Peter the Punter ruminating on the site that Mike built

The 5th Anniversary of the birth of our favorite Site arrives on Monday March 23rd and will be duly celebrated at the National Liberal Club from 6pm until they kick us out. More details will follow shortly but please put a note in your diaries now.

By some peculiar coincidence my own first post was delivered on the Site’s first anniversary and Mike is able to tell from one of his impressive little gizmos that I have been posting at the rate of approximately 7 entries per day ever since. Ah well, it kept me out of mischief, I suppose, and if mine are amongst the least memorable amongst the near 1m posts recorded since inception, I do at least make up in quantity what I lack in quality.

It is perhaps in deference to output that those two distinguished scions of the Site, Double Carpet and Morus, asked me to scribble a few words in praise of Mike’s magnificent monument. Or maybe they were just short of copy. No matter. Here are some thoughts for the day.

Any discussion of ‘whither the Site’ can be safely left for Mike and his confidantes, preferably at one of the increasingly common PB lunches held in Primrose Hill. Having attended one recently, I can reassure PBers that The Man Himself is not much minded to fix what ain’t broke, so any changes are likely to be peripheral.

The quality of the Site depends largely on the quality of its contributors. This is evident from even the most cursory glance at the postings on its nearest competitors, none of which come close to offering the range, depth and occasional brilliance which has made PB the outstanding UK political blog. Its posters are its strength but occasionally its weakness. I will try not to be too personal.

    One of Mike’s longstanding friends and competitors who now posts under the name of URW once remarked that PB is the most focused site of its kind, by which I think he meant that by targeting the betting aspect of politics, Mike avoided both the rather tedious proselytising of some blogs, and the waffling diffuseness of others. Now this is not an excuse for yet another PtP whinge about posters who don’t punt or threads which meander far from the Site’s stated purpose. I enjoy as much as anybody the sometimes baroque intertwining of themes as diverse as the Single Transferable Vote, Democracy In Denmark Today and The Social Origins of Showaddywaddy. I just happen to think it’s crucial to the Site’s status that it gets back to betting from time to time.

Do punters have a superior status amongst posters? I have to confess from my prejudiced vantage point that I think they do. For a start, they are a minority, probably accounting for no more than 10% of the regular PB populace and I doubt whether more than one in fifteen posts has a direct betting purpose. Punters tend to be economical in dispensing their wisdom. They also, I believe, tend to be amongst the more civilised of our PB brethren. Dispute it you may, but my observation is that the more intelligent and respectful threads are generally to be found when there is a clear betting theme and lively associated market(s), as we had in abundance during the US elections.

Next in my hierarchy of PB good guys would come those whose political insight is such that you wouldn’t care if they hadn’t a clue how to fill out a betting slip, followed by those who entertain us royally. Former PB Poster of the Year, Sean Fear is a good example of the former, whilst current PotY, Sean T and the irresistible Ave It 09 are good examples of the latter.

So who are the bad guys?

Well, anybody who puts the Site at peril, for starters. There are very few ‘open’ Sites like this in the blogosphere, precisely because of the risk of libel. It only wants one and Mike gets it in the neck, with potentially fatal consequences for the Site, not to mention his finances. If he has to resort to permanent moderation and we can no longer post instantly, it loses much of its zip. Some excellent posters have suggested they would pack up if that happened. It would be a great pity but it’s a serious problem and likely to grow more acute as the Site’s popularity continues to grow. So far, Mike has got away with it largely because of the excellent self-moderating tendency of most posters.

Less dangerous but irritating nonetheless are those who cannot put a point without being insulting and those who hi-jack the Site for purposes other than those intended. OK, I know the aforementioned SeanT has elevated the insult to an art form and people wear his abuse as badges of honor but my advice is that if you are not SeanT and cannot articulate your disapprobation with similar style and panache, cut it out. As for the CATs (Creatures of the night, Astroturfer and Tarquins), they may not be a menace but they are crushing bores. (For the benefits of newcomers, Creatures are simply nutcases, usually appearing after the pubs close; Astroturfers are party hacks who pretend they are grass-root supporters; and Tarquins are idiots who having lost credibility under their original posting name assume a new one, until they lose credibility under that, and so on, ad nauseam.) They are seen off from time to time by the informal self-policing tendency but like weeds, they are apt to return.

So, if we are to keep the Site focused, principally towards betting, and keep it civilised and spontaneous, it’s up to all of us. I trust therefore that you will not object to joining Peter The Pious Punter in a short prayer:

    Our Leader Mike
    Who Art in Bedford
    Hallowed be thy Site
    Thy will be done on PB, as it is not on any other Site – not Guido’s, nor Ian Dale’s, and certainly not on ConHome
    Give us this day our Daily Thread (and a cartoon by Marf if possible)
    And lead us not into partisan betting
    But deliver us from the Blue Harpies, Yellow Peril and Dollybots
    For thine is the Value, the well-judged hedge and occasional arb
    For backers and layers

[Peter The Pious Punter is also known as Peter Smith and if you like you can send him insulting emails at ]

January 2009

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