I’ve been enjoying the issues of Total Politics magazine that I am being regularly sent. It is good to read a publication that takes a positive approach to politics, that understands that it something done by real people and mostly for good reasons, and is concerned to write intelligently about it.
Some of the highlights of the latest issue (Issue 6) for me have been learning about Nick Clegg’s worrying (and frankly illiberal) choice of biscuits, Iain Dale’s outrageous flirting with Hazel Blears, a proper article about local government looking at the coalition arrangements on Leeds City Council, and a thought provoking discussion of the lessons to be learnt from Shakespeare’s speech writing skills. A good mix of informing and entertaining.
Writing about politics can be a tricky business. I know from the rather hit and miss success I have had on this blog (usually more miss than hit) and from regular perusals of the political blogosphere. There are a number of pitfalls you can fall into. Being dull and technocratic is an obvious one. Given the subject matter, too much party partisanship or excessive amounts of concern with the self are common. Other dangers I see too often are treating opinion as if it was fact and stating the bleedin’ obvious as if it was a terribly clever insight. I think I may be guilty of the last one from time to time.
Generally Total Politics has avoided these traps and has usually managed to get the balance right. It also seems to have got better at it since the first issue. However, the magazine is still making some missteps. This seems to happen when they pick the wrong contributors.
The worst example of this in the latest issue is the supposed “Debate” feature. In this article former political editor of The Sun, Trevor Kavanagh, and Labour MP, Derek Wyatt, discuss whether journalists or MPs are “in closer touch with the man on the street”. Except they don’t. Kavanagh’s self indulgent saloon bar rantings may work within the pages of The Sun but I suspect they are lost on an intended audience of practising politicians. Wyatt’s boastful list of how many emails he gets, how many readers visit his website, and the value of the “pork” that he has won for his constituency also misses the point. Who is more in touch with the man in the street? Who knows? I can’t get past the bloated egos to see.
The other problem with Total Politics that I became aware of as I worked my way through the latest issue is that there is too much in it. I will skip articles if they hold no interest for me. It is to Total Politics’ credit that most of the articles do. This means I end up more or less reading from cover to cover. The problem with this is that the magazine ends up asking for a little too much commitment from me. I think it is about a 1/3rd too long. They could do with trimming some of the less successful features and giving a bit more prominence to the best of the articles in the “Total Campaigns” section.
Otherwise: 8 out of 10.
This content was originally posted on my old Process Guy blog.