The big political story of the day in the UK is the defection of long-serving Tory MP Quentin Davies to the Labour Party. The day before he takes over as PM, this is doubtless quite a coup for Gordon Brown, with Davies's resignation letter being a full blooded blast at the David Cameron and current Conservative strategy (for local reaction to the resignation, look here*).
I was having a little look round the Conservative blogosphere to see what the reaction to this was, when I found a very interesting comment on ConservativeHome. It rather put me in mind of the famous "Careless Talk Costs Lives" posters from World War II. In big capital letters, it read:
"EVERYONE SHOULD BE CAREFUL WHAT THEY WRITE ON THIS THREAD. THE MEDIA WILL BE READING IT. EXTREME COMMENTS BY NAMES I DO NOT RECOGNISE WILL BE DELETED."
It purported to be from "Editor" and it has now been up for some eight or so hours, so it would seem likely it is genuine. This comment raises all kinds of questions about how high profile blogs are run and what their function is. Firstly, and most obviously, it vests a great deal of power in this "editor" figure - they get to define what is and isn't extreme, seemingly on a case-by-case basis, as no useful definition is offered in the comment. Secondly, the idea that those known personally to the blogger will be given greater latitude to express their views is also strange. This would imply that blogs, rather than being open and free form environments, are actually quite closed and locked down discussion forums, with a privileged clique given greater levels of free speech. Thirdly, although the blog is called Conservativehome, it is in theory an open community - in other words, you don't have to be a member of the Conservative Party or subscribe to conservative values to comment. But the post seems to be implying that the blog fulfills a role of aiding and abetting conservatism - although whether this is defined in an ideological or partisan sense is not made clear - to extent that it will seek to protect it from embarrassment at the hands of the media. Comments not meeting this criteria will be removed.
A fourth significant question is at least implied too, which is just how seriously the media take such blogs and comments on them. Given the possibility of trolling and the fact that any comment can only be attributed to one individual who may or may not have any link with the Conservative Party, it would seem very foolish for any member of the media to get excited about a particular comment on a blog and then start quoting it as having some significance. It will be interesting to see if that is happening anywhere.
* I do feel the need to highlight the most fantastic quote in this article from a Conservative councillor, who said: "I was going to a party to mark his 20th anniversary as our MP but that's been cancelled."