The Cameron/Clegg press conference did not teach us very much — save that the chemistry between the two is as good as ever, that they can still finish each other’s sentences and exchange bad jokes. The Prime Minister’s bad joke related to one of the comments under his interview with Matthew d’Ancona yesterday where he (in effect) said he wanted to stay in No10 until 2020.
When asked about this today, the PM replied that a commentator on the Telegraph Online complained: ‘It’s already 20:51 and you’re still here.’ The assembled journalists treated his joke with the same respectful silence that they did to Clegg’s ‘unvarnished truth’ joke. ‘You’re all very slow today,’ Cameron chided. Part of the silence, I suspect, was surprise that the PM reads the comments under the piece — something journalists don’t always do. I was on Richard Bacon’s Five Live show where he expressed amazement: a PM that spends his time reading comments on blogs? “That way madness lies,” he said.
But Cameron is a faithful reader of blogs: he once told me that he reads Coffee House every day. And it’s hard to read a blog without reading the comments, especially under the Disqus system where the best comments get voted up to the top. James Forsyth’s blog about Diane Abbott’s conversion to family values on Friday, for example, had Trevor Kavanagh as the top comment (with 135 votes) and La Abbott herself adding a defence.
Coffee House, I like to think, has comments that are always worth reading — which is why someone of Kavanagh’s stature joins the debate. Coffee House, quite simply, offers the smartest debate on the web. Now and again, we are trolled – Cabinet members under pseudonyms no doubt – but our new year resolution is to only print comments from our registered users. This will make the smartest debate on the web smarter still.
Now, there is a difference — to paraphrase Thatcher — between blog commentators and the vox populi. But the strength of internet debate is that we, the authors, simply open a conversation which others continue.
I was reading a New Yorker cartoon book last night, and saw a Lillian Ross one from 1947 depicting two men at opposite ends of a bar. The barman asked one: ‘Excuse me, sir, the gentleman over there wants to know if you would care to join him in a little argument.’ That person would probably be online, now, having all the argument he likes. If you like debate, you probably like reading comments on blogs. It’s good to know that the PM does too.