It isn't often that someone gets on the wrong side of both the Daily Mail Gestapo & working class voters. However, such a feat has been pulled off by a junior government minister, Tom Harris. The junior transport minister & MP for Glasgow South posted on his blog (http://tomcharris.wordpress.com/2008/06/19/heaven-knows-were-miserable-now/ ) that he couldn't understand why, with so many people seemingly well-off, they were so pessimistic & gloomy.
The Guardian's take on the story (http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2008/jun/20/tom-harris.miserable.voters ) notes that late last night Harris realised that his post was due to be given the Daily Mail front page treatment. His resulting update to the post reflects, perhaps, a disturbing level of naivety for a government minister: " I've always been aware of the pitfalls to blogging [haven't we all, mate!], especially as an MP and more especially as a minister..With every post I've written, I've asked myself: would I be comfortable if this found its way into, let's say, the Daily Mail? Well, I'm about to find out."
Rather than go by the Mail's take on the story (let's face it, the paper is a pathetic little rag which panders to lower middle class prejudices), I'll serve up the germane passages from Harris' blog itself: "High-def TVs fly off the shelves at Tesco quicker than they can be imported. Whatever the latest technological innovation, most people can treat themselves to it...
"There are more two-car homes in Britain today than there are homes without a car at all.We live longer, eat healthier (if we choose) [really?], have better access to forms of entertainment never imagined a generation ago (satellite TV, DVD, computer games), the majority of us have fast access to the worldwide web, which we use to enable even more spending and for entertainment. Crime is down.
"So why is everyone so bloody miserable?"
The comments to the post have been predictably mixed (for every hostile or querulous response there's the New Labour on-message missive) & I decided to pen my own thoughts to the minister:
"For your information, Tom, many of us outside your rarefied bubble are not snapping up high-definition TVs in our droves. Those who 'flash the plastic' to fund such purchases will soon realise, thanks to the credit crunch, that things have fallen to earth with a heavy thud. Moreover, I do not own a car, on the grounds that I can't afford one & I don't desire one. As for flippant quote about us having the choice to eat healthily, I suggest you take a rare excursion into the communities that the Labour Party was supposed to represent & champion; in such areas a large number of parents don't have a real choice for themselves or their children. It isn't just the Daily Mail mob you've offended with this witless post."
Harris' blithe ignorance of the economic realities facing what was once Labour's natural constituency is of a piece with this government's arrogance, aloofness & mendacity, most recently demonstrated by culture minister Andy Burnham's reprehensible attempt to slight Liberty's director, Shami Chakrabarti (http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2008/jun/20/daviddavis.byelections ).