Politics & blogs: Perfect partners

The insular, gossipy world of Westminster lends itself well to the medium of blogging, and several political journalists are now prolific in their online output.

By far the biggest beast in the press gallery’s blogging jungle is Nick Robinson with his Newslog, where the BBC political editor takes full advantage of his prominent platform.

Robinson regularly posts his full scripts from TV and radio pieces, as well as briefer commentaries on events of the day. The scale of his influence was recently shown by a passing reference to the well-regarded academic Revolts.co.uk site, increasing its traffic by 1,000 per cent.

The blog came into its own during the ‘cash-for-honours’investigation, when Robinson was clearly being very well-briefed in his broadcasting capacity but was able to use the outlet to offer broader background. Importantly, he also appears to read the comments and, at times, respond.

From the broadcasting pack his main competitor is Boulton & Co, a group blog from Sky News political editor Adam Boulton and colleagues. As befits Sky, it is slightly more opinionated than Robinson’s BBC equivalent and the use of multiple authors keeps it very fresh.

It also contains slightly sillier stuff, such as Boulton’s now annual Valetine’s Day list of the most ‘fanciable’MPs – always a popular talking point.

More than any of the print political editors, the Mail’s Benedict Brogan has best-embraced the medium of blogging, updating regularly, easily mixing breaking news, analysis and gossip, and also pointing out other interesting stories circulating on the web.

Brogan uses the blog to move away from the Mail’s traditional agenda. But he also uses the clout and contacts his position brings to report from deep inside the Downing Street bunker, or ‘Brown Central’as he calls it.

His diary of Brown’s January trip to China and India was a good example, BlackBerrying the news of the BA crash-landing at Heathrow before charting the breathless pace of a Brown trip abroad, poking fun at the BBC, and providing a running commentary on Northern Rock developments.

A new arrival on the lobby blogging scene, but rapidly winning many admirers, Red Box is the brainchild of Times political correspondent Sam Coates. Coates is an excellent digger who turns up many stories for the Thunderer, particularly on MPs’ allowances and expenses, and is increasingly breaking them on his blog.

At the more liberal end of Fleet Street, Michael White is the closest The Guardian has to a lobby blogger. More of a daily diary than a typical blog, the assistant editor can be a bit rambling, and it is odd that The Guardian, so far ahead in many aspects of new media, has not developed a really readable political blog.

However the highly experienced White can often supply a broader context and perspective than some of his more excitable counterparts. He is also unafraid of engaging in debate with The Guardian’s often articulate but angry online readership, shrugging off his reputation as a Labour apologist and taking apart some of the more far-fetched conspiracy theories.

Unquestionably a Labour-supporting blog is Kevin Maguire and friends. Technically a team blog – the senior Mirror political executive’s ‘friends’include political editor Bob Roberts and correspondent James Lyons – Maguire has been blogging more himself of late but can lapse into leaving it to his colleagues to update at times.

Another problem has been his saving some his best stories for his Westminster diary column in the New Statesman.

Unlike Brogan and the Mail, Maguire tends to stick to a more traditional Mirror agenda of rallying behind Brown and bashing David Cameron’s ‘Tory toffs’at every opportunity.

However, this unashemdly pro-Labour stance, combined with Maguire’s high profile, gossipy humour and knowledge, could become the left-wing equivalent to some of the Conservative-supporting big beasts of the blogosphere, such as Iain Dale and Guido Fawkes.

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