Is CCHQ planning to issue memos to bloggers?


1:30 pm - February 3rd 2010

by Sunny Hundal    


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An interesting email arrived in our inbox this morning.

A treat for you. The guestlist for last nights tory bloggers drinks held at 6.30 in the Tweed room of the City Inn.

Eric Pickles and the CCHQ press team told the bloggers they would be given 7am briefing emails or “talk point memos” during the election campaign which would include the days lines and strategy and rebuttals to Labour attacks.

Update: This above bit hasn’t been confirmed.

But we were also tipped off on the invitations list:

CentreRight / Big Brother Watch A Conservative’s blog, Tory at Sea, The Blue Idea, CentreRight, Platform 10 / Thoughts From North Durham, Blaney’s Blarney, Political Piffle, evanprice.blogspot.com, Terrible Tory Girl, Tory Bear, Londoner’s Diary, Right Honourable Lady, Iain Dale’s Diary, James Burdett, Tory Politico, John Ward in Medway, Conservative Home, A Very British Dude, Man in a Shed, Wardman Wire, TrueBlueBlood, Burning our Money, Mike Rouse Ltd., Nadine Dorries, conservatives4heroes, Tory Aadvark, Oberon Houston, Dizzy Thinks, Shane Greer, Simon Emmett, Stratford Conservative, Daily Referendum, London Spin, Daily Referendum, Steven Adams, Byrne Tofferings, Party Reptile, Tim Roll, Blue Blog, Tory Rascal, Tory Totty, Croydonian, theconservativeblog, DavidCameronFacts, Guy The Mac, TheRedRag.

I’ve stripped out the real names and email addresses. Some of the bloggers mentioned above didn’t attend. And we haven’t confirmed whether they all received invitations, but many have confirmed they did.

Sending out a ‘talking points memo’ has been an old trick with the Republican right and it wouldn’t surprise me if CCHQ copied it here.

After all, it does follow cosy dinners with Tory bloggers.

It’s however difficult to see some like Matt Wardman follow the line set by CCHQ as they are avowedly non-partisan.

Similarly, the likes of Thomas Byrne are unlikely to swallow any anti-EU propaganda. Dizzy recently claimed he is no longer a Tory but he hates Labour enough to follow.

But if a memo was issued, it’s likely most right-wing bloggers mentioned would toe it while desperately burnishing their ‘independent’ credentials.

It could also be that CCHQ is planning to outsource their negative campaigning to bloggers.

It’ll be interesting to see if right-wing bloggers jump on similar stories during the day on an issue.

After all, Tories have coordinated attacks in the past on the Financial Times and the Telegraph.

Update: Note that as soon as Left Foot Forward published, presumably having gotten the same email, they were almost instantly attacked by many on our list.

Damn, that memo machine is working already. Let the games begin!

Update 2: Matt Wardman confirms a briefing with bloggers took place.

Update 3: A Stratford Conservative lets slip:

As Eric Pickles said this is the first real election to be faught online so lets make sure we win it!

No, that doesn’t sound like trying to rally bloggers for a Tory cause at all.

Update 4: I’ve also been told a senior Tory in the comms team sent out an email to bloggers asking them to comment on Will Straw’s article. Nope, absolutely no coordination at all.

Samuel Coates said this recently:

That said, the real strength of the centre-right blogosphere up to now has not been in working together or toeing lines. Its strength has been its independent spirit.

And who believes that any more?

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Reader comments


Thanks for this Sunny – just about to forward it to John Rentoul for the latest in his series of “Questions to which the answer is ‘no’.”

But it’s likely most right-wing bloggers mentioned would toe the line: while desperately burnishing their independent credentials.

Ooh, look, it’s me! Fame and recognition at last. Sadly, no 7am briefing email, but you can’t win ’em all.

Don’t be disheartened Tim, I’m sure you’ll get one eventually. It may help you to copy and paste them here instead of writing them from scratch 😉

Very amusing to see Tory Bear on that list too.

Did you know that when you tell such obvious lies, you look like an idiot?

I can’t help but think of that line from the first episode of the Thick of It:

“And they pasted onto them a porn picture of a girl sucking a big cock and they wrote “Angela Heaney swallows anything””

Very amusing to see Tory Bear on that list too.

Why? Apparently the drinks were free.

