Monday, November 15, 2010

So, Farewell Then Tom Harris

I'm depressed. I've just seen that my friend Tom Harris has decided to give up blogging. Lord knows I understand his reasons, but what does it say about the political blogosphere that it has forced someone like Tom to give up. He's a brilliant writer with a fantastic sense of humour who provides insights into politics that you just don't get elsewhere. I know he was hugely disappointed at not being appointed to Ed Miliband's front bench team - a completely baffling decision, in my opinion. Perhaps he has decided that it is indeed his blog which is holding him back. He may be right, but whatever the real reasons are for his decision to give up, let's just all thank him for the last two years of brilliant blogging. I hope one day he may return.

But he's just the latest in a long line of top class bloggers who have given up since the election. It does make me wonder if real change is afoot in the blogosphere. And one reason is that it is gradually becoming a nastier and nastier place. It's a place I am getting less and less pleasure inhabiting and I can quite see the day I may well follow Tom Harris onto the blogging scrapheap. No doubt my growing legion of enemies out there would cheer that to the rooftops. Which is the main reason I keep going. I don't intend to give them the satisfaction. Yet.


Paul Burgin said...

As a Labour activist, Tom was my favourite blogger in the Party. I wish him well, but likewise share some of your concerns about the blogosphere, although I think there is more to it. The success of Twitter for example

Old BE said...

No, the reason you will eventually have to stop writing is that there won't be any space left on the page for original content.

Unknown said...

Well Mr Dale,

You’ve had quite a day. I read your Woolas post.....the one with miles of comments. It’s easy to criticise. Most of us are very good at it.
The fact is your blog is read by thousands and most people very much appreciate it. Unfortunately, those that do probably don’t go to the bother of telling you.

I’m tired, so I’m just going to say thanks for all the work you do. I also listened to the show tonight...good as always.
A big virtual hug from Hertfordshire !

Dilettante said...

Stick with it, Iain. The internet is sadly a place where ignorant, bile-filled trolls come to express themselves sometimes, but it produces a lot of good debate too, and you're rather the gatekeeper to the UK blogosphere. If you fall, there will be chaos!

voiceofourown said...

You almost make it sound as if Mr Harris is something of a careerist.
Giving up his blog as it might be holding him back?
Holding him back from what?
I suspect he'll be back, though. Perhaps the livery of his blog will be different by then.

Unknown said...

Well Iain, I completely disagree with you politically; on most issues we are miles apart. However, I love your blog and I truly respect your writing so I hope you will keep at it as long as possible. As you say, there is no gain to be had in giving in to the people who hate you for whatever reason.

P. Stable said...

But Iain, if you give up blogging how will we know what's on your LBC show tonight, who is interviewed in the new issue of your magazine and which 1980s politician Grant is obsessing about this week?

Unknown said...

"Their's were the backs that held the sky suspended.
They stood and earth's foundations stay.
What God abandoned, these defended
And saved the sum of thing, for pay."

Don't give up just because the world is falling apart around you.

Johnny Norfolk said...

I think blogging is just a phase in your life and nothing more.

AndyMac said...

It's easy to call names isn't it, like idiot for example, is it the rise in the number of bile filled trolls or is it that you raise the bile a little more these days.

Happy ensconcement, ta-ra.

Houdini said...

It's not becoming a nastier place at all; it's becoming what it was always supposed to be, a forum for the masses to express their disgust and disappointment, and to vent their feelings as they see fit.

Blogger was hijacked by people like you and Harris, and many others, who saw it as an easy entry to the web for their writing, but you and them are not bloggers but professionals who used the system to get a name and an audience.

You and all other professionals should have their own sites and systems and leave Blogger to the disaffected, and happy, private individuals who don't have the time or resources to build and maintain a real site, which is what it was designed to be.

It is being reclaimed, taken back, and made what it was meant to be.

DespairingLiberal said...

