Meet the Darbyshires (obviously)

Observations on blogging

An unmissable soap opera is taking place in Lib Dem land, and it's not the leadership contest. It follows the lives of two newly-weds, Robin and Leah Darbyshire, and you can read it at www.thedarbyshires.

The pair say they have no justification for posting their ramblings on the internet, "except that we enjoyed some celebrity during 2004 when our engagement was covered by the Daily Mirror and the Newbury and Thatcham Chronicle as a romantic story of a Lib Dem political alliance". Theirs is a weblog as the online god originally intended.

Robin, 27, is a former councillor. He was Mark Oaten's constituency agent and has also worked for Simon Hughes. Leah has a degree in PPE from Oxford and would like to do a PhD. For them, Oaten used to be the man: "Mark would be a fantastic leader and could save us from this current crisis and that's the important thing," they wrote.

Besides being Lib Dem activists, they find time to be school governors (at the same school, because they don't like being apart). And, like many of their generation, they keep fit. Leah walks five miles a day back and forth between home and the station, and as she says: "Although this walk is great for general fitness, it does mean that I am confined to wearing flat shoes to work each day." (Interestingly, Robin drives to the station.)

On first arriving at the site, many readers assume it is satirical because things seem slightly too perfect. On Valentine's Day, for example, we were treated to: "Happy Valentine's Day everyone! And also a Happy 32nd Wedding Anniversary to my Mum & Dad who (obviously) got married on Valentine's Day in 1974." (Obviously.)

But back to politics. The News of the World revelations about Oaten caused Robin and Leah some soul-searching.

They came out in support of Chris Huhne, strikingly, in the final paragraph of a post entitled, "We're adopting a cat!" To regular readers this decision - about Huhne, not the cat - came as a surprise. Leah had told us already that Chris had been her "knock-up partner" in Hartlepool in 2004 (probably a reference to canvassing in a by-election) and hardly spoke to her. "Maybe he was intimidated by me," she wondered, "but do I want a leader who is easily intimidated by a girl half his age?"

She conquered her doubts after the candidates appeared on Question Time. The contributions by Hughes and Menzies Campbell shocked her: "God knows how either of them got degrees! Huhne's was to the point, in plain English."

The couple have run into some unpleasantness. They had to cut the comment facility on their site because people were being nasty, and then a spoof blog appeared, called "The Leicestershires". It disappeared after the Darbyshires threatened to sue. Most other bloggers sympathised, finding the spoof mean-spirited.

By their own admission, the couple are hyperactive, while others might call them twee or lacking in humour, and some Lib Dem bloggers have problems with the image they project. But, like all good soap operas, their weblog inhabits that zone between the normal and the weird, and it has earned them a dedicated following. Of course, it might yet prove to be a parody, but if so, it is pure genius.

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