Time up for Blair?

This week's round-up of the political blogs includes commentary on Blair's attempts at diplomacy

Invitations are being handed out this week by Guido Fawkes for anyone wanting to pressure David Cameron to reveal to voters just who is “behind this mysterious anonymous offshore lender in Liechtenstein.” Shouldn’t we know who this substantial funder for the Tory party is?

And Guido isn’t the only one to have found it strange why the opposition party have remained silent on this after the debacle of Labour burying the BAE investigation last week.

BBC political editor Nick Robinson meanwhile used an entry on his blog to question whether the beeb was anti-politics. He was responding to a provocative editorial in the Independent by Steve Richards about the corporation's coverage of the cash for honours issue.

John Reid’s u-turn on the ID card database got the blogosphere flustered on Wednesday. It wasn’t just Dizzy who had trouble with the government’s logic of keeping the existing database system because it will be “lower risk, more efficient and faster”.

Aaron Heath of Tygerland.net wrapped up the criticism of Tony Blair’s visit to the Middle East, seen on many blogs over the last week, by saying “Blair should come home and stop playing the diplomatic messiah he never was. It’s over Tony; your time is up”.

Paul Anderson of Gauche is keeping a close eye on the story of the Suffolk murders. Although Stephen Wright, 48, of London Road, Ipswich has been charged with all five murders this story has prompted bloggers to discuss the question of the legalisation of prostitution. Gauche has news of a “Reclaim the Night” march taking place in Ipswich on Friday 29 December at 7pm. He hopes for a good turn out from the people of Ipswich to show they are not deterred by these terrible events over the past weeks.

We are still non the wiser as to whether there is any truth in the story about a man who fled the country wearing his sister’s niqab, whilst being hunted by police over his alleged involvement in the murder of a policewoman. Ellee Seymour is asking whether we really know who and what enters our country. Andrew Sullivan at Daily
Dish
stirs the pot because surely freedom means being able to wear a veil? Doesn’t it?

Guido Fawkes was not afraid to join the bandwagon of jokes against Lembit Opik this week. Check out the brilliantly tasteful graphic of the Lib Dems with the slogan: “The Sexy Alternative”.

Dizzy spotted a Wall Street Journal article that used a very fitting analogy of the relationship between the media and blogs. Many bloggers agree that blogs are indeed “like remora fish on the bellies of sharks, picking at the scraps".

In the festive spirit, as mentioned here by my colleague Owen Walker last week, bloggers did meet in Parliament Square, London, for their carol singing and peaceful protest against the Serious and Organised Crimes and Police Act 2005. Bloggerheads reckons “SOCPA makes unreasonable demands of the police and more often than not they come out of it looking as stupid as this stupid law”. By all accounts Mark Thomas et al led a rather eventful little sing song and the spirit of democracy was rife.

Enjoy the festive break and we hope to see you back in the new year for more of the best news from the political blogosphere.

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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The economics of outrage: Why you haven't seen the end of Katie Hopkins

Her distasteful tweet may have cost her a job at LBC, but this isn't the last we've seen of Britain's biggest troll. 

Another atrocity, other surge of grief and fear, and there like clockwork was the UK’s biggest troll. Hours after the explosion at the Manchester Arena that killed 22 mostly young and female concert goers, Katie Hopkins weighed in with a very on-brand tweet calling for a “final solution” to the complex issue of terrorism.

She quickly deleted it, replacing the offending phrase with the words “true solution”, but did not tone down the essentially fascist message. Few thought it had been an innocent mistake on the part of someone unaware of the historical connotations of those two words.  And no matter how many urged their fellow web users not to give Hopkins the attention she craved, it still sparked angry tweets, condemnatory news articles and even reports to the police.

Hopkins has lost her presenting job at LBC radio, but she is yet to lose her column at Mail Online, and it’s quite likely she won’t.

Mail Online and its print counterpart The Daily Mail have regularly shown they are prepared to go down the deliberately divisive path Hopkins was signposting. But even if the site's managing editor Martin Clarke was secretly a liberal sandal-wearer, there are also very good economic reasons for Mail Online to stick with her. The extreme and outrageous is great at gaining attention, and attention is what makes money for Mail Online.

It is ironic that Hopkins’s career was initially helped by TV’s attempts to provide balance. Producers could rely on her to provide a counterweight to even the most committed and rational bleeding-heart liberal.

As Patrick Smith, a former media specialist who is currently a senior reporter at BuzzFeed News points out: “It’s very difficult for producers who are legally bound to be balanced, they will sometimes literally have lawyers in the room.”

“That in a way is why some people who are skirting very close or beyond the bounds of taste and decency get on air.”

But while TV may have made Hopkins, it is online where her extreme views perform best.  As digital publishers have learned, the best way to get the shares, clicks and page views that make them money is to provoke an emotional response. And there are few things as good at provoking an emotional response as extreme and outrageous political views.

And in many ways it doesn’t matter whether that response is negative or positive. Those who complain about what Hopkins says are also the ones who draw attention to it – many will read what she writes in order to know exactly why they should hate her.

Of course using outrageous views as a sales tactic is not confined to the web – The Daily Mail prints columns by Sarah Vine for a reason - but the risks of pushing the boundaries of taste and decency are greater in a linear, analogue world. Cancelling a newspaper subscription or changing radio station is a simpler and often longer-lasting act than pledging to never click on a tempting link on Twitter or Facebook. LBC may have had far more to lose from sticking with Hopkins than Mail Online does, and much less to gain. Someone prepared to say what Hopkins says will not be out of work for long. 

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