Friday, 15 May 2009

My Welsh Blogosphere - Daran Hill

I do feel flattered that one cynical reptile has invited another to submit an article to this engaging project, especially as I am the first person to write a post who does not actually run one or more blogs.

That is a conscious choice. I did seriously consider setting one up a little while ago. I even had a name for it: The Eli Jenkins. It was to have the strapline “We are not wholly bad or good who live our lives Under Milk Wood”. This of course is the name of that Cardiff Bay waterhole where political careers begin and end and, as I’m told by those who drink there, is a sponge of gossip and innuendo. I had even considered a colour scheme, but couldn’t decide between shades of clashing red or a gaudy rainbow. And I was debating with myself (never a pretty sight) whether I should blog openly, anonymously or semi-anonymously.

There were a number of factors which made me decide not to leap into the blogosphere. The first was time – a commodity I do not think I have in particular abundance, even though I do find time to twitter regularly most days and I’m usually awake at very curious times. Indeed, this post has been started before the cock has crowed or anything else for that matter; and at the moment I seem to be out-twittering pretty much all my other friends. It won’t last.

And neither would any blog which I would have established. The first three months would have been prolific, spewing forth with the power of a minor tsunami. But it wouldn’t have lasted and, should I have been able to engage any sort of audience, they would have been left wanting. There is still an empty hole in my soul once occupied by beloved Blamerbell, scandalous Seneddwr, and arsey Arsembly. Should my vehicle have attained any sort of momentum, could I really have left its readers bereft as it accelerated into extinction at a young age like some word-constructed James Dean?

I also had regard to my position. Not in the pompous way I usually do, but in the sheer practicality of doing my job. I am a political mercenary, a paid lobbyist, whose major paid function in life is to help others raise and project issues in the political and policy world. Sometimes I feel like a town clock with four faces, consciously displaying them in turn to achieve the most pleasing aspect. That’s not to say I’m some sort of empty vessel, without politics or morality. Anyone who knows me knows I am so much more than that. But there would always be an issue on issues. Even if I wasn’t lobbying on a particular policy matter, if I happened to write about something then there would be a real danger that it would be perceived that I was utilising the medium for personal profit. And that matters to me because I do tend to get involved in lots of campaigns or debates for no personal gain at all, but just in the hope of one so vain that I might, just might, be able to help make a difference.

And of course, since much of my week is connected with politicians in various ways, there is the implicit danger that by being vocal you alienate and annoy as much as you would appease or agree. Politics is a business of divisions. Would I really not have damaged my professional work (and it is a profession!) if I had so heartily slammed a soapbox down and used it to raise me up (no heightist jokes, please) so that my voice could be amplified? I know I comment on other blogs and sometimes on the media, but in those circumstances I am commenting on the ideas of others, and can more easily moderate what I write or say.

With a blog, it would have been different because my view of risk is not entirely healthy. The very fact that I have written this post should illustrate this point, since surely this stream of self-justified, self-analytical, selfish nonsense should show how little self-restraint I possess. Within weeks I would have become bored with the reflective, and lurched off into a rant or two, which would have done me or the reader no good in the longer term. Anyone who doubts that the author of this article is self-opinionated and dangerous should count the number of times he has referred to himself in the first person.

In short, and I usually am, I could not trust myself. Even my twitters and facebook updates are a little risqué sometimes, so my blog would have been a battle between the angels at my shoulders. And the mischievous one would have won too many times. There wouldn’t have been enough self restraint to stay out of contentious issues, and since I don’t garden then there would never have been an opportunity to substitute the rant with a picture of some dahlias.

Perhaps a way round this would have been to write the type of blog that’s really needed and which fills a gap. One on a cerebral, discursive level like Welsh Political History maybe or forensic like Dizzy – something the Welsh blogosphere does need. They would have taken time and been more worthy. But I know that within days, no matter how noble my intention, I would have done myself and my avid reader a disservice. Unlike Lilly Allen, I do care about clever and I do care about funny. And it wouldn’t have taken long for me to substitute one for the other. The one-liner is something that comes far too easily to me.

The blog would also have been too male. Not in the sporty sense of course, but perhaps in the aggressive way that is all too prevalent in Welsh blogs. Attack dogs are usually male. Would I have been able to resist the pack instinct? I am “Mr Positif Politics” after all, as some of friends insist on calling me. I generally make a point of being positive in the comments I post, often hopefully defending where people might have been wronged. But would I really have been able to resist joining the bullying and willy-waving from time to time? I like to think I would have, but there would always have been that danger.

About 95% of the comments I leave on the blogs of others are not done anonymously.

Anonymity is not something that generally appeals to me. Indeed, the spiteful and personal comments that have been left on blogs have made me a firm believer in comment moderation at the very least. Whatever else my imaginary blog would have done, it would not have tolerated such vileness. Which might have made it less readable to some but, once more in the words of dear Lilly, “your words translate and it’s getting kinda late, so please don’t stay in touch.”

And there’s also the matter of priorities. I am already a contender for Worst Dad in Wales, and to have blogged daily would have increased my chances of winning. And that’s more than just a reflection on time commitment. Every time I twitter or facebook or even read the ramblings of others, I prioritise others before the two people that should be the most important to me.

So when I sobered up, I decided the Eli Jenkins should remain a watering hole rather than a blogging hole. But, as ever, I write with an arrogant assumption that someone would actually have been reading my blog. Yet I suppose if you’ve got this far then you are reading me. And that’s self-satisfyingly good to know.

And in a funny sort of way this little essay has been cathartic. It has helped me come to terms with my own fears. And it has filled in another waking hour which might otherwise have been spent making my fortune or playing with my children. After writing this, I will never again even contemplate keeping a blog. The question is now settled.

So good on you, Welsh bloggers, for you have more guts than me. You may not always be right, but at least you have the self-confidence to project yourself in this exciting new medium. I will raise a glass in your collective honour later today. Probably while reading one or two of you.

(Written by Daran Hill. the Managing Director and Principal Consultant at Positif Politics)

This is the eighth in a series of posts giving a chance for Welsh bloggers and othersto have their say on the state of the blogosphere and where it's going. If you're interested in contributing place feel free to contact me at

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