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.