My latest book review for LSE books was sent in the other day. A review of a compilation of blog writings by successful ex-blogger and junior Minister (under Labour) Tom Harris MP.
Here’s the review. I was none too charitable, alas. The whole thing looked like a rather poor rushed job and just did not hang together in any sensible way.
I sometimes muse about publishing in book form some of my own blog writings. But it’s not easy to make this work well, as the blog and book genres are quite different:
Nevertheless, these are blog pieces made public as events happened, not brutal senior private diary entries revealed to an amazed world several years later. As Tom Harris puts it in the Introduction,”the blog became an exercise in self-restraint and discipline in how to write in an interesting and even loyal away about politics … What you want is gossip”.
Which is mainly what we get. Tom Harris’ rich but inchoate views on Doctor Who, Genesis and X-Factor are shared with folksy observations on the Westminster world as seen by a busy junior Minister and diligent MP. The book is organised not by date but by themes, which themselves cast light on Tom Harris’ tabloidly parochial instincts: “How do you solve a problem like Gordon?”; “Government: better than the alternative”; “In defence of politics”; “Telly”; and so on. If the European Union was mentioned in any serious way, I certainly missed it.
There may be no better way of presenting such previously blogged material, but the themes scarcely hang together. Effective political blogging delivers what the writer hopes are insightful thoughts on the emerging issues of the day, if not the hour. Detached from the flow of events, individual pieces lose impact and context.
Anyway, no sooner had the review gone up than Tom Harris’ vivid political career hit another iceberg. He was forced to step down today from his position as Labour’s ‘Social Media Tsar’ (sic) after producing what was actually (as such things go) quite a good Downfall spoof on Alex Salmond. Which you can see here:
The squawks of synthetic indignation from the SNP might have led a Labour Party with backbone to start producing new Salmond Downfall spoofs every week for the next few years. But no. They caved. It was ‘offensive’. And Tom Harris resigned.
Of course the really idiotic thing about all this is that Labour thinks it needs a ‘Social Media Tsar’ at all. The whole point, Labour, of social media is that it is a spontaneous crowd-sourcing Towers of Babel chaotic phenomenon in which order emerges as it does. It’s utterly unsuited to any sort of political busy-body Tsardom. See?
My review led to a funny Twitter-spat out there in the social media cyberspace between me and one @RetiringViolet who may or may not be Violet but is certainly not Retiring in her efforts to portray Mr Harris as someone capable of the profound thought so firmly absent in the book I reviewed: