I can see no circumstances by which this blog can be regulated by the government’s attempt at press regulation

Nik Darlington

So the lacklustre rigmarole of a Royal Charter takes another turn. The House of Lords has been debating whether to exempt small blogs from the new cross-party press regulations.

The Government is considering its own response to the quandary posed by Internet blogs like Guido Fawkes that are based overseas.

It can be argued that a result of the Internet age is faster, better connected, more nimble scrutiny of the holders of power. Politicians and press barons have been in each other’s pockets for decades, and to suppose this is a new phenomenon is naïve.

Yet political bloggers are beholden to no greater power (at least that is what they claim - and most ought to be believed). Unlike newspapers with their failing business model, most bloggers have no paying market of consumers to chase.

How does a Government get to grips with curtailing them in the manner it is attempting to curtail the mainstream press? To murder a phrase, qui regulates ipsos regulatiem?

It can’t. Which is why ministers, shadow ministers and advisers are hurriedly trying to patch up this particular hole (of several) in the new regulations.

For our part, I am not entirely aware yet whether as de facto digital lessees of Tumblr, the Egremont blog falls into the same category as Guido Fawkes - i.e. an offshore concern.

That small print aside, there are no circumstances under which I can see our being subject to this attempt at regulation. Zero funding, zero revenue, and a relatively small but of course highly influential and intelligent band of readers.

So for Egremont at least, it is business as usual.

An absence of truly Conservative philosophy: a reply to Bruce Anderson

Henry Hopwood-Phillips 3.28pm

Bruce Anderson very articulately states the identity-crisis afflicting the Right in his recent blog for ConservativeHome. He outlines perfectly how, as the not-so-old middle ground caves in, the Conservative party glances nervously over its shoulder for a soul. However, no real solution is outlined.

The major problem is awkwardly avoided. Either the state is a good thing, a vehicle of teleology, or it is something that must be kept to a necessary minimum.

Anderson seems to want have his cake and to eat it. Teleology is poo-pooed. Philosophical inquiry is reduced to Mr Cameron’s “activist” components. The danger of which Orwell outlined when he said we risk…

"[sinking] to [the] depth at which restatement of the obvious [becomes] the first duty of intelligent men."

Yet the minimum state is tarred with the uncaring brush. The easy assumption is peddled that a minimum state would be one in which Beer Street and Gin Lane reproduce themselves.

Anderson’s blog is in fact an honourable retreat into the platitudes of the eighteenth century. ‘Platoons and Patriotism’ is a good bugle call for the tired conservative. Most conservatives I know, however, want Eliot’s LIVING tradition, not the resurrection of Lazarus.

Anderson ignores the fact that were “platoons” to be formed today, they would more likely resemble a multiculti mosaic than a fiefdom of clubs. Patriotism is dying a slow and boring death on the altar of international institutions and global encumbrance. It’s all very well enjoying the baubles it creates but it’s another matter entirely to base a political philosophy on it.

Indeed, as the Right searches for conservative critiques that don’t feel like merely the extensions of the models of European economists such as Hayek and von Mises - or that contain more imagination than Philip Blonde just chucking Left and Right at each other and claiming the resultant mess is a masterpiece - it is forced to look over the Atlantic.

It is telling that the two major conservative intellectuals Britain has produced in recent history, Niall Ferguson and Roger Scruton, live on the other side of the pond. True conservative thought, sensibly reactive to the less enlightened aspects of enlightenment thinking, is to be found in Buckley, Strauss, Pangle and Bloom. Who are our equivalents?

This is why Michael Gove is on to a Good Thing. He is not forcing everybody to go to a private school or attend Blimpish concentration camps; he is encouraging the freedom to choose. Freedom necessitates trust and responsibility. It requires the state to see the electorate as citizens rather than subjects. Indeed, why most Britons like being subjects of the Queen is because they see the Queen as a constitutional emergency valve.

Put simply. If the Left like high taxes, let them pay more. If they like multiculturalism, let them live in multicultural areas. If they like utopia, then let them pursue such ends. If the Right likes low taxes, let them pay less. If they like “leafy” suburbs, let them live in them. Freedom requires devolution. Devolution requires trust. Are the Conservatives the nasty party or does Anderson ultimately think the electorate is nasty itself?

Sorry Ken, even Oxford University thinks us bloggers are worth preserving

Nik Darlington 10.15am

'Blogging' divides opinion. Though a regular practitioner, personally I loathe the term. If only one could go back in time and put something in the tea of whoever coined it.