I couldn’t go, by the way, ‘cos I have a baby and it was my turn to leave the office ‘on time’ to look after her.

Ahhh.. it looks like the memo has gone around to come here and deny the story too.

An anonymous source has told me that Sunny Hundal decides whether or not anonymous sources can be trusted by putting it through the ‘Is it True?’ test.

The test, which includes questions like, “Does it confirm everything we know about the Tories behaving in reprehensible and evil ways?” was used to confirm that the source for the accusations of a CCHQ controlled blogging based spin machine to be 100% reliable.

My source says that this information is ROCK SOLID and 100% factual.

9. Oberon Houston

Eric didn’t mention briefing’s for bloggers, thats something an over motivated ‘Next’ suited NuLab drone would like I think – are there any left or are they all in cabinet 😀

He did mention that that someone twittered that he was eating a donut though.

Sunny, is this story a plant to test our rebuttal times – after a gallon or so of cheap plonk it is a bit below par today I admit.

Heh, well Charlotte, people are of course welcome to make up their own minds.

But it seems to be true that some sort of briefing event was held yesterday. Interesting that, no?

And I’m so disillusioned too. I thought Tory bloggers were independent. #crushed

What I find funniest is that I didn’t even go, just as I didn’t go to the infamous Christmas lunch.

For the record:

1 – Yes I was invited to attend.
2 – Yes I accepted.
3 – Yes I made clear that we are non-partisan as a site (more Labs than Tories if you count them) before accepting, while I am personally right leaning on most areas as is well known.
4 – No I didn’t attend (for personal reasons).
5 – So no idea what was said.
6 – No idea about the “Talking Points”, but I’d expect all parties to be putting them out to selected bloggers, if they aren’t already. If offered I would probably not accept from any party. You would have to ask my contributors what they are doing on their own sites.
7 – I really don’t think that *any* party is silly enough to try and run a large scale under the radar operation these days.
8 – If the Tories were trying to keep it quiet it would have been in Winchester not Westminster.

Matt

8 – Can anyne

Oops. Sorry for the orphan line.

Is there nothing to blog about today or something? This is a complete non-story.

There is no briefing email of “talking points”.

haha big difference between a briefing and a drinks party mate.

“[List of various right-wing blogs now stripped out since we know how some of them are so eager to reach for libel lawyers]”

WTF?

17. Oberon Houston

TB – Did you get the pillows?

If there *isn’t* a Tory plan in place to bung sympathetic bloggers a few policy positions and handy rebuttals to opposing views, then the Stupid Party is even more stupid than I thought.

Likewise for Labour, the Lib Dems, etc. etc. etc.

It’s a sensible (if depressing), increasingly essential part of modern political campaigning – if only thanks to the Google-juice bloggers can provide, no political party can afford to *not* try and get the buggers onside – just as they can’t afford to *not* astroturf on high-profile political discussion forums.

List of various right-wing blogs now stripped out since we know how some of them are so eager to reach for libel lawyers

Um? Nothing remotely libellous about that list. It was, of course, bad manners by whoever leaked it, but manners aren’t justiciable…

Maybe you just wanted to remove the oxygen of publicity…

What Tim J said. Put it back Sunny.

21. Oberon Houston

What a laugh, don’t think suing you for the ÂŁ2.80 on your Oyster card is worth it Sunny.

I just wanted to legally check something so temporarily took it out. Now back in.

Just some more updates – it seems not all Tory bloggers are as independent as they claim eh?

No, that doesn’t sound like trying to rally bloggers for a Tory cause at all.

Of course it’s bloody rallying bloggers for a Tory cause. Most of the people on that libellous list are Tory sodding bloggers. It is, as Nosemonkey points out, plain common sense for parties to try and get supportive bloggers onside. Don’t you spend half your time at conferences talking about ‘digital engagement’ between Government and leftist bloggers?

Its strength has been its independent spirit.

And who believes that any more?

If I ever do get sent a ‘talking points’ email, I’ll read it, and then decide what, if anything, I want to do about it. Independent see? If it’s interesting I might even blog about it, what with not having an auto Rod Liddle/Dan Hannan post generator.

Why shouldn’t the Tory Party (or any party, come to that) do this?

Some bloggers may choose to use some of the information/spin they’re provided with and some may not; the same with any source.

If lots of Tory bloggers are cutting and pasting the same text and passing it off as their own, we’ll soon notice.

