From Monday I start working at Downing Street as the government’s Deputy Director of Communications on a maternity cover.
“I hope you’re going to keep a diary,” has been a regular reaction. According to the contract for special advisers you are not allowed to write a memoir. Hilarious! “You must not publish or broadcast personal memoirs reflecting your experience in government, or enter into commitments to do so while in Crown employment. The permission of the Head of Department and the Cabinet Secretary must be sought before entering into a contractual commitment to publish such memoirs after leaving the Service.”
Well, who got that memo? Cook? Short? Brown? Blair? Campbell? Jonathan Powell? Mandelson? Darling? Lance Price? What did they do with it? Laugh all the way to the publishers?
So here’s the thing that puzzles me. If you are from the party you serve. . . With it through the good times and the bad. Knocking on doors in the pouring rain. Working in the back of an unused shop in a by-election. Dedicating mostly unpaid time because you believe in a cause, at what point do you become so important that those things no longer matter and it is ok to trash your party via your memoirs?
Most striking of all the recent memoirs is Alistair Darling’s. If this is for history, shouldn’t he wait until it is exactly that, history? Now, as a Liberal Democrat, what Darling has written is gold dust. It provides the ammunition to pick holes in Ed Balls the Shadow Chancellor every day until the next general election.
As a citizen, it continues to puzzle me that all along the Labour Party knew what Brown was like but thought it was ok to inflict him on the nation as our prime minister.
But as a long-term member of a political party I just don’t get it.
The debate Darling has opened up again is in direct contradiction with everything he has done, every moment he has dedicated to serving his party and getting them into power. Someone like Lance Price, I understand, he was never really part of the Labour Party, and they took that risk when they brought him in.
There is of course a valid argument about the value of these memoirs for historical note. And some are more faithful to their cause than others. And some are a great read. But they should be with the distance of history and the benefit of hindsight. They should not be in the midst of the red hot fires of vendetta and point scoring. It is striking from the last government that the gap between serving office and publishing memoirs has been breathtakingly short.
So no more blogging for a while and please don’t hold your breath for the memoirs, I’d be worried about you.