Total Politics: 'This is not going to be some Tory rag'

Conservative blogger Iain Dale explains to Andy McSmith why he's shifting his focus from the internet to print by launching 'Total Politics'

In the contest between the blogosphere and the printed press, you might expect Iain Dale to be a leading champion of those mythical folk in striped pyjamas who tap away on keyboards in the loneliness of their bedrooms. For nearly six years, he has been a relentless blogger. There is only one political blog in the UK with a readership to beat Dale's, and that is by his friend and fellow Tory Guido Fawkes, whose contempt for the "dead tree press" knows no bounds.

But a lot of trees will have to die in the service of a new magazine that, from today, will be dropping through the letter boxes of every elected politician in the country, plus a scattering of the unelected.

Called Total Politics, it is being distributed free to all MPs, MEPs, peers, political journalists, members of the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland assemblies and all councillors down to district level – a target audience of around 23,000, all entered into a database that is going to require constant attention. The founder and main shareholder in this venture is that compulsive blogger, Iain Dale.

Dale is well known as a seat-seeking Tory, who played a central role in David Davis's bid to become party leader, and had his eyes on Maidstone, the safe Tory seat being vacated when Ann Widdecombe leaves Parliament.

One of the magazine's financial backers is Michael Ashcroft, the right wing multi-millionaire who bankrolls the Conservative Party. Total Politics has its office in Ashcroft's basement, next to the Liberal Democrat headquarters in Cowley Street, Westminster. Ashcroft owns 25 per cent of the magazine, Iain Dale and his partner (with whom he recently went through a civil ceremony) own 65 per cent; the remaining fifth is owned by "various backers".

This Ashcroft/Dale axis prompted suspicion about the nature of the product, even prompting 34 Labour MPs and two Lib Dems to sign a Commons motion tabled by the Labour MP Peter Kilfoyle inviting colleagues to chuck their free copies of Total Politics in the bin.

"I knew it would be controversial," Dale says. "If you want to sell a magazine as being politically independent, probably the two people you should not have involved are Michael Ashcroft and me. It's incredible the number of people who think he must stand over my shoulder the whole time, but I have seen him four times, and two of those were in the street.

"I took the view that if someone like Michael Ashcroft has decided that this is something that can make a profit, and has decided to invest his money in it, that has to be a good thing. It is a completely commercial agreement. They expect to get a return on their investment."

At a personal level , Dale is not looking for a seat in the Commons any more – at least not this year – and mildly regrets some of the 'cheerleading' he has done on his blog for the Conservative Party. His first commitment is to make Total Politics work as a commercial proposition. And he is emphatic that it is not a Tory magazine, although it is owned by Tories. Its editor, Sarah MacKinlay, is the daughter of a Labour MP, its political editor is a Lib Dem.

"Frankly, if anybody wishes to believe that this is going to be some sort of Tory rag, there is nothing I can do to dissuade them until they see the magazine, and make their own judgement," Dale says. "I defy anyone to look through the magazine and find any party political agenda at all – apart from that part of our mission statement where we say that we want to produce a magazine that is unremittingly positive about politics.

"I think a lot of people in politics are fed up with the fact that there is so much negativity around. We will provide a magazine that looks at political campaigning in a way that others don't. It's the sort of thing that unites all the readers. All elected politicians have something in common, they want to get re-elected; so if we can provide them with new ideas, new examples of things that have happened in other countries, they are going to be interested."

This is an interesting statement, because if there is anyone who is unremittingly negative about politicians and the political process, it is surely Iain Dale's anarchistic friend Paul Staines, who blogs as Guido Fawkes. But although they are friends, they are not political twins.

"I think people believe that we meet in a secret huddle every week. I have only met him probably a dozen times in my life," Dale says. "He has got his own agenda. I understand some of it, I even share some of it, but I don't agree with his constant trashing of the mainstream media. I've never taken this view that the internet and the mainstream media can't live perfectly well alongside each other."

The magazine has got off to a creditable start by getting an interview with Gordon Brown, which reveals – among other trivia – that the last film to make him cry was Hotel Rwanda.

It was secured, through great persistence, by Sarah MacKinlay, who was slotted into a gap in the Prime Minister's diary so small that on her way out of his office, she had to be hidden in a broom cupboard to keep her out of the way of the next world leader entering the building.

Of perhaps more significance to the magazine's long-term health is about 18 pages of advertising, none of it given away or sold for peppercorn, Dale insists. The Total Politics advertising rates are cheaper than those charged by its most obvious rival, The House Magazine, which is distributed free to MPs, but not to councillors.

"If we get a good number of subscriptions and a good number of news-stand sales, that's the icing on the cake for us," says Dale of a magazine which the public can buy for £3.99.

"Success or failure of Total Politics will depend on the advertising." Despite some initial anxiety when the advertising did not seem to be materialising, Dale adds: "I now have confidence that it could work as a commercial entity."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
Young Winstone: His ‘tough-guy’ image is a misconception
people
Sport
Adnan Januzaj and Gareth Bale
footballManchester United set to loan out Januzaj to make room for Bale - if a move for the Welshman firms up
Arts and Entertainment
Ellie Levenson’s The Election book demystifies politics for children
bookNew children's book primes the next generation for politics
News
Outspoken: Alexander Fury, John Rentoul, Ellen E Jones and Katy Guest
newsFrom the Scottish referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
i100
Sport
Yaya Sanogo, Mats Hummels, Troy Deeney and Adnan Januzaj
footballMost Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
Arts and Entertainment
L to R: Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Captain America (Chris Evans) & Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) in Avengers Assemble
film
News
Nigel Farage celebrates with a pint after early local election results in the Hoy and Helmet pub in South Benfleet in Essex
peopleHe has shaped British politics 'for good or ill'
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams' “Happy” was the most searched-for song lyric of 2014
musicThe power of song never greater, according to our internet searches
Sport
Tim Sherwood raises his hand after the 1-0 victory over Stoke
footballFormer Tottenham boss leads list of candidates to replace Neil Warnock
Arts and Entertainment
Sink the Pink's 2013 New Year's Eve party
musicFour of Britain's top DJs give their verdict on how to party into 2015
Voices
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers
voicesIt has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Roffey says: 'All of us carry shame and taboo around about our sexuality. But I was determined not to let shame stop me writing my memoir.'
books
News
i100
News
Caplan says of Jacobs: 'She is a very collaborative director, and gives actors a lot of freedom. She makes things happen.'
people
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Ashdown Group: Brand Marketing Manager - Essex - £45,000 + £5000 car allowance

£40000 - £45000 per annum + car allowance: Ashdown Group: Senior Brand Manager...

Guru Careers: .NET Developer /.NET Software Developer

£26 - 35k (DOE): Guru Careers: We are seeking a .NET Developer /.NET Software ...

Guru Careers: Graduate Marketing Analyst / Online Marketing Exec (SEO / PPC)

£18 - 24k (DOE): Guru Careers: A Graduate Marketing Analyst / Online Marketing...

Guru Careers: Technical Operations Manager

£Neg. (DOE) + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Technical Ope...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

Monique Roffey interview

The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

How we met

Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

Who does your club need in the transfer window?

Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

Michael Calvin's Last Word

From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015