I hate to be cynical and Tom's blog has always been good, but might this not be for the reasons we have been given? Politicians are politicians even when they are bloggers. Is "my audience are all too negative" similar to "need to spend more time with my family"? Eg, a euphemism. If so, I wonder what the real reason(s) is/are?? Can it be that caring-sharing democrat Ed-Mil is having a crackdown on the communications side of things?

freddo41 said...

Tom's blog was a constant reminder that the Labour Party could still represent fair, balanced, non-partisan views.

I’m sorry to see him go but, if I may, I can pinpoint the moment when he must have asked himself, “Is this where it all leads?”

It was when he found himself, just a few weeks ago, watching Cliff Richard at the Albert Hall in the company of you and Yasmin Alibhai-Brown.

That’s enough to make anyone ask some pretty basic questions about the direction one’s life is heading.

Bob Piper said...

I agree with the general sentiments, although I'm no particular fan of Tom Harris. But Iain, the two blogs which have allowed their comment columns to be an excuse for the vilest abuse are Staines' and yours. Staines makes no attempt to moderate the despicable and hateful abuse from commenters who clearly have 'issues' and until recently your own comments section was the pretty much the same.

The people who have been encouraged by this garbage then spread like a virus across the blogosphere. Harris' blog had also become infected, although with no visible encouragement from him.

Brian said...

I don't post so much on my blog nowadays because there is so much "I don't believe it!" news around that I would simply be duplicating other bloggers. Wasn't it Tom Lehrer who said that satire died when Kissinger got the Nobel Peace Prize. Well there have been plenty more days like that since. I also feel a deep anti-climax since the Parliament scandal,eviction of Zanulab and climategate because nothing much has changed. I'm just reading others' blog now and hoping to contribute positively in order to recharge my batteries. Keep on writing what you like Iain.

Tony_E said...

Blogging seems largely to be the voice of the opposition. During the Labour years then the Conservative bloggers were paramount.

The blogosphere is getting nastier because the opposition has changed so the narrative changes with it. Bloggers only respond to the general political environment, and that is getting decidedly nasty as well. Eventually I expect that the vitriol will die down or at least be restricted to a few noisy but prominent bloggers and service will return largely to normal.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps you are right - you only have to look at the comments on say Coffee House (helooo there) where the usual suspects mistake being rude crass and ignorant for being clever. And boy they do not like being told so.

The point about Harris is that if he wants to speak to a wider audience rather than labour/Guardianista toadies then he has to show a certain level of objectivity. And that will not go down well with the Party.

Village Bookworm said...

The UK political blogosphere is changing. For the last five years it has been dominated by ex [failed?] Tory candidates from 2001 and 2005, who had something to say in opposition. What do we now have to say? Slagging off the coalition from the Tory right seems somewhat churlish at this stage. Parrotting policies is just naff. Many voices on the right will dissappear in the next few months, but I would have thought this a golden opportunity for Tom Harris.

As the role model [ The Daddy!] blog for politicos, yours has declined of late. I have gone from a several times a day reader to a few times a week at best. Mainly because it has gone from promoting Iain Dale, interesting potential candidate with something to say; to promoting a talk radio show [Ye gods!] and publishing.

Blogging has always seemed to me to be a means to an end, sort of advertising 2.0. Unfortunately the 2.0 bit is becoming more unpleasant and bilious.

But if you make daft postings like the Woolas fund one, you deserve all you get, or are you setting yourself up for closure..............?

HampsteadOwl said...

Iain Dale
Too big to fail

Wyrdtimes said...

Will he be giving up voting on issues that don't affect his constituents? Namely English issues?

Michael Fowke said...

They'll never take me alive!

Unknown said...

No-one told Tom Harris to stop blogging - I mean that's not how Labour does things.

Someone, not a million miles away from Panda Ed's inner gang, suggested how much brighter Harris' future within the Labour Party might be were he to stop blogging.

*That's* how Labour does things - allows for the denial you see.

If I were Harris I would have kept blogging - he's going to be a Labour MP a lot longer than Panda is going to be the Labour leader.

And as for 'Braindead' Bob Piper bleating about 'despicable and hateful abuse'. Excuse me while I fall about laughing.