But blogging is both worthwhile and valuable. It has broadened the reach of comment and debate. The everyday pundits who would habitually bore chaps in the pub can do so in the relative quietude of the Interweb. Public figures can have their two pennies’ worth in a direct and informal manner. Blogging does have its underpants-in-bedrooms fraternity but it has become increasingly professionalised (all our posts are subbed, for instance) and more often than not the best bloggers will already be involved in public life as politicians or journalists.

Ken Clarke is not one of them, according to Benedict Brogan’s morning e-mail:

I am certainly not a blogger. Quite a large proportion of them are nuts and extremists - with the honourable exception of the culture secretary.

I defer to Ken’s better judgement on many things, though not on this. It seems a good moment to announce that the curators of Oxford’s Bodleian Library have selected these pages as “of lasting research value and worthy of permanent preservation for the benefit of historians and researchers.”

Egremont will soon form part of the Bodleian Libraries’ Web Archive. It is a huge honour, gratefully and humbly received.

And I assure you all, including the TRG’s President, it won’t make our heads too big for our bedrooms. Blog on.

Egremont’s review of 2011

Nik Darlington and Alexander Pannett 10.30am

This time last year there was no such thing as Egremont, yet in September, thanks to you, our readers, we were voted the 5th best Conservative blog in Britain in the Total Politics Blog Awards 2011.

We have been pleasantly and quietly stunned at this ascent, proof that there is room in the blogosphere, amid the shouting and name-calling, for pragmatic, centre-right commentary.

Herein a review of our year: an account of where we have come from, how we have done it and what we have covered.

Twitter. A few words on that. All our posts are automatically tweeted via the Tory Reform Group and those of us on Twitter post and share articles and comments. These are in turn shared by followers (thank you). Since February, direct referrals from Twitter have comprised 13 per cent of our page hits, slightly behind the highest, Facebook, which gives 19 per cent of our referral traffic.

These figures have fluctuated (Twitter has on occasions provided up to one-third of referral traffic) but Facebook is usually ahead. This comes as something of a surprise because it feels that Facebook’s reign as the pre-eminent social media sharing platform is over and Twitter is in the ascendancy. But there you have it. We have a Facebook page too, on which all our articles are linked, and it seems to be working by sending nearly one-fifth of readers our way. Particular thanks go to Aaron Ellis for his assistance with its running.

The power of referral traffic is very clear. Guido Fawkes provided one-tenth of that traffic - or 1,538 hits - but most of it came from one article and in a single day. Saying that, fully one-third of traffic was from search engines, a vindication of our SEO strategy and a comforting sign that readers are actively looking for us (or stumbling across us!) rather than just being told to look at us. Eighteen per cent came direct.

Paul Abbott has achieved a lot this year in his full-time guise as Robert Halfon’s more-than-capable parliamentary confrere, not least setting up the brilliant Parliamentary Academy and being a driving force behind the FairFuelUK campaign that prompted the Chancellor to cancel a planned rise in fuel duty.

But we are sure that Paul would agree with us that his most noteworthy achievement of 2011 was to cause a one-thousand-strong stampede to Egremont on 23rd November. 'Why the Left should love Margaret Thatcher' has had more than 2,000 unique page views and been syndicated elsewhere thanks in part to Paul’s incisive prose and winning analysis but also the mighty sway of Mr Fawkes, who kindly referred to us as ‘the Wets’ blog’ (thank you, Harry).

Generally, readership has been consistent throughout the year, with the occasional noticeable peak. The ‘big bang’ arrived shortly before the Barnsley by-election, 3rd March, as Craig Barrett's article 'Liberal Democrats are looking down the barrel in Barnsley' won positive reviews (one half of the editorial team is gracious enough to concede that his learned-if-not-sensationalist commentary on Oxbridge dons was not the principal cause of attention that day).

Then on 3rd May, Stuart Baldock wrote an insightful piece about the Libyan rebels and there was poignant coverage of UN World Press Freedom Day; but the draw was Cllr Rene Kinzett’s presentation of 'the Conservative argument in favour of the Alternative Vote'. It was a brave and well-argued article deserving of publication. Perhaps not our most ‘popular’ feature of the year if the outcome of the AV referendum was anything to judge by, but it received plenty of attention.

August is usually the sleepy month of politics but this year we had riots. On 9th August, Nik Darlington's in-the-moment reflection ('We know nothing, except we are all to blame for this') attracted Egremont's highest traffic thus far. It was syndicated on the front page of the Huffington Post and received interest from TV station Al-Jazeera.

