The Backbencher interviews Paul Staines of the Guido Fawkes Blog to hear his views on blogging, Leveson, and UKIP.
What first attracted you to blogging?
It was back in 2001 when I was sending things to Samizdata, which had very ‘long-form’ pieces. People were writing 3000 word essays that took apart Guardian leaders. I wanted to write more ‘short-form’ tabloid style stuff and spoke to Samizdata, who said “Why don’t you get your own blog?” in the nicest possible way. I went on Blogger.com (the naffest blogging system) and started doing some short-form things that I thought were perhaps interesting, and it worked out.
How do you see the future of blogging in a post-Leveson world?
I differentiate between different types of blogging. 80% of blogging is ‘what I had for lunch’ and girls blogging about their girlfriends – I don’t think that’s going to change at all. The Leveson stuff applies to news blogging or people who have news elements on their blog. I don’t think that it’s going to make much of a difference at all. It might be intended so that it catches the likes of me and my ‘Taliban’…but I don’t think it will affect blogging at all. I’m not sure if Leveson’s even going to happen.
So would you say that blogging has a brighter future than newspapers, in the long-run?
Well, newspapers have a tough future ahead because the business is in structural decline. With blogging, unless you have a mass-market product, it’s pretty tough to have a commercial enterprise. But the differentiation between newspapers and big blogs – Huffington Post, magazines, Guido – it’s all a bit fluid, isn’t it? I think what’s interesting is that the New York Times (biggest in the world by revenue) is restructuring to a subscription-model that will allow you to just buy into, say, the sports pages. I’ve been of the view for a few years that the only publications that make money off the web are specialist publications. Periodicals have abandoned their print mission, got online, and are now making more money than they were before. So it isn’t across the board that the internet has killed publishing. It’s only killed bad publishing.
What Guido story have you personally been most proud of?
I think it’s no surprise that the one with the most repercussions was ‘Smeargate’. It caused a few reservations at the time – to get someone who was as powerful, disliked and feared as Damian McBride was a great scoop in terms of the follow-on. It was front page for two weeks, and knocked the Labour Party 5% in the polls the following week…a lot of Labour-supporting types who believed that Gordon was going to be something different, more moral than Blair; all of a sudden they saw this madman.
You’re often portrayed as hating politicians but I’ve got to ask, who is your favourite (or least worst!) politician at the moment?
I think the politician that I most agree with is probably (I’m sure he’ll appreciate me saying this) [Douglas] Carswell. The politician whose company I most enjoy is Nigel Farage. I have lunch with him occasionally and a drink with him now and then.
That leads nicely onto my next question for you. What are your views on UKIP? Do you think that they’re more of the same or a genuine challenge to the status quo?
I think they’re a young, inexperienced party. I wish them well. My view, and I’ve expressed it quite clearly, is that I’d like to see the anti-Labour forces united. Add up the UKIP and Tory vote…well, I know it’s not so straightforward but I would like to see some unity of the forces on the right.
Do you think that a Tory/UKIP electoral pact seems likely then?
Depends on the Tories. The obvious thing for the Tories to do (which they can’t do) is give them a referendum. UKIP go mental when they say this but Cameron cannot deliver a referendum. What he can do is say ‘Vote Conservatives and we will give you a referendum’. The way to do that is what they seem to be lining up to do which is proposing a referendum on election day before the election, which would obviously kill UKIP. The fact is that they won’t get it through parliament. But giving UKIP what they want is the way to kill UKIP.
Thanks for agreeing to be interviewed by The Backbencher!