Nicholas Jones - Blog and Archive Website

How Conservative bloggers are out in front in the blogsphere.

Speech to Fondazione Farefuturo, Rome, July 3, 2007

For a political party in opposition, being ahead of the game in exploiting new forms of media might prove to be just as important in terms of fighting an election as devising an effective campaign message. It was the sure-footed way in which the Labour Party took advantage of the expansion in television news channels and programmes in the late 1980s and early 1990s which helped to propel Tony Blair to a landslide victory in the British general election of 1997.

Ten years later, despite three successive election defeats, it is activists in the Conservative Party who are dictating the pace in using websites and blogs to promote and debate the Tory agenda. Initially the bloggers did not get much help or even encouragement from the party leadership, but there is now a better appreciation of their potential to improve the electoral chances of David Cameron while at the same time making life uncomfortable for the Labour government. And, perhaps more significantly, it is definitely bloggers from the right rather than from the left who are managing to establish themselves as a new generation of political commentators and pundits. Their views are increasingly being sought by the traditional news media, such as newspapers, television and radio. Their websites have become instant sounding boards for political opinion and as a result they are closer to the party membership

Speech to Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation, London

June 21, 2007

 

What was so demeaning about Tony Blair's appeal to journalists to recognise the downside of the 24-hour news media was his failure to address his own relationship with the newspaper proprietors.  By avoiding entirely what was so obviously a no-go area, the Prime Minister undermined his own critique on the ills of modern journalism.

An early test of whether Gordon Brown is serious about his promise to turn his back on putting too much emphasis on presentation will be the approach to be adopted by Michael Ellam, his newly appointed official spokesman. Ellam takes over on June 27, 2007, the day Tony Blair steps down as Prime Minister. Will the new Downing Street mouthpiece remain nameless? Will Prime Minister Brown be dogged by the spin and subterfuge of the Blair years? Nicholas Jones, who has spent thirty years monitoring No. 10’s relationship with the news media writes an open letter to Ellam.

Whether you like him or loathe him, Tony Blair is a consummate communicator and for the Labour Party’s spin doctors he was always a joy to work with. Once the line was agreed, the Prime Minister rarely if ever deviated from the message which he had been asked to deliver.

And again, while his speaking style might not suit all tastes, he is eloquent, he can be passionate, switching easily from anger to charm, and he can deftly bridge an awkward moment with a self-deprecating joke.

On becoming an MP in 1983, Blair’s all-too-evident political ambition marked him out at Westminster and not surprisingly his potential appeal to the electorate of middle England, first noticed by Peter Mandelson, was then ruthlessly exploited by Alastair Campbell.

While grave mistakes were undoubtedly made and many questions remain unanswered, the security service MI5 deserves to be commended on the manner in which it published a detailed account of one of the largest anti-terrorist surveillance operations in its history. On the completion of the Old Bailey trial at which five men were jailed for life, MI5 immediately released a dossier of data on its website. All sections of the news media -- and the rest of the world -- had simultaneous access to the same information.

One of the country’s most secretive organisations -- which over the years has leaked like a sieve to selected journalists -- was demonstrating that it is possible to ensure equal access and a level playing field for the media. Whatever the shortcomings in its account as to how the July 7 London bombers slipped through the net, MI5 reminded the government, on the day before Tony Blair celebrated the competition of a decade in power, that there are alternative communication strategies to the squalid and politically corrupt spin routines which have so besmirched the Labour administration.

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