If there’s something really wrong or nasty in any of the memos, it’ll probably leak anyway.

I really fail to see what the problem is with this.

“let slip”??

People were tweeting the whole event. was hardly a big secret.

Sadly no Draper figure pinned journos up against walls at our meet and greet.

Just admit it guys.. You fluffed this one.

You win some you lose some…

Who said there was anything wrong with holding such an event?

Remember, Tory blogger Guido Fawkes also published a list of attendees and made a big deal when Derek Draper held his first event. And we know how all that turned out…

If lots of Tory bloggers are cutting and pasting the same text and passing it off as their own, we’ll soon notice.

Oh that happens already. I just wanted to challenge this notion that they’re somehow independent.

Just admit it guys.. You fluffed this one.

Oh you mean like #kerryout, and your hilarious attempt at defending Adeela yesterday?

Make your minds up, tory bloggers,on the one hand there isn’t a tory co-ordination of supposedly “independent” tory bloggers then it changes to ,yes there is and whats wrong with it !
Looks like the Tory spin attempt has failed at the first hurdle but it will be intersting to check the various blogs for co-ordination.

Ha i wasn’t defending her per say i was attacking sloppy journalism. Seems to be a recurring theme this week?

And with kerryout, yeah you win some you lose some, it raised a grand or so and wound the left up. Pretty much six hours well spent. And it’s not even the election yet.

So yeah are you going to row back on the duff headline?

Well, there we go then:
“CentreRight / Big Brother Watch A Conservative’s blog, Tory at Sea, The Blue Idea, CentreRight, Platform 10 / Thoughts From North Durham, Blaney’s Blarney, Political Piffle, evanprice.blogspot.com, Terrible Tory Girl, Tory Bear, Londoner’s Diary, Right Honourable Lady, Iain Dale’s Diary, James Burdett, Tory Politico, John Ward in Medway, Conservative Home, A Very British Dude, Man in a Shed, Wardman Wire, TrueBlueBlood, Burning our Money, Mike Rouse Ltd., Nadine Dorries, conservatives4heroes, Tory Aadvark, Oberon Houston, Dizzy Thinks, Shane Greer, Simon Emmett, Stratford Conservative, Daily Referendum, London Spin, Daily Referendum, Steven Adams, Byrne Tofferings, Party Reptile, Tim Roll, Blue Blog, Tory Rascal, Tory Totty, Croydonian, theconservativeblog, DavidCameronFacts, Guy The Mac, TheRedRag.”

Absolute proof that I’m not a Tory.

Oh that happens already. I just wanted to challenge this notion that they’re somehow independent.

And did you? All I saw was ‘bloggers get invited to drinks; see Eric Pickles’. If I start following a script, I’ll let you know.

Remember, Tory blogger Guido Fawkes also published a list of attendees and made a big deal when Derek Draper held his first event. And we know how all that turned out


And when we get sent fabricated libellous rumours about the spouses of Labour politicians to circulate, then that parallel might be appropriate.

Ah, that explains this selection of tweets from my young padawan Einy Shah of the Mayor’s Peer Outreach Team (her blog’s on the list):

@EricPickles Was a pleasure meeting you, Eric.

@keeprightonline Was lovely meeting you tonight.

@shanegreer Was lovely meeting you today, Shane. Enjoy the karaoke!

All timed about 8pm on the 2nd. Since Einy’s, if nothing else, a fervent megaphone for Tory soundbites it’s interesting to note that’s the calibre of person invited (30 blog posts in four months or so doesn’t make you Iain Dale, does it?). I’ll ask her how it went, she’s usually keen to talk about herself.

Apart from that, what Nosemonkey said. Of course they’re going to do this, they’re not *that* stupid, although watching some of the people on the list try to pretend they’re not merely acting as conduits will be amusing.

Tim Worstall – much as I like to hate on Tories, you’re with UKIP. I really hope you don’t think, for your own sanity, that’s somehow better.

And when we get sent fabricated libellous rumours about the spouses of Labour politicians to circulate, then that parallel might be appropriate.

Other than CCHQ idiots trying to smear journalists and leaving comments on left-blogs while not declaring who they are – of course no sign of dirty tactics.

