By Paul Goodman
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ConservativeHome's editor-of-the-day must post the daily newslinks by 8.30am on a weekday, send the daily e-mail, put up the MustBeReads, ponder and/or design the graphics, put up some more posts in due course, write one or two further posts himself, commission new pieces and/or get them into our system, and deal with e-mails and phone calls – while keeping an eye on the news and Twitter. This leaves less time than is ideal for responding to comments in the threads, or editing them, and I don't expect that to change much in future. But since ConHome turns a new page today and the site can't flourish without its readers, I thought it would be worth writing briefly in relation our comments policy, which is linked to at the foot of the front page each day.
The totality of readers, of course, is not to be confused with the very small proportion of those who comment on the site. Regular complaints are made to the editorial team that those who comment are largely UKIP supporters, and the site therefore isn't what it was. To which my answer is that I agree that it isn't what it was. It couldn't be. Tim Montgomerie began ConservativeHome eight years ago, when there was no Twitter. Our campaigning fuction with party members is very important to us, but many of the actvists that, back in 2005, would have left comments on this site are now on Twitter themselves, or have lost interest in the Party, or have simply moved on, as people sometimes do.
I would also be careful of confusing unhappy Conservatives (or which there are many) with signed-up supporters of UKIP. Some Conservatives have a tendency to be unhappy even in the best of times, whether they come with a big or a small C, and ConHome should be as much for them as anyone else. In any event, if supporters of other parties – and Labour members as well as UKIP ones sometimes comment on ConservativeHome threads – want to have their say, that's fine with us. It's different if supporters of any party or none abuse those of another party or none, but my sense is that there's less abuse around since the site brought in its comment registration system. I appeciate that some readers will disagree.
So far, so accomodating. Now for the exceptions. Having comments from UKIP members on EU-related posts is fine – and we have plenty of such posts – but this is not an EU-only site, nor should it become one. Those who persistently try to turn every comment thread into a discussion of the merits (or otherwise) of UKIP will be barred from the site. This has already happened in a few cases. On a different note, the editors are also very sensitive to BNP-type efforts to infiltrate the site (and some have been made). And for better or worse, we're not prepared to argue the toss, in any of these cases, with individual transgressors: we have other things to be getting on with.
To the inevitable accusations of censorship, our only answer is. This is ConservativeHome. A home needs house rules. As the editors, we must enforce them. Those who don't like the rules are welcome to go elsewhere. I apologise if all this is rough-and-ready, but moderating comments is a rough-and-ready business. Let me end by repeating what I hope is the good news. We've no intention of barring those disillusioned with David Cameron from the site. I am witholding money myself from the party this year, so I know how they feel. The same applies to UKIP supporters. Downing Street and CCCHQ would doubtless prefer it if we took a different view. But we don't. Please keep within the contours of the comments policy and everything will be just fine.