Feature: Our top ten blog posts of 2009
Nothing gives the politics.co.uk team greater pleasure than eliciting comments from you, our dear readers.
In 2009, our first full year as Yahoo!’s guest bloggers, the recession, expenses and the state of Gordon Brown’s premiership proved hot topics. But none could match the commenting frenzy which ensued whenever we mentioned the far-right threat. Here are our top ten most-commented-on blog posts of the year.
10: May 8th – Will we accept MP excuses? Don’t bank on it
On the first day of the Telegraph’s expenses revelations our article compared bankers’ miserable excuses for the recession with those being deployed by embarrassed ministers.
“It was a culture problem, we’re told. Everyone was doing it,” we wrote. “That excuse didn’t work with the banking crisis and it certainly won’t work now.” On this we were certainly right, even if we didn’t quite grasp the full extent of the public anger to come.
“What is so horribly telling, this unpleasant morning, is the relative silence of the opposition parties.” Their turn was still to come.
9: June 19th – The ten funniest expenses claims
This summary of some of the most outrageous expenses claims let the facts do the talking. Jacqui Smith’s 88p bath plug on taxpayers’ money vied with Lembit Opik’s £19.99 Mother of All Wigs and Dawn Butler’s jacuzzi for the most ridiculous prize.
In fact, as the article acknowledged, this was merely scratching the surface. “The expenses claims are like a lucky dip. Wander around the corridors of the House of Commons and you’ll be bumping into an MP with questionable expenses claims in just a few seconds.”
8: July 7th – Nature and gay rights
Every so often the politics.co.uk team finds itself soaring into rhetorical heights hitherto undreamt of. This was undoubtedly what occurred in our July blog on the parties and homosexuality.
“There are good and bad human behaviours,” we wrote.
“Killing old women is bad. Helping old women across the road is good. But neither is unnatural. Whatever a human decides to do is natural, because he is a natural being.”
In among the controversy our article assessed the political debate over opening up IVF treatment for lesbians.
It judged David Cameron’s stance on this issue to be more telling than his abandonment of Section 28 and concluded, under a Tory government: “We will be losing out on an opportunity to show the world what Britain values: reason and freedom.”
7: June 5th – This reshuffle won’t save Brown
What a difference six months make. This rather bleak assessment of the prime minister’s prospects was not the first to predict his imminent downfall. Nor was it the first to be completely and utterly wrong.
For as predictions go this was a bit of a howler, stating that the last-gasp reshuffle left Labour “plummeting into the abyss” and confidently predicting the party would never reunite to fight the general election.
It turns out, we are ashamed to admit, that Labour are not just capable of uniting together. They’re now widely viewed as being capable of denying a Conservative majority. That looked utterly improbably in the summer. But Brown’s greatest quality – his endurance – has stood him in good stead.
6: August 21st – MacAskill’s moment
Independence remains a long way off for the Scottish National party, despite their efforts towards a referendum bill.
Instead their biggest moment in the limelight this year was Scottish justice secretary Kenny MacAskill’s decision to release Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi.
“There is something compelling about the Scottish government defying Washington and London all at once,” we wrote, suggesting this demonstration of Scottish independence could prove politically potent for the SNP.
“In a narrative based on an agonising moral decision, the SNP has succeeded in demonstrating the benefits of its own freedom.”
5: September 2nd – BNP membership is a disgrace
Our condemnation of the British National party’s (BNP) “despicable” whites-only membership policy didn’t hold back, and attracted enormous comments as a result.
“The BNP can’t even be granted the credit of being political yet,” we wrote.
“They’re just children struggling with ideas too big for them to comprehend.”
4: September 7th – BNP must face a hostile audience
Yet it was exactly that credit which was awarded to the extremists when BBC producers granted leader Nick Griffin a place on the Question Time panel.
The event proved an utter farce, with Griffin embarrassing himself in a telling expose of his core beliefs. Beforehand it wasn’t so clear, however. “Only in Bond films does evil present a deformed face.”
We argued he needed to face a hostile audience. He did, but it was his views which confirmed his dire reputation.
3: June 3rd – There’s nothing less British than the BNP
On the eve of local elections in which, as feared, Griffin won a seat in the European parliament, our article launched a fundamental assault on the BNP’s values.
We described a vote for the BNP as “the least British thing on earth” and argued the party was unerringly fascist.
Yes, we said, a protest vote was justified given the expenses scandal. “But the BNP is not a protest vote. It is a vote for fascism.”
2: March 4th – Is multiculturalism killing Britain?
The Conservatives face a tough battle of impulses when it comes to multiculturalism, which they are inherently suspicious of. On the other hand they risk being painted as unwelcoming or even racist; on the other, they just don’t like it.
Our analysis of shadow justice secretary Dominic Grieve’s speech in March on the issue attracted a mountain of comments.
It contained many scintillating lines, but perhaps the most telling was this one: “I called the Conservatives to ask what this might mean and didn’t get a straight answer.”
1: June 8th – There is a tiny fascist in all of us
“Discovering that two British National party (BNP) candidates have been elected as MEPs by the British public is like finding out your girlfriend cheated on you, or a mate stole a tenner from your wallet.”
It’s fair to say the news that Griffin and Andrew Brons were representing Britain in the European parliament didn’t go down well at politics.co.uk.
Our reaction was to analyse why, despite having fought and crushed fascist regimes in the 20th century, Britain retained its own fascination with the far-right.
The concern was that the government didn’t seem to have grasped the problem. “It now legislates to create the ideal citizen, who never does anything unhealthy, and can be monitored and watched at all times,” we wrote.
The result of this approach was that people voted to protest against Westminster and immigration.
The controversy over Griffin’s enhanced status as an MEP was just the opening chapter in this new phase of the BNP’s political life. In 2009 the party created a stir. The real test will come in 2010 when it faces the national vote in the general election.