LC Blog Nation: the aftermath

9:30 am - June 27th 2010

by Sunny Hundal    

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Thank you to all who came to the LC Blog Nation event. It was a lovely, sunny day and you should be commended for willing to give up your Saturday for that. We had a packed theatre hall, and I would post some pictures but I seem to have left my camera in the hall (did anyone find it?).

We also had live coverage on Twitter.

It was the first in what I hope will become an annual fixture in the political calendar. My aim was two-fold: (a) two create a space for many bloggers, activists and campaigners to meet each other and share ideas and plans; (b) discuss strategy on how the left could move forward.

The format of the event was a bit all over the place, mostly because I wanted to experiment with what would work and what wouldn’t. So, it would be great to have feedback on that – as a comment here or by email?

I’ll already take full responsibility for not factoring in enough time to eat lunch, heh.

On the discussions themselves: I think they worked best when focused specifically on how to improve in an area (abortion rights and sex education for example), less when people felt passionate about an issue but also quite helpless (Tory cuts). We want to oppose them, but how does that work in practice?

Labour Cllr Paul Cotterill is, to his credit, writing a five part series on how we should actually respond to Tory cuts rather than just talk about it (in the spirit of #BlogNation). I’m sure lots of people will develop thoughts on this in coming days and we’ll be posting those articles here.

What I liked about the panel debate was that it exposed and we discussed some of the fissures on the left, especially between the Libdem-left and the socialists, typified by Dave Osler taking umbrage at the usage of “headbangers”. Those fault-lines have to be talked about if we are to try and find any space to cooperate.

The latest polls, if used cleverly, can be used to strengthen the point that the Social Liberal Forum has been making that Clegg can’t afford to ignore the left of his party in the way that Cameron can afford to ignore the Tory right.

What I enjoyed the most perhaps was the breadth of people there…. from campaigners at Greenpeace and Mumsnet (hello Rowan!) to people from the TUC, ippr, Abortion Rights, Amnesty UK and more bloggers than you can shake a rhetorical stick at. Also, thanks to Holly, Cath and Jon who travelled very long distanced to get there.

Anyway, I think some wanted information on presentations made at the conference or contact details. Perhaps people want to use this space to make requests because I’ve forgotten them all.

I’m toying with the idea of organising more regular, small-scale discussions on specific topics (after work, probably in central London) but I don’t have access to the right sort of venue nor do I want to take up all the extra work that involves with organising such events.

Your thoughts on that, and how next year’s Blog Nation could be improved would be appreciated.

Update: Blogs following on from the event

Paul Cotterill: Resisting the cuts and what it actually means
Jim Jepps: It’s the economy, clearly, and Blog Nation: left Lib Dems
Carmen D’Cruz: Single Red Female
Anthony Barnett: BlogNation: Libs and Labs talk dirty with each other
Leo @ Climatesock: Blog Nation presentation
Dave Cross: Blog Nation 2010
Alex Snowdon: Cuts: what weapons do we need to fight back?
Alex Smith: We now need a positive vision to appeal to former Lib Dem supporters
Dave Semple: BlogNation 2010; packaging and practicality

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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 organising it – a very successful event in my view (even worth travelling from Newcastle for).

I’m surprised at you suggesting that discussion about cuts – and anti-cuts strategy – was a less successful area. I thought it was a particularly welcome aspect of the way things turned out. In my group, when we discussed issues in sub-groups, people got animated by the issue and there was lots of useful, positive discussion (and little sense of feeling ‘helpless’!).

I thought the panel discussion which included Evan Harris and Michael Meacher was interesting but too narrowly Westminster-focused. The most engaging parts of the day tended to be when discussions moved beyond those limits.

Having said that, I’m already looking forward to next year…

Thanks for an excellent day.

I’ve scribbled down some initial thoughts on the day at

As far as contact details, I’d like to see a list available to all attendees that contains everyone’s name, email address and blog URL.

3. Mike Killingworth

Is late June really the best time to hold it? The current political climate meant that it probably didn’t matter this year, but it may nonetheless be worthwhile looking at alternatives.

Obviously we’re all going to find that we liked some bits better than others – for example, I don’t think I was the only person there who was less than impressed with the calibre of the morning’s speakers.

One last question: do you see the Conference as part of a strategy to develop LC as a political “brand” in the way that Tribune or the Yellow Book are? Or are we aiming to deliver the knockout blow to the New Statesman, perhaps even providing both subscription and paid-for versions?

I thought it was a really good event, the first sessions with the smaller discussion groups were a good way for everyone to have a say. I think inevitably there was going to be more strategic detail to the discussions on abortion rights and sex education, as these are campaigns that have been underway for many years and are therefore at a relatively advanced stage compared to the nascent anti-cuts movement which is, well, nascent.

Sunny thanks so much for organising what was a thought provoking and stimulating day. I think the format worked really well. Personally, as a Lib Dem I was relieved not to get eaten for breakfast (!) – I think your idea of future events would be good for those of us in London, but maybe there is scope for regional mtgs as well

“I’m toying with the idea of organising more regular, small-scale discussions on specific topics (after work, probably in central London) but I don’t have access to the right sort of venue nor do I want to take up all the extra work that involves with organising such events.”

