Alex Massie

Au Revoir, Tom Harris

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Blogging is a risky business for any MP*. There are some whose blogs would persuade one to cast a vote for almost any other candidate, regardless of party. But if I lived in Glasgow South I'd be quite happy to have Tom Harris as my MP. Hell, I might even vote for him despite disagreeing with him on many issues. Admittedly, since it's a safe seat this is not such a sacrifice but I think electing good people to parliament is as important as the colour of the rosette they wear.

So it's disappointing, even a shame, that he's decided to stop writing his blog. (At least for now.) He must be one of the few people to find blogging less fun in opposition than in power. Then again, freed from the burden of supporting the government in the division lobbies, Harris's disappointment with the current Labour leadership has not been so very thinly veiled. It's not hard to see how this could cause him problems, nor to imagine that his blog - and the attendent suspicion that he's a dangerously independent thinker - could have played a part in his failure to win a place in the Shadow Cabinet or on the Labour frontbench.

That's one of the perils of blogging - especially for an MP who has no desire to be part of the self-aggrandising awkward squad whose rebellions are too often simply an excuse for preening. One suspects that some of Harris's colleagues were somewhat jealous of the celebrity he's enjoyed in the miniature world of bloggers and print pundits. Most backbenchers are mostly anonymous; Harris's blog earned him a certain renown. (And the praise from plenty of political opponents - something that might also make the Brothers suspicious.)

An MP owes his constituents his judgement and a certain level of diligence and nothing more. I think Harris's blog demonstrated his value as an MP: loyal but not unthinkingly so to his party and constituents alike but also prepared to argue for unpopular positions and decisions even when these annoyed his party and constituents alike.

And it was his blog, much more than Hansard or the newspapers, that demonstrated this. If I were one of his constituents I'd be pleased to see such "openess" from my MP and evidence that he was capable of more than just regurgitating party press releases or repeating the same, stale talking points trotted out each day for the press. Agreement isn't the point; argument is the point. Anyway, anyone who agrees with any politician on everything isn't fit to have the franchise.

But Harris probably still has some political ambition and so one can see why he's shuttering the blog. There are, doubtless, other reasons, but it's a shame anyway, not least since blogging remains an excellent medium for MPs and one that, the whips be damned, one wishes more took advantage of.

*Do any members of Congress write a proper blog that's properly their own? Can't say I can think of any offhand.

UPDATE: Tom makes it clear that he's not been leant on by the Labour leadership.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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