Tuesday, October 9, 2007


What do you think of conspiracy theories? Me, not much. I want to get Crazy Paul from chess club on film, so that I can get his thoughts on the record. He's full of conspiracy theories particularly about 9/11. Problem is that many of them contradict each other - and when that happens, I always challenge him. It makes him look ridiculous and everybody laughs at him, but of course he brushes off the brickbats and soon finds another wild goose chase. Sad really.

But the best way to learn about conspiracy theories is when you find yourself accused of some misdeed out of the blue. And then, on the thinnest amount of evidence (or maybe none) adherents to the theory pop up. Here's a good example. If anyone has any information on what causes people to pathologise, that might be useful.

To say that I am not interested in IT is something of an under-statement. Along with cars, gadgets and most other things that boys are supposed to take an unhealthy interest in, I just don't care about how computers work. This is fairly well known, but would rather ruin the Political Penguin's line of thinking.

The ironic thing is that Political Penguin aka failed Labour council candidate Gareth Walker spends his time archiving my work. I'm sure that West Midlands Labour has a few members who don't have a screw loose. I'm yet to encounter them. Stalkers* - a political blogging hazard.

* - A rule of thumb is that the more you have the better the job you're doing!

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Subject Matter Expertise - A Key Element To Political Blogging

Expertise can cover anything from the pavement politics in a council ward, through to global geo-politics, but your thoughts need to be insightful to stand out. It’s OK to admit to uncertainty sometimes, but if you’re always groping around a subject without an understanding of the basics, it’s hardly edifying. It’s just my point of view, but there is little I find less endearing than political views that are ill-informed. Everyone’s entitled to their opinion, but when someone’s views are grounded in ignorance or blind loyalty, they deserve little respect.

It might be tough to be a model of consistency, but most respected political bloggers have a firm set of political principles and a deep interest in their subject matter. You might have thought this would be a given for anyone in politics, but I disagree. To illustrate, whilst John Redwood’s authoritative contributions to the debate on UK competitiveness demonstrated his subject matter expertise, convictions and principles – the responses of many Labour politicians were juvenile tosh.

Your naturally strong interest in a subject should be supplemented with further reading and research. This would include government reports and inquiries, internet searches and topical books by experts, but I’ve been known to go further. For example, I might contact a known expert in the field for extra reading or to find out what is at the cutting edge of the debate. I remember being pointed to an excellent piece of research by the London Chamber of Commerce into what was known as the DTI that I would never have found by traditional means. I recommend political bloggers to get out from behind their PCs and talk to people.

A final bit of advice is to show your best side. Have some awareness of where your strengths lie and try to avoid topics where you are out of your depth. So, technical expertise has to be married with focus. Focus your blogging on what you know. It’s better to build up a strong reputation in a few select areas than a mediocre reputation across the board. And if there has been a major development in one of your focus areas, there is a certain obligation on you to give an opinion.

The above can be time-consuming and after a year’s blogging I had quite a few themes running through my blog. That’s part of the reason why I thought it was better to stop altogether rather than attempt to keep all the balls in the air.