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Last Updated: Wednesday, 3 January 2007, 15:52 GMT
Alan Connor's political blog guide
Alan Connor
By Alan Connor

SPEAKERS' CORNER
Alan Connor on BBC2's Daily Politics
It allows people who aren't party and privy to the Westminster set to create debates of their own
Iain Duncan Smith

We all know that blogs are doing something interesting to British politics - but still few of us have much of an idea what weblogs actually are.

If you're one of the blogerati, you may prefer to skip another description of this complex and ever-changing system of self-publishing. If you're new to weblogs though, you may be wondering what makes them different from websites of old.

The most important thing is that they allow you to concentrate wholly on the writing: you can know next to nothing about computers and still have a good-looking website. At the same time, technology has moved along, which means that blogs can allow comments from users and link to each other in various useful ways.

And among an estimated 50 million blogs, there's no shortage of talk about politics. Here are some to get you started.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external websites
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external websites
Political gossip blogs are the ones which are currently attracting the most readers, which shouldn't be a surprise. They're among the funniest of the sites on offer, and there's always been a market for the scurrilous end of political coverage. And scurrilous is what you get at sites like Order Order, which is run by a libertarian troublemaker under the name "Guido Fawkes". Political junkies may find Guido's tittle-tattle irresistible, but for those of a shockable disposition, the BBC caveat about not being responsible for external websites applies double. Guido has also branched out into podcasting with another gossip blogger, Recess Monkey, where the sympathies are with New Labour, but the tone is hardly reverent. A recent new source of gossip is the splendidly-named Iain Dale's Diary, where the former Tory candidate offers podcasts, newsletters and traditional blogging, and one post states the philosophy of many weblogs: "It's Up to the Blogs to Make it Hit the Fan."

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external websites
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external websites
Commentary is another avenue taken by a lot of blogs. Bloggers can find it hard to do traditional journalism, since they lack the hours, contacts and access of their cousins in print and broadcast. But political commentary is open to anyone who can write. (Most can't, of course, but then the same applies to the papers.) Some good places to start would be ConservativeHome, which gives a better picture of the state of the Tory party than any of the official sites; the site it inspired, LabourHome (strapline: "back to the roots"); Post Political Times, where former Lib Dem MP Richard Allan has the time to be thoughtful and the Adam Smith Institute Blog, your one-stop shop for free market snippets.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external websites
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external websites
Campaigning blogs keep appearing on the scene. Make My Vote Count has electoral reform in its sights, but offers a good overview of British politics; LibDem Blogs does what it says on the banner, aggregating from dozens of yellow-liveried campaign sites and Backing Blair does the opposite of what it says on the banner, offering news and campaigning tools in the hope that you'll get "Labour in - Blair out".

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external websites
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external websites
Linkblogs are one the oldest and snappiest uses of the technology. If you find a blog like this that you enjoy, it's a good way of getting a daily digest of articles and stories from other blogs and from the papers. The bewilderingly prolific Tim Worstall has a sometime focus on economics, but covers the gamut with élan; the same applies to Europhobia with regard to the EU and The Virtual Stoa keeps the blogosphere's brainy Marxist wing up to speed.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external websites
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external websites
Satirical blogs are where lampooners do the same as the commentators above. Computers have let bloggers do what would have needed an edit suite or developing studio not so long ago. In the world of satirical manipulation of photos and images, the best are Beau Bo D'Or and Bloggerheads, there are animations at Eclectech, and old-fashioned tasteless text at Chase Me, Ladies, I'm In The Cavalry.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external websites
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external websites
Finally, there are the opinion blogs, which do much the same job as newspaper columnists - sometimes better; sometimes worse. The writing you enjoy the most may not be from bloggers whose politics you share: the easiest way is to dive in, try a few, follow the links from their "blogrolls", and remember the ones you've liked. In no particular order, then, have a peek at Dodgeblogium, Councillor Bob Piper, A Big Stick & A Small Carrot,Chicken Yoghurt, Blithering Bunny, Harry's Place, Samizdata and Blood & Treasure.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external websites.
If you're overwhelmed with bookmarks, the best thing you can do is read about how RSS can help you manage your new reading.

And no round-up of UK political blogs would be complete without a tip of the hat to the BBC's own bloggers, including Nick Robinson's Newslog, Newsnight's Idle Scrawl and Martin Rosenbaum's Freedom of Information blog Open Secrets.



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