Having stormed City Hall and taken over the BBC, we in the People’s Republic are looking forward to a swift descent back to anonymity, hopefully with some new loyal citizens (a puppy for every new reader!). Already the stats graph has stopped shaking like a maxed-out Geiger counter, which is actually quite a relief. We are not quite sure we can take ourselves seriously as a blogging commentator. Somehow it was all a great deal simpler in the good old days when we were wittering on about Anglo-Norman linguistics, the distressing fall-out from the Incident With The Broken Chair or tax, tax and a little more tax, with occasionally the odd mention of the Liberal Democrats.
But credit to the Beeb for contributing to the flossy excitement of political blogging. I suppose. Like most online innovation, the huge amount of white noise surrounding political blogging will probably resolve itself into a couple of clear signals a few years down the line. The majority of ideas, innovations, participation exercises, collaborations, interactive experiments, publicity paraphernalia and other self-regarding bollocks produced by the political parties and those who lobby for them will become dead wood – as, of course, will the majority of blogs and hub-sites operating now, including quite probably this one. One or two interesting and useful contributions to the field of political behaviour will remain.
Meanwhile, a little story about New Media And Old that may reassure us in the crazy boom years. Mr PikeBishop is a name bloggers will know (self-absorbed? nous?). For anyone who doesn’t keep their intellect wrapped around their own sphinctre, his real name is Frank Fisher. Frank was an opinionated crotchety libertarian with a acid-sharp knack of cutting people’s heads clean off in conversation, and a tendency to object to all categorisations including this one. One day, he discovered Comment is Free and a whole new world opened up. Suddenly there were hundreds of terminally stupid people ripe for a neck-tickle with a blunt axe! He didn’t even have to leave the house and go out looking for arguments at bus stops! Frank became Mr PikeBishop, and administered merciless opinionated crotchety libertarian medicine across the political spectrum.
Now, the Guardian ancien regime in those days still believed that its readers were sitting cross-legged at the foot of its Tree of Ineffable Wisdom and gazing up into the boughs with an expression of starlit wonder. They were somewhat disconcerted to discover that a real, live, breathing audience with opinions and pet topics of its own existed on the other end of the newspaper distribution chain saying things like “This is shit, this is”, and the person of Mr PikeBishop represented this alarming new fact so well that he won the popular vote Big Blogger competition of 2006, presumably to the organ’s total dismay.
Mr PikeBishop single-handedly gives the lie to the general assumption (that of, you know, The Wizards) that political blogging and online comment is a Macbook-glossy world of young hipsters with soft-yet-cool brains ready to receive the imprint of this or that party allegiance. Mostly it’s just the same crusty, hairy, peculiar blighters who were already arguing about politics in pubs or at bus-stops, ‘cept with a computer in front of them.
You may gather from all this that I have a sneaking admiration for Mr PikeBishop, as most CiFers do, even the ones still carrying their heads around in a tupperware box. So imagine my delight on election day when I see this post from Mr PB on a particularly foaming anti-Boris piece from Zoe Williams:
Well I wasn’t going to vote today – not being in the Smoke and not having anyone to vote for – and as usual was going to draw a cock on my ballot paper, this time with “Gordon Brown” written along the shaft, but Zoe, you have inspired me. It would only take a 3% swing to the crappy Libdems to unseat the Labour councillors who hold my ward; obviously I’m no libdem, but I saw one of their candidates the other day, posting materials on a sunday morning, he at least looked keen and the thing is… I now realise I have a reason to vote. So Zoe, I shall be voting libdem at around 6 this evening, on my way home from work, just to annoy you.
Mr PB, Mr PB! I said. Thank you!
Don’t thank me, he said, because I hate you and everything you stand for.
Well, yes. Sadly, I fear this is the last time we’re going to attract Mr PikeBishop’s cock drawing vote. Particularly if he sees I’ve screwed a blog post out of it. But the point is, old-fashioned Rennardism scored a tiny babystep victory here.
Part of the reason Labour tanked on Thursday is because, anecdotally, they’ve lost their activist base. The leaflet-pushers and door-knockers are either pissed off after ten years of being ignored by the central party, horrified by policies like the axing of the 10p band which appear to undercut everything they believe in, or they’ve gone on to better things (and lost them). The kind of attrition that has worked itself out in the cabinet since 1997 leaving us under the yoke of the present sorry bunch of losers is just as applicable at the bottom of the hierarchy – and a hierarchy is exactly what it is. I’m not an uncritical fan of leafletting, despite actually rather enjoying the process itself. But a keen sprig with a bunch of leaflets in the right place at the right time clearly worked its magic on Mr PB.
However, lest the leaflet fanciers among us get too complacent we should remember it can also go horribly wrong, as this exclusive photograph taken in Picton ward in Liverpool at 7am on Thursday morning demonstrates:
It appears that the Labour activist who got there before our lot ignored the warning on the upper notice, with the resultant crucifxion as shown on the lower notice.
We, er, won Picton.