Media website Journalisted listed the biggest three news stories of 2011 as the Arab Spring, phone hacking and the Eurozone debt crisis. All three topics received plenty of comment on these pages, humble though we would say it was. We would not pretend to be major actors in these debates, let alone lead them. We try to focus on our columnists’ areas of expertise and on less well covered issues. But we always try to ensure our coverage matches the import of events.

Our columnists this year have come from far and wide. We have been honoured to feature blogs from the former foreign secretary, Sir Malcolm Rifkind MP, from John Lamont MSP, and from current Conservative MPs, Robin Walker, Robert Buckland and Rory Stewart.

And to name just a few of our more regular commentators: we have had economic and political analysis from David Cowan, who also won a Spectator economics blogging prize in October. Former TRG chairman, Giles Marshall, always offers a thought-provoking take on the shape of the modern Tory party. Aaron Ellis brings hard work and dedication to the foreign affairs brief. Sara Benwell gives us an edge in the finer details of finance. Meanwhile Craig Barrett’s pithy and profound musings about everything from electoral politics to taxation have been consistently among our highest read articles.

For some months, Jack Blackburn, as well as being our resident expert on film, culture and theology, has been turning his hand to weekly reviews of PMQs. Jack’s 'letter to Mrs Miliband' in November was utterly inspired and as good a PMQs review as you will read on any national broadsheet.

Naturally, most of our readers come from the English-speaking world and as much as 80 per cent from Britain (79 per cent) and the United States (11 per cent). Canada, France, Australia, India and Germany also have sizeable followings and our readers are spread as far and wide as Sierra Leone, the Seychelles, Haiti, the Palestinian Territories, Iran, Mongolia, Peru, Latvia, Israel, Vietnam, Japan, South Africa, Sweden and even, dare I say it, Uzbekistan.

And that, as they say, is that. The end.

Merry Christmas and see you in 2012.

Egremont and the TRG at party conference in Manchester

Nik Darlington 9.15am

Party conference season is coming to a close. As hacks and lobbyists blearily KBO after the Lib Dem and Labour gatherings (see my Spectator Coffee House report from Birmingham, which seems an age ago), the Tory faithful are gearing up for a few days of fun and discussion in Manchester.

Building on last year’s hugely successful agenda, the TRG has an exciting range of events to look forward to.

On Sunday, the TRG hosts its Parliamentary Mainstream Reception (17.30-19.00) in the Fairclough Suite in the Midland Hotel (secure zone). The guest of honour is Francis Maude, the Cabinet Office minister and Paymaster General and the wine & canapes event is sponsored by construction group Willmott DixonParliamentary Mainstream is the parliamentary arm of the TRG, although membership is open to any Member of Parliament. The group has been revived since the formation of the coalition under the leadership of Jonathan Evans, MP for Cardiff North, supported by four vice-chairmen: Robert Buckland (Swindon South), Laura Sandys (South Thanet), Stephen Dorrell (Charnwood, and chairman of the Health Select Committee), and Andrew Tyrie (Chichester, and chairman of the Treasury Select Committee).

Monday evening sees the TRG’s Flagship Panel Debate on the state of the coalition taking place in Exchange 1 of Manchester Central (secure zone), at 17.30. Confirmed speakers include the Rt Hon Stephen Dorrell, the Rt Hon Sir George Young (Leader of the House of Commons) and Neil Carmichael, MP for Stroud and member of the Education Select Committee.

On Tuesday morning at 10.30 in the Midland Hotel’s Stanley Suite (secure zone) there is the Foreign Affairs Brunch, at which Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt and Sir Christopher Meyer, Britain’s Ambassador to the United States 1997-2003, will be discussing the Arab Spring over a full English breakfast.

Later on Tuesday, 17.30-19.00 in Manchester Central’s Exchange 4 & 5, the TRG is hosting a joint event with the Society of Conservative Lawyers and Justice, titled “The Human Rights Act: too hot, too cold, or just right?” Confirmed speakers include the current Attorney-General, the Rt Hon Dominic Grieve QC, former lawyer Robert Buckland MP and the director of Justice, Roger Smith OBE. It will be chaired by another former lawyer, Eleanor Laing, MP for Epping Forest, and promises to be a hugely interesting occasion.

