I'd never heard of it, but the (now defunct) cop blog, Night Jack has walked away with the first Orwell Prize for Blogging.
The prize caused a bit of ripple on the left - mainly because the ubiquitous Iain Dale made the shortlist. Given Orwell was a man of the left and an investigative journalist and Dale is, erm ... neither, quite a few bloggers let their objections be known.
However, the criteria for the prize was much more broadly defined. One does not have to travel the 21st century's roads to Wigan Pier or write dispatches from conflict hotspots. It's all about the writing:
The Orwell Prize rewards those who achieve George Orwell’s ambition ‘to make political writing into an art’. Entries should therefore be of equal excellence in style and content.In this regard, my personal favourite from the shortlist would have to be Alix Mortimer of the LibDems. Leaving aside her politics, Alix offers some of the best writing in British political blogging.
‘Political writing’ is defined in the widest possible sense, and encompasses subjects including (but not limited to) party politics, social issues, public policy, the media, conflict, public services, history, economics, the environment, local government, and international relations.
But really. Seriously. Should anyone in their right minds give a fig about blog award ceremonies and contests? I mean, is there anything more introverted, geeky and, well, irrelevant?
On one level I suppose so. No one among the scores of socialist blogs out there think the revolution is going to happen online - though when it comes it will be blogged and twittered. I can see it now - comrades taking time out from the barricades to jump on their laptops, phones and blackberries. But in the here and now we're stuck with the battle of ideas, and blogging is one arena among many where this is fought. So any contest that draws attention to political blogging should be seen as an opportunity by the blogging left, and especially the far left, to win over new audiences. This is difficult with something like the Orwell prize, which is judged by a panel of worthies drawn from the old media. But that potential is there for the more "democratic" blog awards, such as the Bloggies and
This is what it's about comrades. Good rankings in these contests stroke the old ego. But blogging and big audiences are not ends in themselves, they are a means to our socialist ends. In my opinion it would be a mistake to stay away from contests that funnel traffic our way. And I'm sure Orwell would have agreed.