Posted on 5 February 2009 | 3:02pm
Welcome to my website. And welcome to my first blog. I am a late convert to all this online malarkey but now the conversion has happened, I’ve decided to make a real go of it.
I intend to use this site to bring together the various things I do – writing, speaking, strategising, campaigning, whether for Labour or charitable causes close to my heart. I will blog when I feel like it, vlog at least once a week, give Dave Cameron the odd whack, and hopefully engage in a bit of lively debate. Tories welcome. Some of them anyway, if only to be told where they’re going wrong.
Don’t expect me to be at it 24-7 though! I’ve been on Facebook for a few weeks now, dipping in a couple of times each day, and some people seem to spend every hour of every day in online chat. I have enjoyed some of the exchanges with political opponents, of which I seem to have a few, despite having left the frontline ages ago.
Even going on Facebook and writing a weekly e mail for the Go Fourth campaign provoked a mild rash of ‘act your age’ complaint from what might be termed ‘critics’. Ditto, I see, the news that I am to be a mentor and judge in the forthcoming BBC 2 series, The Speaker, to find Britain’s best young public speaker.
Of course there is a bit of history between me and the Beeb. But it is five years since the Hutton Report was published. Five years is a long time. One and a quarter terms for Barack Obama (we fervently hope). One and a quarter Olympiads.
But when the BBC devoted three hours of documentary airtime to my diaries, (still selling nicely thank you, and the site can guide those who are still looking to buy) oh how the critics got their dander up. I know I’m biased, but I thought it was rather good television. Then there was a mini squall when they gave me an hour to tell the story of my nervous breakdown. (On which, by the way, I think I have had more comments from the public than on anything else I have ever done on telly.) My involvement in The Speaker has got one or two of the ‘critics’ going again. It’s weird really. It is as though there should never be reconciliation between people who fall out from time to time.
I should warn them – it could have been worse. Originally the BBC approached me about fronting the whole thing. But time constraints, and my worries about the elimination format, led me to rest rict my role. I have to say, having been involved now, my worries about the elimination element were unfounded. The producers handled the competition aspect really well, as shown by the presence of most of the eliminated contestants as spectators at the recently recorded final .
I hope people watch The Speaker when it comes out in a few weeks time. In the main young people get a bum rap from most of the media. The Speaker gets closer to what the vast bulk of them are – lively, intelligent, hard-working, keen to learn about the world around them – and some pretty good speakers among them too.