Conservative blogs lead online, says new report

Study says smears scandal has damaged Labour's online efforts

Conservative blogs have established a clear lead over their left-wing rivals, according to a new report published today.

The study, carried out by Social Media Affairs, found that 19 per cent of bloggers identified as Conservative Party supporters compared to 16 per cent each for Labour and the Liberal Democrats.

The report Politics Online 2009 coincides with the launch of Social Media Affairs, the UK’s first major directory of political blogs.

Graham Lee, the Chief Executive of the group, suggested that the email smears scandal, which forced LabourList editor Derek Draper to resign, had stunted Labour’s online efforts.

He said: “During the weeks that news of the scandal took hold, LabourList, which Derek Draper so effectively grew in 50 days to become a central hub for Labour in the political blogosphere, quickly turned face to house the majority of criticism and furore online.”

LabourList, founded to counter popular right-wing blogs such as ConservativeHome and Guido Fawkes, is now run by former deputy editor Alex Smith.

In a foreword to the report, Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair’s former director of communications and one of Labour’s most prominent bloggers, makes a passionate appeal for more politicians to engage with social media.

He writes: “Politicians need to stop seeing social media as an alternative to traditional media communications. It is not about bypassing the papers or TV. It is understanding that people are both more demanding and more understanding than they get credit for.”

Campbell urges Labour to emulate the online success of Barack Obama, who he says “married the best of new campaigning with the best of the old.”

The study found that 19 per cent of Conservative MPs blogged, compared to 14 per cent of Labour MPs and 6 per cent of Liberal Democrats.

All the major parties are seeking to strengthen their online presence as they prepare for a general election late this year or early next year.

Labour have advertised an internet manager role with a six-figure salary and Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg recently appointed MP Lynne Featherstone to head a technology advisory board.

George Eaton is senior online editor of the New Statesman.