The perils of ministerial blogging (continued)

We at Scots Law News have referred before to the dangers inherent in ministerial blogging (see the unfortunate tale of Mike Russell MSP's trip to the Western Isles at 669).  Another blogging minister has discovered the dangers.

Tom Harris, the MP for Glasgow South, has a blog at  Mr Harris is also a UK Transport Minister.  His blog is regularly updated, self-deprecating and very readable (as well as displaying a commendable knowledge and appreciation of Doctor Who – after all how many MPs would interrupt their political blogging to remind readers of the late unlamented Adric?).

So, when Mr Harris blogged a brief piece about listening to an audiobook of Bill Bryson's "The Life and Times of the thunderbolt Kid" he must have thought it was business as usual.  The post – titled "Heaven knows we're miserable now" – comments on modern British society and contrasts life now with life as he was growing up:

"In our own country today, despite the recent credit squeeze, our citizens have never been so wealthy. 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. Eating out – a rare treat when I was a child in the ’70s – is as commonplace as going shopping. And when we do go shopping, whether for groceries or for clothes, we spend money in quantities that would have made our parents gasp.

"We’re securer than ever, at least in international terms. There’s no equivalent of the Soviet Union threatening to bury is in a nuclear armageddon. The very real threat of terrorism hasn’t notably altered anyone’s patterns of behaviour or travel (which is as it should be). Job security is felt to be less than in the past, it’s true, but the corollary of that is the tremendous real-terms rises in incomes over the years and the consequent improvements in quality of life.

"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), 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."

However, he then went on to ask,

"So why is everyone so bloody miserable?

"Are our crippling levels of cynicism and pessimism simply part of the human condition? Were we always like this? Or is a consequence of the “instant gratification society” that, having been instantly gratified, we must resent the society that manipulates our desires in this way?"

Sadly for Mr Harris, it's the question "So why is everyone so bloody miserable?" that has picked up media interest.

The Daily Mail has picked up on the quote (indicating that Mr Harris perhaps did not fully consider his usual self-imposed directive "would I be comfortable if this found its way into, let’s say, The Daily Mail?" ) and reported that Philip Hammond (the Conservative Treasury spokesman not the GP, comedian and occasional Private Eye contributor) has said,

"Tom Harris's breathtaking comments raise Labour's arrogance and complacency to a whole new level. Like his boss, Gordon Brown, he clearly lives on a different planet from ordinary hard-working families  –  who are struggling with soaring living costs, stagnant earnings and falling house prices.  The short answer to Mr Harris's question asking why everyone is so miserable is, "Because we've got Gordon Brown as our Prime Minister"."

Mr Harris has therefore found himself touring media outlets (including Radio Five Live, GMTV (for his sins), and the Today programme), explaining that the story as reported, is not what he'd said.