TB: Ha i wasn’t defending her per say i was attacking sloppy journalism. Seems to be a recurring theme this week?

hah! Proof you guys really do live on a different planet. Have you seen the comments underneath that post (which you belatedly approved once everyone had moved on) about the nature of CCJs?

I approved them late cause i went out and got pissed without a my blackberry!

Other than CCHQ idiots trying to smear journalists and leaving comments on left-blogs while not declaring who they are – of course no sign of dirty tactics

Leaving anonymous comments on websites =/= McBride and Draper. I assume you know this?

And when we get sent fabricated libellous rumours about the spouses of Labour politicians to circulate, then that parallel might be appropriate.

If that’s the case, then you need to start hoping that Labour’s bag carriers start to become just as indiscreet as the ones working for your MPs and party, which is where most of the rumours that Draper and McBride were chatting about actually originated.

I could, for example, tell you precise circumstances and events that resulted in the false rumour that Nadine Dorries had been dancing the horizontal mambo with an married Tory MP and party away weekend. This would show how and why that story could only have come from within CCHQ…

… but, of course, I won’t because that would also entail identifying the male MP who was tied into this rumour by nothing more than an unfortunate coincidence, and that would be deeply unfair to the guy.

Looks like you have upset the political right of the blogosphere, you naughty blogger you. How come the repeat drink driver wasn’t on the list?

I would like to defend my poor spelling. I wrote that on my iPhone at gone midnight.

If you want to check for collaborated stories why not have a look at ToryGator. All of the Tory and right wing blogs aggregated in one place.

Rather coincidentally, this afternoon: ConHome, Iain Dale and Guido all published Eric Pickles’ letter to GB calling him a liar within 30 min of each other. Attempt to influence the political agenda much?

TB I’m disappointed you didn’t get that letter. Clearly the readership isn’t large enough yet.

Perhaps you guys should have spent more time rebutting accusations at Chris Grayling – this rebuttal unit isn’t going so well is it? 😉

40. Elliot Conrad

Seems the Tory high command is following the diktats from Soviet rulers to follow the partly line to their blue rinsed supporters…so much for independence of thought!

Can’t see why any of this is news…political party seeks to extend influence online. Shocking…

Oh great, Donal Blaney’s ego set to get even bigger.

Him and Tory Bear aka Mr Cole can now feel even better about themselves and their own self importance.

Maybe they can film each other serving “writs” on people again.

So funny to see the pretentious tory bloggers, who spend 354 days of the year claiming they are independent, and that they hate big govt, proving yet again that they are a bunch of liars who are drilled just like brown shirts to obey their leaders.

As usual with conservatives, they just can’t see the hypocrisy of their ways, so they come on here and say 
..what’s the big problem? Well, now we know that you are owned and paid for, stop blathering on about freedom you liars.

“It could also be that CCHQ is planning to outsource their negative campaigning to bloggers.”

Can anyone say “status quo”? Of course, like any black ops, you have to be able to plausibly deny any affiliation to your agent. Here’s a test – call it the reverse witch test – that you can apply if the Tories win the election. If an “independent” attack blog ends a year of inevitably controversial Conservative government stronger than it was before, then the author’s not a closet Tory.

I don’t know who the hell posted @37 but it wasn’t me

Ollie…

There’s another ‘Red Rag’, if you check the commenter link…

I know I was joking, I have seen him on LabourLost. He decided Draper’s plan was so good he went and implemented it, you must all be so proud of him. I just clicked the link so that will have doubled his readership for this month 🙂

What a pathetic article.

If an “independent” attack blog ends a year of inevitably controversial Conservative government stronger than it was before, then the author’s not a closet Tory.

How many even nominally independent attack blogs are there? The bloggers on the list above are (mostly) explicitly Tory bloggers, that was rather the point. It’s just a bit of that good old digital engagement that Sunny’s usually so much in favour of.

Sunny,

Does it worry so many of the Conservative bloggers named seem to read you. Or have CCHQ sent round a briefing to come and deny the existence of briefings…

If you read most of those you are commenting on here, you might get the idea they tend to be bloggers (i.e. to set down what they are thinking) not political message transmitters. They are the same as you (although none of them think I wear fetching tinfoil hats, but then again I don’t pick on them as much as you). So if they receive the likely to materialise emails a third will mention the point (as they support the party and think it is helpful), a third will ignore it and the other third will either publish it wholesale or criticise it. Pretty much the same as would happen if Labour sent out the same to you and other left-wing commentators.

