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Monday, July 26, 2004
Two tomorrow!

Tomorrow will be the second anniversary of my starting this blog, and I am very pleased to have been able - more or less - to keep it going for that length of time. I know I have benefited from doing so, both in terms of the way my writing has improved and the way it has forced me to keep up with the news. I have benefited too, from getting to know a number of other bloggers, and mainly through their friendship getting much more seriously involved in politics. I don't know how I would have reacted if, two years ago, I had been told that by now I would be working for a Conservative MEP, would have spent a day in charge of the office in the Reading local elections and another running one of the offices in the Leicester South by-election, would have been mentioned in the Spectator, the Guardian and the Canadian National Post and would be read by a number of senior journalists.

I do plan to keep on going, but the restrictions of time and of professionalism are making it more and more difficult. I joined the South-East European Elections and Reading Local Elections campaign on 28 May, and - after popping back for a few days for an exam - stuck with it right up to 13 June. The moment July came, I was doing the same in Leicester South, and I put in two full weekends there. Now in Darlington, we have a council by-election next month, with which I am helping as much as I can, and no doubt I will be heavily involved too in the upcoming parliamentary by-election in Hartlepool, which is just 25 miles or so up the road. Besides all this campaigning, I am continuing to help a number of Conservatives with various efforts. I really like doing all of these things. Blogging has its advantages, almost instant reaction and commentary being chief among them, but I've never felt I was changing minds and making a difference politically. With the work I am doing now that is just how I feel.

The other problem is that being deeply involved in politics in this way is leading more and more commenters to demand insider knowledge and explanations. I am clear that I will not be using the blog for this purpose. I don't want anyone to feel wary of trusting me or airing their views before me in case those opinions go up on the internet. My blogging will continue to be offer opinion and commentary on the news, not private gossip. There's a reason British Spin doesn't give his name, and it's the same reason I cannot give the sort of information some seek.

What I would say about our results in the two by-elections on 15 July is that they must be seen in the perspective of national results that have given great reason for encouragement. Look at the map of Britain below, with areas in which the Conservatives picked up the most votes coloured blue.

The map is not of the 1983 General Election, or the 1987 General Election, but the June 2004 European Elections. Despite a shock turnout of nearly 40% - and of more than 2/3 the turnout at the last General Election - and despite UKIP's rise, we clearly established ourselves as the party of England, and as serious contenders in Scotland and Wales. Whatever view one takes after those two bad results this month, if the Conservative Party is moribund, on its last legs, slouching towards irrelevance and a dozen other things, then there is not a party in this country of which this cannot be said.

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