I think this is a great idea. Re venues, assuming you’re only expecting 20 or 30 people, you could probably do rooms above pubs, to be honest.

Also, re organising – I think once they’re an established thing you could to a certain extent farm them out to someone you trust. Use the LC brandname and mailing lists, but let someone else do a lot of the heavy lifting.

(Oh, also, thanks for Saturday, it was great. Obv.)

8. Rowan Davies

Hey Sunny – I really enjoyed it, and for a first pass I thought it went brilliantly.

I would have liked (as Evan said) more focus on specific policy issues and a bit less conceptual chin-stroking, but that’s just my bent!

My previous experience of these things is that the energy always starts to drop after four or five hours – if it’s in any way practical, you might like to consider having a two-day event with shorter days.

Also, the final ‘pitch’ session was crying out for some sort of Britain’s Got Talent-style bell, to stop individual speakers using too much time; I’m sure I wasn’t alone in finding some of the pitches fascinating and others less so (not to criticise anyone’s pitch, we all find some things more interesting than others), and it was a shame that not everyone got to speak.

Finally, a big ‘hello’ to everyone I met – I’m terrible with names, but it was great to be in a room with so many committed and intelligent people, and be able to pick people’s brains on their areas of expertise.

I am, as a matter of principle, available for any event based in a pub.

9. Flowerpower

are we aiming to deliver the knockout blow to the New Statesman, perhaps even providing both subscription and paid-for versions?

The NS has a proprietor, Mike Danson, with a personal fortune estimated to be in the region of £200 million, so I won’t hold my breath ’til Sunny wins the Euromillions lottery.

10. Mike Killingworth

[9] It’s a scandal that the Staggers is allowed to be a vanity tool of the mega-rich. How much did he pay for it? Am I right in thinking that if it were turned into a co-op it would have to close because it can’t make ends meet?

@MikeK ; Correct, the Staggers always loses money.
But: let’s not get tribal here. Do you really want the Staggers to fail? Do you really want the Spectator to be unchallenged among weeklies?
The Staggers is a LOT LOT better than nothing. And nothing may well be the alternative.
(Unless we get Liberal Conspiracy to become a print thing one of these days – not impossible! We need to aim high, if we are to develop a left _movement_ like the conservative movement in America, which is what we need to aim for, and what seemed encouragingly on the agenda, on Saturday afternoon, in the discussion about what the planned bloggers’ co-op could grow into, etc.).

Alex – wow you came down from Newscastle? Damn, that deserved a shout-out on the day. I thought Cath Elliott was a trooper for coming from Norwich! (she is a trooper anyway, but Newcastle… damn!).

The most engaging parts of the day tended to be when discussions moved beyond those limits.

I think a mix of Westminster and activism is the best. I wouldn’t just have one….

Dave Cross – hmmmm, interesting suggestions. But I’m not sure SEO optimisation would do a lot to help – surely political stuff is always going to be just read by a minority?
Especially given the detail we get into!

Mike – yes I’m thinking that late Feb might actually be better. Or at least a time when the weather isn’t that great.

In terms of strategy – I want to create a space for left-wing discussion and activism outside of the usual suspects. I also want to give these days a different slant than most other leftie discussions by focusing on activism and strategy than just debate.

There are no plans to deliver a “knockout blow” to the Staggers. They’re part of the left and I’m not competing against them in the least.

Thanks Chaminda and Linda!

Jonn – the point about pubs is actually excellent. I hadn’t thought of that… but maybe that’s a way forward.

Hi Rowan – yes I think the bell would have been good! But I think most ppl did a great job of keeping their contributions short and to the point. I enjoyed all of them, honestly! There was some excellent energy and vibrancy in that hall.

13. Mike Killingworth

[12] My congratulations too to everyone who came from out of town – hopefully you had a mate’s place to stay at if you couldn’t get back home on Saturday evening.

And thanks for those thoughts, Sunny – I wonder if we should start to think about local chapters (well I suppose we already are thinking about them). So maybe the time is coming to “plant” them with inaugural meetings during the second half of the year in selected localities based on the postcodes of the good folk on your list. I don’t think it fair to ask you to organise them (or, indeed, healthy for the Conspiracy itself) so the initial task, once the areas had been identified, would be to call for (small – two or three people tops) organising committees. Hopefully each chapter could have its own page on the site eventually although initially a “Community Conspiracy” page would do.

Late February – wasn’t that when we met in Warren Street in that snowstorm? I would suggest just before or just after the spring “electioneering season” i.e. late March or mid May. Just an idea for the mix.

Local chapters require a much larger, more robust organisation if they are to extend outside London. Groups like the Labour Representation Committee and the Convention of the Left have all tried this and been abysmal failures. Even political parties which dwarf the numbers in the hall on Saturday – the Socialist Party or the Labour Party in some areas – have trouble maintaining a critical mass that allows local chapters to do anything substantive.

15. Mike Killingworth

Dave, do you have any thoughts on how to organise (among others) the 300,000 people who have handed in their Labour Party card in the last decade? Perhaps they have all given up on the prospect of political action being able to change anything (and the failure of the demonstrations to affect government policy on the Iraq war may have dispirted many) but we could at least try to find out, surely.

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