You do realise that politicians are aware bloggers are a double-edged sword don’t you? (silly metaphor – wouldn’t a double-edged sword be more dangerous?) It would take some sort of lunatic control freak detached from reality to assume that they could simply use bloggers to further their own agenda. For all Eric Pickle’s personality, I don’t think that describes him, do you?

Tim J, the most prominent British attack blogger is going through lobbyists and room bookings by MPs at the moment. Surprisingly, all but one of the MPs found to have booked for dodgy or amusing clients is Labour, and the other is Lib Dem. Is this a coincidence?


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Thomas Byrne

    Now @libcon talk about me. Lovely. http://bit.ly/cEHHew Too bad the story isn't true.

  2. sunny hundal

    Ooooh! RT @libcon: Is CCHQ issuing 'memo' instructions to bloggers? http://bit.ly/cEHHew

  3. Chris Paul

    RT @pickledpolitics: Ooooh! RT @libcon: Is CCHQ issuing 'memo' instructions to bloggers? http://bit.ly/cEHHew

  4. Stuart Pearce

    good old libertarians! RT @pickledpolitics Ooooh! RT @libcon: Is CCHQ issuing 'memo' instructions to bloggers? http://bit.ly/cEHHew

  5. Dizzy Thinks

    I didn't go to an event but I remain part of the machine just for getting an invite. http://tinyurl.com/yc6vq9s oops brb, Langley on phone

  6. sunny hundal

    Aha! @mattwardman confirms there was a CCHQ briefing with bloggers. Tories very quick to deny all: http://bit.ly/cEHHew

  7. Chris Paul

    RT @pickledpolitics: Aha! @mattwardman confirms there was a CCHQ briefing with bloggers. Tories very quick to deny all: http://bit.ly/cEHHew

  8. CathElliott

    Liberal Conspiracy » Is CCHQ issuing ‘memo’ instructions to bloggers? http://bit.ly/d2J6pj

  9. sunny hundal

    Updates to 'Tory bloggers briefing' story, incl Tories letting it slip what Eric Pickles said: http://bit.ly/cEHHew

  10. Liberal Conspiracy

    Updates to 'Tory bloggers briefing' story, incl Tories letting it slip what Eric Pickles said: http://bit.ly/cEHHew

  11. Maggie Thatcher

    @HouseofTwits @pickledpolitics why wasn't @ericpickled invited? http://bit.ly/cEHHew

  12. Kate Muggins

    Is CCHQ issuing 'memo' instructions to bloggers? http://bit.ly/cEHHew (via @libcon)

  13. Claire Butler

    RT @libcon Is CCHQ issuing ‘memo’ instructions to bloggers? http://bit.ly/9bK7Qe

  14. Matthew Taylor

    @pickledpolitics 'cos you never follow up stories from someone else, do you? Oh, wait… http://bit.ly/cmjDR3

  15. Liberal Conspiracy

    Is CCHQ issuing 'memo' instructions to bloggers? http://bit.ly/cEHHew

  16. Stuart Pearce

    good old libertarians! RT pickledpolitics Ooooh! RT @libcon: Is CCHQ issuing 'memo' instructions to bloggers? http://bit.ly/cEHHew

  17. uberVU - social comments

    Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by ByrneTofferings: Now @libcon talk about me. Lovely. http://bit.ly/cEHHew Too bad the story isn’t true….

  18. House Of Twits

    RT @pickledpolitics Updates to 'Tory bloggers briefing' story, incl Tories letting it slip what Eric Pickles said: http://bit.ly/cEHHew

  19. Maggie Thatcher

    @ericpickled what you been up to now you slag?! http://bit.ly/cEHHew where was my invite for http://www.maggiethatcher.com ?

  20. Malcolm Bracken

    How pathetic is this? http://liberalconspiracy.org/2010/02/03/is-cchq-issuing-memo-instructions-to-bloggers/

  21. Welcome to 2004 « ROW

    […] to 2004 2010 February 4 by evealiceb I find it so bizarre that it’s scandal-worthy that the Tories will be supplying right-wing bloggers with daily talking points as part of their […]

  22. S Smethurst-McIntyre

    @DeclanLyons at least your typo didn't get quoted on liberal conspiracy. The left will think we can't spell! http://bit.ly/cLCBS4

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