Thursday, 8 June 2006 

Bloggers could have their own area at the Conservatives’ annual conference in a sign of a growing influence of Tory internet networks.

Blogs such as the ConservativeHome website are increasingly popular and seen as a way of understanding Tory thinking as the party plans its policy.

Tory blogger Iain Dale said plans for a conference blogging area showed how attitudes were changing.

Conservative headquarters have yet to confirm the plans.

But Mr Dale told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme about the idea, which could give Tory bloggers the chance to “meet their audience”.

“It just shows the power and influence that some blogs are having on the political process generally and on the Conservative Party in particular,” he said.

‘Connecting people’

The move would follow the US, where bloggers now appear routinely at political conventions.

The Democrats political convention in 2004 was the first time that bloggers were accredited to attend – with a launch by presidential candidate Howard Dean. The Republicans have followed suit.

Former Iain Duncan Smith aide Tim Montgomerie visited Washington earlier this year to explore how political campaigners were using the internet in the US.

Mr Montgomerie is editor of ConservativeHome.

He pointed to how his website had been able to piece together the confidential Tory A-list of candidates earmarked for winnable seats.

“Before, every Conservative activist in the country was very disconnected from the other activists but now through ConservativeHome and other blogs they can all join together,” said Mr Montgomerie, who was aide to former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith.

Conservative MP Michael Gove likened the blogs to the daily scandal sheets handed from journalists to power brokers in centuries past.

“One of the secrets that most MPs have is how much time they actually spend visiting many of these blogs,” he said.

“I don’t think it’s necessarily an obsession but I do think the blogs perform an enormously useful service.”

Mr Gove warned that the range of views on the blogs should not be seen as representative of the Conservative Party as a whole.

Instead, they were “the views of those who are either ideologically fired up enough to post or those insomniacs who have nothing better to do than to share with us their views of the political world at three in the morning”.