Well, that’s the first 500 posts on Red Brick. That’s quite a lot, more than I imagined we would achieve when Tony Clements and I started the blog off 3 years ago, in response to the General Election defeat, as ‘the place for progressive housing policy debate’. At an average of say 600 words, that’s around 300,000 in total, the equivalent of 3 typical books. Although I do most, Tony and the estimable ‘Monimbo’ have added an enormous amount. Other contributors are always welcome, especially those who can provide different geographical perspectives.
It’s hard to estimate how many readers there are. Getting on for 400 email subscribers, who get every post automatically. Moving towards 100,000 views on the site and there are others who read it through other means. Each post is tweeted to Labour Housing Group’s 3,500 followers. Over 1,000 comments received, with the redoubtable Dan Filson the most regular followed by France’s own Bernard Crofton and a free-thinking Conservative, known as grahamangus, third.
Housing is the theme and we try to stick to that. It would be easy to wander off into general commentary about politics but temptation is there to be resisted. The original intention to be a ‘progressive’ blog, linked to Labour Housing Group but willing to take contributions from a wide range of political positions, has to some extent been stymied by the existence of the Coalition. Red Brick has been hostile not just to the Tories, who have turned out to be more right wing than anyone could have imagined, but also to the LibDems: in housing at least they have failed to act as a brake on the worst excesses of Tory housing policy despite having an excellent party policy.
It’s pleasing that quite a few people enjoy the blog. But it’s a pimple on the face of Inside Housing or the Guardian Housing Network or the bigger Labour blogs like LabourList or LeftFootForward. So why do it? Well, top of the list for me is a 40 year passion for the topic and opinions that need to get out. Blogging is better than shouting at the TV or fulminating in the pub at the latest Tory outrage. And I get a bizarre sense of pleasure from writing a headline based on a Bob Dylan song (‘Desolation Row’ and ‘Dear Landlord’ perhaps being a bit too obvious).
To borrow some jargon, the blog is a way of constructing a different narrative around housing and especially to tackle many of the negative stereotypes about social housing, people on social security, and the rest, some of which, to my great embarrassment, had infected the Labour Party. There is some success to be recorded in terms of raising debate in the Labour Party and prodding it in a more radical direction on a range of issues like borrowing for investment, the ‘benefits to bricks’ agenda, and the virtues of security of tenure.
Will there be 500 more? Maybe. It can be quite hard work. Sometimes the words won’t flow. Sometimes I think it would be easier just to tell everyone to read Jules Birch instead: his posts even have facts in them and he doesn’t rant. It’s tempting to try to comment on everything but it is a blog not a newspaper. I get irritated by good things that appear in my inbox too frequently, so we mustn’t impose. The next target will be to keep going until the General Election so we can see the back of these terrible people. I hope housing will be a big topic in the Election campaign, and if Red Brick can contribute to keeping housing high on the agenda then it will be a job worth doing.
Thanks to you for reading, and contributing, and especially to those of you who go out campaigning on the issues. Because housing really matters.