Saturday, December 18, 2010

Blogging v political careers

So Iain Dale is off. Not so long ago, Tom Harris also skipped the scene and Tom Watson - though currently as active as he's ever been - has quit blogging for periods in the past under different sorts of pressure. Hopi says it's all part of his Kind Hearts & Coronets-type plot of his to be the UK's No1 political blogger.

Iain is retiring - at least in part - hurt. He also says that it's time-consuming and getting in the way of other ambitions but it's plain that - as an unpaid activity - it's actually damaging his wider career prospects (there's a cruel-but-funny take on this here).

Tim has been involved in a similarly frictional relationship with Tory MP Nadine Dorries and, from what I've seen of the evidence (and maybe I've not seen all of it), it seems to me that Tim's account of the conflicts concerned is more reliable than Iain or Nadine's.

Whatever. There's one conclusion that I'd draw here that I've not seen anywhere else:

Tom H, Nadine and Iain have distinguished themselves by being more-active-than-average online. None of them have been able to do the useful things that social media allows them to do - at least in part -because the personal engagement crowds out the political / policy conversation (though I suspect Nadine would just be a little puzzled by the concept in the first place). If you place yourself in full view online, you leave yourself open to disruption. Keep quiet and you don't.

Again, without commenting on any specifics, we all sometimes behave badly. Venal sins, sins of omission, and sometimes, downright badness and dishonesty. Some of us more than others. The thing is, most of the time, we can wriggle out of it. We can avoid providing a line-by-line answer to our critics. We can mumble something that sounds like a half-excuse and make for the door. We can change the subject or tell people to 'let it drift.'

We also sometimes do something that looks wrong in a particular context. We sometimes do something that appears wrong to anyone who doesn't have the opportunity and capacity to understand a complicated explanation.

All of these are politicians' tricks, and we all use them. In an adversarial world, evasion is a constant. To some extent, it's even a conversational virtue and I doubt if anyone who ever had to make a hefty compromise would be able to honestly say that they've never ducked a question.

For this reason, I suspect, a lot of public figures avoid putting themselves in a place where they can be fisked - and this, in itself, is not a good thing in the wider public interest. Iain and Nadine's alleged shortcomings may have come back to bite them. But hundreds of other political figures have, quite simply, kept out of the space in the first place and can be a good deal less conversational with impunity.

Not that it should be punishable to be conversational in the first place - that's the problem.


Mike Power said...

What the blogosphere needs is fewer self-righteous pricks. Fewer saddos with no real life beyond sitting in front of a screen at 2 in the morning checking for references to themselves and then drunkenly responding. Fewer self appointed web policemen telling us all how we should run our blogs. Fewer bores prattling on for years about the same old shite. Fewer bitter old has-beens, resentful that others have a vastly bigger readership and influence than they do.

But, unfortunately, like tedious, irritating pub bores, they will always be with us.

Anonymous said...

Mike, you've missed "smug liars" from your list along with "libellers". But hey, then you'd have to point the finger at your buddy Iain too. And he's mister perfect, isn't he?