Bullying blogs and flying Blair

How blogs can be used by bullies, online political campaigning and a rational Stephen Pollard...

Iain Dale kicked off the week by hosting the first ever episode of the internet TV programme ‘Blogger TV’ through 18DoughtyStreet.com. Guests included the blogger of Recess Monkey and Labour Home, Alex Hilton, who featured in Monday morning’s MediaGuardian. The programme is well worth a watch as it discusses “bullying” on blogs and explores the suggestion that people are more likely to be insulting to other users online but would never dream of doing this face-to-face.

Described as a “grassroots political guru”, Alex Hilton has recently been hired by Hilary Benn, in the run-up to the election for the deputy leadership of the Labour party. John Kerry gained support in the 2004 US presidential election through MoveOn.org which has lent some ideas to Benn’s new web strategy. Interactivity will be the primary focus on his new site – a more conversational approach to politics. His site will be launched closer to the election.

Dizzy did a little digging after a cabinet office report was released which suggests the Government is spending over £200 per person on IT. This figure would be far higher if you removed children, the elderly and the unemployed from the calculation.

An off-the-cuff remark from Liam Fox was picked up by Guido Fawkes after a press briefing this week. It is alleged Fox made a suggestion that Poland and Hungary should have their NATO memberships suspended because their defence budgets are too small.

At Incoherent Thoughts there is a poignant reminder of the effect of the latest US attacks in Somalia.

It remains unclear whether or not any of the US’s intended targets have been killed in a series of bombings in the troubled African state.

The global politics blog Whirled View has an interesting story on the outsourcing of US foreign policy in relation to this week’s announcement of the new Iraqi petroleum law.

In a fine example of what blogs do best, Stephen Pollard, who has managed to get his hands on an email written by the BBC’s Middle East correspondent, picks at Jeremy Bowen’s analysis of the Arab-Israeli conflict. He says: “If this is what passes for high-level analysis at the BBC, is it any wonder its reporting is so poisonous?” But its reporting isn’t poisonous Stephen and many in the blogosphere will no doubt attack your rationale if that's the right word.

In a year when the growth of blogging can only spiral Ellee Seymour looks at how bloggers are using advertising to make a quick buck from their online musings. This will increasingly become the case if British politicians follow the trend of their American colleagues.

And for anyone wanting to know just how much they will contribute to the global carbon footprint in 2007, Mark Lynas tells of a new book which gives you all the tools you need to calculate this. Having said this, cynics may point out that Tony Blair did make it clear this week that he wouldn’t be flying any less this year. Will you?

Adam Haigh studies on the postgraduate journalism diploma at Cardiff University. Last year he lived in Honduras and worked freelance for the newspaper, Honduras This Week.
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Can Philip Hammond save the Conservatives from public anger at their DUP deal?

The Chancellor has the wriggle room to get close to the DUP's spending increase – but emotion matters more than facts in politics.

The magic money tree exists, and it is growing in Northern Ireland. That’s the attack line that Labour will throw at Theresa May in the wake of her £1bn deal with the DUP to keep her party in office.

It’s worth noting that while £1bn is a big deal in terms of Northern Ireland’s budget – just a touch under £10bn in 2016/17 – as far as the total expenditure of the British government goes, it’s peanuts.

The British government spent £778bn last year – we’re talking about spending an amount of money in Northern Ireland over the course of two years that the NHS loses in pen theft over the course of one in England. To match the increase in relative terms, you’d be looking at a £35bn increase in spending.

But, of course, political arguments are about gut instinct rather than actual numbers. The perception that the streets of Antrim are being paved by gold while the public realm in England, Scotland and Wales falls into disrepair is a real danger to the Conservatives.

But the good news for them is that last year Philip Hammond tweaked his targets to give himself greater headroom in case of a Brexit shock. Now the Tories have experienced a shock of a different kind – a Corbyn shock. That shock was partly due to the Labour leader’s good campaign and May’s bad campaign, but it was also powered by anger at cuts to schools and anger among NHS workers at Jeremy Hunt’s stewardship of the NHS. Conservative MPs have already made it clear to May that the party must not go to the country again while defending cuts to school spending.

Hammond can get to slightly under that £35bn and still stick to his targets. That will mean that the DUP still get to rave about their higher-than-average increase, while avoiding another election in which cuts to schools are front-and-centre. But whether that deprives Labour of their “cuts for you, but not for them” attack line is another question entirely. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.

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