And of course, no Tory conference would be complete without the TRG President’s Midnight Reception on Tuesday evening, 23.00 until the early hours of Wednesday morning at ‘The French’ in the Midland Hotel (secure zone). Ken Clarke might be approaching half a century in politics but the Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary’s energy and conviviality is indefatigable. An event not to be missed (for TRG Members only, however you may turn up and join on the night).

We will continue to blog regularly during conference, with our usual morning postings and live blogging throughout the days.

Egremont voted 5th best Conservative blog in Britain

Nik Darlington 8.21am

More results from the Total Politics blog awards 2011 were announced over the weekend.

Following on from our eleventh place finish in the ‘right-wing’ category (second highest new entry), Egremont is thrilled to have been voted the 5th best Conservative blog and the highest new entry in that category (as of this morning the link was down but I expect TP will have it working again soon).

Both placings are welcomed as a testament to the impact that Egremont has had in its short existence so far, and we thank all our readers and those who voted for us.

But the Conservative placing is especially satisfying. Demarcations of right and left wing are more arbitrary today than they have ever been and I for one would hesitate to catalogue all the excellent writing that appears on these pages as ‘right-wing’ or ‘left-wing’ or anything else.

Egremont endeavours to give an objective, thoughtful view on current affairs but from a One Nation Conservative point of view.

It is also hugely pleasing to see individual efforts recognised. Egremont had seven columnists (and one guest, Rory Stewart MP) appear in the Top 100 Conservative bloggers rankings (again, link down but hopefully fixed soon).

Co-editor Alex Pannett received uncanvassed and deserved recognition, coming in 30th place. Former TRG chairman, Giles Marshall, was 36th; Aaron Ellis, who has been helpful in getting our Facebook page looking ship-shape, was 43rd; David Cowan, a regular contributor to these pages and the Huffington Post, was 46th; Katy Turner came in 54th and Sahar Rezazadeh in 75th position.

Egremont voted as one of the top political blogs in Britain

Nik Darlington and Alexander Pannett 6.00am

Yesterday, these pages were voted by Total Politics readers as the 11th best right-wing blog in Britain - and the second highest new entry - an accolade for which we thank our tireless columnists, our readers and everyone who took the time to vote for us.

This put us ahead of the likes of John Redwood MP, Lord Tebbit, the Adam Smith Institute, the Institute for Economic Affairs, the Taxpayers’ Alliance, Telegraph commentator Benedict Brogan and the Spectator and Daily Mail's Melanie Phillips.

There some (admittedly amusing) murmurings on Twitter yesterday about whether or not a TRG blog should be in a ‘right-wing’ category at all. People can think what they will, but I believe that our success is due to a respected and consistently objective viewpoint that has won plaudits from across the political spectrum.

TRG Chairman, Tim Crockford, had this to say after hearing the result:

I am delighted that Egremont has been recognised as one of the leading political blogs. Since its launch on 7th February, Egremont has had 26,581 page views from 138 nations across the globe. It has become the online voice of One Nation Conservatism.

It has, and we thank you for it. One Nation Conservatism is growing in strength. Yet a voice means nothing without a listener, and in an electronic world in which people are increasingly only talking to themselves, we are delighted and honoured that there are some people out there giving us the time of day.

Will you vote for Egremont as a top political blog of 2011?

The TRG’s official blog has only been going properly since the beginning of February yet already we have had 14,000 visits to these pages from all over the world, including even eight visits from the People’s Republic of China.

One-quarter of our readers arrive here via Twitter and another fifth via Facebook, proving the power (and importance) of social media to building a profile online.

By any measure, our expansion has been hugely encouraging but we would love for our hard-working columnists, who volunteer so much of their time, to reach even greater audiences. So please, vote for Egremont and help give our writers the recognition they deserve.

There are many other brilliant group blogs out there but we believe that we hold our own with the best, despite being entirely run by volunteers. Newspapers and magazines, such as the Telegraph, Guardian and Spectator are building up strong online presences through their own blogs, and the Huffington Post has recently thrust on to the scene, but we cannot even begin to compete with their financial resources.

Yet we believe that we prove that there is still very much a place for the independent blogger.

To cast your vote, just click here to go to the Total Politics website and put Egremont at number one - or if there are other blogs you prefer, we’d be just as pleased if you included us at all.

Take care to read the rules of entry: remember to vote for at least 5 sites and fill any gaps with “blank” to ensure your vote is registered. If there is a Egremont columnist / tweeter you particularly enjoy following, please be sure to mention them in the individual category.

Deadline is midnight on Friday, 19th August.

Thanks and all the best,

Egremont