Anonymous said...

Ian, I'm sure that I will get a kicking for saying this, but it seems to me as if I might as well go head and see it anyway!

There is a growing retrenchment within the Labour Party on the issues to do with E politics, and it has been growing for some time. Nothing official is said, but it seems to me as if this trend is growing and it is confirmed through conversations with other Labour Party politicians who use social networking and bloggers for political interaction.

I use Twitter and Facebook in order to promote some of my counsellor activities, and have noticed over the course of recent months that there has been a distinct increase in the number of negative comments from colleagues.

It is a sad situation that the Labour Party is turning its back on a new and innovative way for politicians to contact the electorate, at the very time when it needs to most enthusiastically embrace new ways of putting its views and policy over to sections of the electorate who may not read or watch the traditional media.

I for one will miss Tom Harris and his blog, and I hope that a way can be found to harness his undoubted ability to communicate his views to the electorate via the Internet can be maintained. If not, then I do wish him all the best for the future!

freddo41 said...

Of course I was only joking about Tom, Cliff, YAB and the Albert Hall but I would not see it as in any way a joke if you quit this blog. It would be unalloyed bad news.
And while I’m on the subject of YAB, can I ask you to use all your influence to ensure that Gareth Compton is soon returned to the party and his councillor’s duties.
The party cannot afford to be cowed into following the YAB line.
If we are not pro-joking, we are nothing.

Unsworth said...

Maybe Harris is facing the fact that the Left have run out of intellectual and moral strength. If that is so, it is a great pity. Some of the finest aspects of our politics and our society have come from the Left Wing. And a strong, confident Opposition is always a good thing.

Labour has to reconsider its roots and its philosophical origins. It has learned that street fighting and sloganising can provide power and impetus. But without a sound philosophy this will always come to nothing. If there is one lesson Labour must understand it is that one cannot impose ideals by legislation. Force is no substitute for persuasion and mutual co-operation.

Where and who is Labour's Great Thinker of today?

paulocanning said...

Oh FFS Iain, read Andrew Sullivan on his ten years. You goes up, you goes down. You does not stop.

I am diametrically opposed to you politically but welcome your continued voice. Do not be a 'quitter', like Ms (shudder) Palin.

And do more gay stuff, esp for those 'less fortunate', i.e. those seeking our sanctuary. Feels good to do so. Ask other gay Tories.

We need you Tory gay voices loud not silent.

Victor, NW Kent said...

Tom Harris was the respectable and sane voice of New Labour. I even found myself complimenting him on his blog a couple of times.

Sorry to see him go.

George Fripley said...

Don't stop blogging Iain. Even those of us who may not comment much, still enjoy the read. There is way too much self-opinionated bile out there, but these people are just wreckers rather than constructive in any way. Most can't see themselves for what they are and have no sense of humour. As a current government employee, albeit it in Australia, I come across this every day. There are no easy answers but having blogs putting forward viewpoints is essential these days is essential in a world of a few large media organisations.

Stuart Winton said...

An extract from a blogpost I've done:

But the more futile nature of blogging is perhaps demonstrated by Tom Harris's decision to quit the medium. Probably Scotland's best-known blogger - and thus worthy of the title MacBlogfather - he seems to rationalise his move on the basis that blogging is detrimental to his political career and personal life. Thus to that extent blogging is essentially a glorified hobby which gets in the way of more important things, and this is despite Tom's relative success as a blogger.

Similarly, as mentioned above the Blogfather himself also uses MSM appearances as a yardstick of blogging success. And, more to the point, Iain seems to be neglecting his blog in favour of his radio show, book and magazine publishing business and television appearances (not to mention his former Telegraph column). Thus to reitearate, there seems to be a pattern developing here; blogging is a mere-stepping stone or adjunct to olde worlde TV, radio, newspapers and books, or as an elected politician in Tom's case or in Iain's aspiration. Witness also the hoo-hah on the rare occasions when the blogosphere breaks a story before the MSM, which of course is vindicated when the story becomes headline news in