A selection of Iain Dale’s blog posts from 2004-2012, The Blogfather is a potted history of one of the pioneering political blogs in the UK which helped take blogging from idiosyncratic niche into a mainstream format for covering politics.
To his credit, Iain Dale has included several posts where subsequent events showed up his political judgement and he doesn’t stint in recording his heavy defeat at the hands of Norman Lamb in North Norfolk – even including his post from the day before when he wrote, “I just heard Channel 4 has tipped us to gain the seat”. It is a more interesting book for him having avoided the temptation many writers succumb to of omitting such events.
What is missing, perhaps inevitably, are the more ephemeral posts which were part of the rapid-fire cyber news cycle when his blog was at its peak. A reader of the book but not the original blog therefore gets a limited view of what the political blog was like, with more of the more substantive stories and less of the passing political Punch and Judy blogging. It is doubtful how many of the latter would interest readers now save for those named in them (yes, I did check to see if any of Iain’s posts about myself were in there!) so their exclusion is logical, even if it means we don’t quite get a full flavour of political blogging from the book. But then missing too are the comments on his posts, an omission which also probably suits the reader whilst also extending the degree to which the book takes blog posts and presents them in a different format, turning them into a different form.
Amongst the posts that are included, even the briefest usually have a serious message in them, as with the blog post from 4 May 2006 which may appear trivial at first glance yet actually touches on a deeper point about how much of political communication on TV is about appearance, with people often remembering someone’s appearance far more than their precise words:
While watching Question Time:
Me: Isn’t that Julia Goldsworthy just appalling?
Partner: Yes, but she’s got lovely hair.
Iain Dale’s Conservative views come out clearly in the book but he can at times be generous to politicians from other parties, as when he wrote in 2007:
I’ve been listening to Any Questions on my drive to Upton Park. Lynne Featherstone said something quite profound. On the question of gay adoption she urged people not to think about the generality of the issue but to concentrate on individual gay people you know and think about whether they would, as individuals, make good parents.
Overall the selection of posts makes for an interesting political history of the years, with plenty of issues that are still relevant. The selection of posts, exclusion of comments and absence of hyperlinks means it doesn’t quite give a real feel for what the blog, as a blog, was like. But then this is a book, not a blog.
What it does have in common with the blog is that there is much of interest and, given the pugnacity of its views, much that will also annoy or trigger disagreements. But then bland writing is usually boring writing.
Note: a review copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher.