10 October 2011

The demise (?) of Dan Hodges

Once I had stopped throwing my Blackberry around the train for not working properly today and remembered that I had a perfectly functioning Samsung Galaxy S as backup, Tweetdeck dealt me the sad news that Dan Hodges had left the New Statesman.

For those who have never read his stuff (and there can't be many of you on the left, nor apparently among the Tories), Dan is a maverick blogger with strong Blairite tendencies. He is no great fan of Ed Miliband most of the time, and according to the (usually less than reliable) Guido Fawkes, Ed's office was instrumental in securing Dan's dismissal from the Statesman after such classic anti-Ed fodder as "Ed Miliband has a strategy - it's called Ralph Nader", "No one likes Ed Miliband - but he doesn't care" and "Ed's hit himself with a hammer. Why is he surprised it hurts?"

The Statesman itself issued a tweet saying that Dan had resigned rather than being fired, and there has been no word - yet - from the man himself, so it's not at all clear what happened yet. The Guido Fawkes view is that Dan was forced out because of his anti-Ed Miliband views. However, there are a lot of anti-Ed views expressed on the site and only some of them have come from Dan. Until recently the Statesman had Lib Dem Olly Grender on the books, and they also have the dreadful Tory Graeme Archer, the small 'l' liberal legal specialist David Allen Green, the hard left (ish) activist Laurie Penny, and economist David Blanchflower (the British Paul Krugman); none of these are sycophantic Milibandites. The only real hardcore pro-Ed voice on the Statesman's main writing team is Mehdi Hasan.

It also seems unlikely that Dan's persistent attacks on Ed are well crafted enough to prompt a nasty phone call from the Ed team saying "get rid of this geezer". Basically, Dan writes two kinds of articles; the Ed is Crap Article and the Article About Something Else. Sometimes the Article About Something Else is worth reading (e.g. his recent post on the Tories' problems over whether to abolish the 50p rate or not was excellent.) The Ed Is Crap Article is, and always has been, desperate Blairite trolling replete with all the tricks of the trade - asides from unnamed "cabinet ministers", the "concerned insider" saying "we really don't know what Ed's doing anymore", Tony Blair lurking in the background tutting disapproval, and some guy Dan meets up for a pint with every fortnight who doesn't know the names of any contemporary politicians at all but thinks Enoch Powell had the right idea in sending 'em all back home. Or something like that. I do computer programming sometimes and I'm thinking of producing a piece of software that will automatically write a generic Dan Hodges "Ed Is Crap" Article at the press of a button, using randomisation to generate slightly different copy each time (along the lines of the early web classic the Post Modernist Essay Generator). Maybe I could sell it to the Statesman and they could carry on as if all was well.

Actually I'm being slightly unfair on Dan here - recently he did discover a third type of article - it was the Ed Balls Is Crap article. File under "slight variation of the formula."

Despite the fact that I rarely agree with Dan (although occasionally I have enthusiastically endorsed his writing), and that I think his anti-Ed stance is tired and one-dimensional, I'm nonetheless sad to see him leaving the Statesman, partly because I enjoyed commenting on his articles (usually either to accuse him of being a Tory plant or a plant from Ed Miliband's office designed to offer only token and thin criticism to make Ed look good), partly because - as evidenced by his Twitter feed - he does have a great wit at times, and partly because even though he's mostly wrong, he's often interestingly wrong - unlike someone like John Rentoul for example, who is just annoying. And also because it probably means he'll be doing more on Labour Uncut - the right-wing Labour blog started by Mr Webcameron himself, Sion Simon - which is full of people with views similar to Dan, but who express them much less articulately. To the extent that I can't be bothered to visit the site: Labour List is as far right as I go, and even then rarely.

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