Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose

Hi folks! As you’re probably tired of hearing by now, 2007 saw some significant changes, with the formation of an SNP Government, and Gordon Brown’s long-anticipated ascent to the Premiership (having beaten Stoke City in the play-offs, boom boom), so, as Duncan promised, I’m here to look at how Scottish bloggers have adapted to the changes.

Let’s be paradoxical and start at the end – of Jack McConnell’s tenure, that is. Take a look at this post by Tartan Hero, in which he suggests that Labour have done nothing for the East End of Glasgow while in power. IndyGal, meanwhile, looks at Labour’s record on poverty, while Richard Thomson runs the rule over Labour’s record on education. This is something you’d expect: a government is coming to the end of its term, so it’s a good chance for opposition parties to get in there and take those in charge to task over their performance in administration.

Now, this is where the problem starts: as Roundups throughout the year will testify, the Scottish blogosphere suffers from a paucity of Labour blogs, so there’s very little opportunity for the governing party (or in Scotland’s case, the lead governing party) to put its case across online. And when it does, it has an almost ‘oppositionist’ feel to it. This post over at Ridiculous Politics is essentially a look at SNP policy shifts over the years – no positive content. By contrast, Kezia Dugdale does point out the Labour Party’s stance on green issues. However, even in that post, she makes it clear that she is unimpressed with the Greens. And the SNP.

So it would appear that the blogosphere was a pretty venomous place before the election, but then, with an ugly campaign, it’s only natural that the online battle would reflect that. And the long campaign itself generated a lot of interest: when LibDem MSP Jamie Stone accused the SNP of xenophobia, the reaction by SNP-supporting bloggers was swift, and hostile, as we can see over at Tartan Hero. Criticism then spread to Nicol Stephen, as this posed by Richard Thomson exemplifies.

Nicol Stephen was far from the only leader to cop it though: back in February, Davie Hutchison was noting Jack McConnell’s absence from campaigning efforts, while Kezia Dugdale had a pop at the SNP for registering “Alex Salmond for First Minister” as an alternative name with the Electoral Commission.

So this was a negative campaign, and the blogosphere picked that up, though there were some voices of exasperation – mine included. However, Kezia Dugdale gave me plenty of food for thought when she presented a highly credible, and well-argued, case in favour of the tactic.

Despite that, for some, the blog was an important campaigning tool, and some used it as an excellent way to get their message and policies across. The best example of this is undoubtedly Julie McAnulty, an independent candidate in Coatbridge & Chryston, standing in protest against planned changes in NHS Lanarkshire which would leave Monklands Hospital without its A&E Department. A browse through the archive of her blog will give you a good idea of the issues she was (and still is) campaigning on, and what her position is.

So in many ways, the election was more of a blessed release than anything else. Or at least it should have been until it became a stramash of epic proportions, and anyone who was anyone was reading Mr. Eugenides on election night.

But despite the uncertainty of the result, an SNP minority government emerged, and by the time Parliament – having got round to choosing a Presiding Officer – met to select a First Minister, the election of Alex Salmond was widely expected.

The thing was, though, that for bloggers, very little did actually change. Yes, the SNP achieved in government at Holyrood, but Labour are still in power at Westminster. The upshot of this is that posts like this one by Mark McDonald in March, criticising the then Home Secretary John Reid, can be followed in July by a post like this one from Osama Saeed, taking an unhappy look at Gordon Brown’s security policy.

Even so, the other Holyrood parties still take pelters: take a look at this recent post by Calum Cashley, looking at Wendy Alexander’s position on the constitution, or this one by Osama Saeed on the LibDems’ differing approach to Wendygate and Trumpton.

One last note on Holyrood: the egg-throwing blogs. World of Jack was basically an online method of pointing and laughing at Jack McConnell. Obviously, the blog is now obsolete (and there is as yet no sign of ‘World of Wendy’ or ‘World of Gordon’), but HolyroodBelle had a way with Photoshop. After the election, Labour (and the blogroll makes it blatant that it’s Labour’s doing) tried their hand at a similar tactic at A Little Fishy, though the humour content was lower and the last post was in August. A parallel attempt (again, made by Labour) is over at Parliamentary Questions, which sounds like it covers politics in general, but markets itself as “The spin tackling, political angling, line untangling, politician baiting, murky water trawling, Salmond farm cage rattling blog” and is utterly in line with the expectations raised by the marketing. It has survived (unlike Fishy), but sadly, is remarkably po-faced and a little bit of Photoshoppy goodness wouldn’t go amiss. Also, I don’t think it’s really all that effective at this stage in the Parliamentary cycle: come late 2010, it’ll have its place, but it’s too soon for it now.

Then there was Westminster. In many ways, I can’t really dress this up as a change, as there was, since the Labour Conference in 2006, a grim inevitability about Gordon Brown taking over before the Autumn of 2007, and so it proved, with Blair handing over the reins of power in late June. This meant that people had their thoughts ready about Brown before he even came to power: IndyGal, Caron and Julie were all unimpressed.

And with one election over with, another seemed in the offing: IndyGal was ready for an Autumn election, as was Jeff at SNP Tactical Voting. So when Gordon Brown pulled the plug, Kezia Dugdale was disappointed. Reactionary Snob felt somewhat more strongly than that. From there on, it was downright hostility, and Roundups passim chart bloggers’ hostile reaction to practically everything emerging from Westminster, particularly on Northern Rock and the lost HMRC discs.

So, nothing seems to have changed: Labour are still seen as a bogeyman among Scottish bloggers, and there’s still that element of venom involved. Luckily, we’ll still be here to deal with the venom in 2008, and Reactionary Snob will be your host on Sunday. All the best!

1 comment

  1. Ta for the compliment, Will, especially as I haven’t been blogging as much as I should. Have resolved to blog more often for my New Year’s resolution. Oh, Happy New Year btw, to one and all..