suggesting photos exist of Osborne “posing in a bra, knickers and suspenders” and “with his face ‘blacked up’”
  • Concocting a tale about backbench Tory Nadine Dorries having a one night stand with a colleague, and hinting a sex aid was left behind in the hotel room

They even taught about how to “sequence” the stories for maximum impact, using timing and technology, and including links to suggestive photographs.

Huge congrats go to Guido, who got hold of the e-mails and exposed all this. He has an amazing track record in exposing wrong doing. It shows how desperate people get to retain power.

It also shows how relatively tame things are back in NZ. The worst “invented gossip” we had to endure was the fantasy smear over John Key “buying” his Helensville seat in exchange for donations totalling $1.5 million. I have always wondered whose idea that smear was.

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EU Blog Regulation

September 7th, 2008 at 3:43 pm by David Farrar

Some in NZ I am sure will want NZ to follow the EU in “voluntary” blog regulation.

From the Daily Telegraph:

It’s the same when it comes to the EU’s determination to clamp down on blogs. Eurocrats instinctively dislike spontaneous activity. To them, “unregulated” is almost synonymous with “illegal”. The bureaucratic mindset demands uniformity, licensing, order.

Eurocrats are especially upset because many bloggers, being of an anarchic disposition, are anti-Brussels. In the French, Dutch and Irish referendums, the MSM were uniformly pro-treaty, whereas internet activity was overwhelmingly sceptical.

Bruno Waterfield recently reported on a secret Commission report about the danger posed by online libertarians: “Apart from official websites, the internet has largely been a space left to anti-European feeling. Given the ability to reach an audience at a much lower cost, and given the simplicity of the No campaign messages, it has proven to be easily malleable during the campaign and pre-campaign period.”

The EU’s solution? Why, to regulate blogs!  Back in June (hat tip, EU Referendum), MEPs began to complain that unlicensed blogs were “polluting” cyberspace with “misinformation and malicious intent”. They wanted “a quality mark, a disclosure of who is writing and why”.

At the time, I dismissed it as the ramblings of a single dotty MEP. Not even the European Parliament, I thought, would actually try to censor the internet. I was wrong. We now have the full report and, sure enough, it wants to “clarify the status, legal or otherwise, of weblogs”, and to ensure their “voluntary labelling according to the professional and financial responsibilities and interests of their authors and publishers”.

Iain Dale also expounds:

We all know that ‘voluntary’ soon becomes ‘compulsory’. My label is the title of my blog. That is quite sufficient, and I don’t need some faceless Eurocrat to tell me otherwise.

And will it be adopted?

Europhiles will now, no doubt, accuse me of scaremongering, and point out that it’s only a Parliament proposal and has now to be agreed by the Commission and the Member States, and in all likelihood won’t get very far. I’m too old to fall for that old trick.

I wonder how long until we see such a proposal down under?

Hat Tip: No Minister

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Congratulations Iain

May 28th, 2008 at 12:06 pm by David Farrar

Congratulations to top UK blogger Iain Dale, will be “tying the knot” with his partner John Simmons next month. I just hope they are not away of their honey moon when I am visiting in late June!

Iain’s blog is an invaluable source of information on UK politics, and a lot of fun.

He has some good quotes on tax and spending today from a Labour MP.  Yes a UK Labour MP:

My friends on the Left will insist that the correct Labour response is to raise taxes and break away from what they call neo-liberal economic policies. But when the state Hoovers up nearly two thirds of a trillion pounds from national income, describing such economics as neo-liberal is to mock language.

I love it how people use that term as some sort of nasty insult they almost spit out. You neo-liberal you.

When trade unions and the Fabians invented what became the 20th-century Labour Party, no working man or woman paid any tax. It was easy to call for higher taxes because only the Tory-voting bourgeoisie paid them. Now working people are faced with massive deductions from their pay. There is some compensation for those on low incomes with young children, but a third of the voters in the London mayoral elections were single or childless people. The tired references to “hard-working families” upset all the voters who live by themselves, do not have children at home and are denied tax credits.

A massive amount of tax is paid by people and churned back to them, and this is very wasteful – it is money just flushed down the drain due to the cost of that churn.

And as in NZ, the Government there seems to regard tax credits as the same thing as tax cuts. There is a big difference between what is effectively a welfare payment and letting people keep more of their own money.

I do not know of a single minister who privately does not despair at the waste of money on pointless projects, publications, or legions of press officers that add no value. The taxpayer has given more than £1 billion of aid to India, even though that great country has more billionaires and millionaires than Britain and runs its own well-financed development aid programme.

I wonder how much we give to India?

The notion that cost-cutting is something the Right does is nonsense. The great firms of Britain, such as Marks and Spencer, BP, Corus and BA, have had their fortunes turned round by ruthless pruning of costs, thus forcing managers to think differently as they are told to cut budgets if they want to save their jobs. And in doing so they not only keep their jobs but find the companies they run are walking tall again.

I don’t think Labour has ever met a cost it didn’t increase! Cost cutting is not something nasty or slash and burn. It is what one should be doing every year. The problem is when someone else is funding those costs, your incentive to keep them low is minimal.

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The London Mayoralty

May 1st, 2008 at 1:23 pm by David Farrar

Iain Dale blogs on the different poll results just prior to the local body elections in England. The polls open tonight our time and I expect results late tomorrow morning.

You Gov has it at Boris Johnson 44% and Ken Livingstone 36%. If no one gets 50% second preferences are allocated and on second preferences from the Lib Dem candidate mainly it becomes 53% to 47% for Boris.

Mori however has first preferences Boris 38%, Ken 41% and second preferences Ken 52% Boris 48%.

A lot of interest in who will be right. You Gov does Internet polling and Mori phone polling. You Gov has a pretty good accuracy history but that is no guarantee. What they do tend to agree on though is the higher the turnout, the better it is for Ken Livingstone.

The Livingstone campaign has actually complained to the UK Market Research Society about You Gov. This shows how seriously people take the expectations game.

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Interesting Conference the PM is at

April 5th, 2008 at 8:12 pm by David Farrar

The PM is attending the Progressive Governance Conference in London. But as reported by Whale Oil, No Minister and Iain Dale, their choice of logo has been somewhat unfortunate.

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