“Tartan Hero” Grant Thoms on deleting your blog

Here is the full text of an article written by Grant Thoms for his Tartan Hero blog on 24 November 2007:

Wendy’s in a ‘spin’ again

It should have been third time lucky for Wendy Alexander and a head of communications for the Labour Group. First, Brian Lironi left within days of Wendy’s coronation. Then Babyface Marr spectacularly resigned last week after a bout of political Tourette’s Syndrome. Now, the third man, Gavin Yates is in a spin after his blog postings were reported by the Sunday Post and Sunday Herald.

In his blog (which has since been closed down, a fine example of bolting the stable door), he praised Alex Salmond as ‘a politician at the top of his game’ and lauded the SNP Government’s achievements in it’s first 100 days. Now we shall see if this ‘journalist’ will change his tune now Labour is paying for his pipes.

Today, the Tartan Hero stable finds its door bolted firmly shut. A message simply reads: “the blog at tartanhero.blogspot.com has been removed.” His blog posts are now being reported in The Herald.

It seems as though “Tartan Hero” has become the Tartan Feartie, scared of his own views. For the man the SNP were pinning their hopes on for the Glasgow North East by-election has now withdrawn from the contest, apparently afraid that his blog “would return to haunt him”.

We have seen this sort of thing before of course. As Tartan Hero’s post says, one of Wendy Alexander’s spin doctors, Gavin Yates, closed down his blog and deleted it. As I pointed out at the time, if you want to hide your blog then deleting it is pretty futile. You leave traces of yourself all over the place, and deleting your blog only brings attention to the fact that you might have something to hide.

In the case of Gavin Yates, I was still able to access all of his archives which were sitting in my Google Reader account. Anyone can access old RSS feeds in Google Reader as long as they were subscribed to the website while it was still being published.

This week The Herald says that “traces” of the Tartan Hero blog have been retrieved by Mr Thoms’s political opponents. In my Google Reader account I have found a bit more than “traces”. I have access to the full content of 684 of his articles. I think this is a very substantial proportion of his archives.

In the words of Lallands Peat Worrier, he has been “Indygalled“! We can add his name to the list which includes Gavin Yates (whom, ironically, he gloated about), “Indygal” Anne McLaughlin and Kezia Dugdale.

Anne McLaughlin’s blog made the news when she became an MSP. Journalists trawled her archives looking for anything vaguely juicy, and they found a few interesting comments about (and a few photographs of) other politicians, but not much more. After some of the offending content was deleted, and a brief hiatus, she continued blogging and the whole thing blew over.

Kezia Dugdale also took some time off her blog after deciding it was “far too risky a past-time”. I think she got in hot water a couple of times about some of the things she published. Now with a promise that she will “be a bit smarter” with her blogging activities, it remains one of the very best Scottish Labour blogs going.

Tartan Hero was not among my personal favourites (although I guess I should be grateful to him for once rather inexplicably deciding that this was the second best Scottish political blog!). But it was clearly a very popular blog and appeared to attract quite a wide audience. His opinions didn’t do him any harm then.

For what it’s worth, I don’t think there is anything in Tartan Hero’s archives which is worth getting too excited about, which makes the deletion all the more strange in my view. The Herald hints at worries about this views on gay rights and Catholic schools. Jeff (apparently with the scoop!) also pinpointed Catholic schools as a potential issue.

The thing is, Tartan Hero was always had quite a provocative style. The views were not particularly extreme, but they were forthright and strongly expressed.

It seems strange to me that a politician would get cold feet over political views they so vehemently expressed just a year or two ago. It can’t be a surprise that his writing would find itself in the spotlight. Indeed, that was surely the intention.

It is true that in the rough-and-tumble world of party politics, one’s character and history faces a different type of scrutiny, and the game is not often played very fairly. But Grant Thoms is surely an intelligent person who has presumably had his sights set on becoming a Parliamentarian for a while now. None of this can be a surprise to him and he will surely have seen it coming.

So the deletion of his blog does make me scratch my head a bit. Moreover, it looks particularly silly given what he wrote when Gavin Yates deleted his blog.

As I said the last time I tackled this issue, no doubt if someone tried hard enough they’d find plenty of material on my blog to use against me. After all, as a mere 22 23-year-old scamp who has been blogging since 2002, I have left a fairly thorough record of my opinions going back to the age of 16.

It’s not that my opinions as a 16-year-old were particularly invalid or wrong, but a lot of them will have changed. It is not beyond the realms of possibility that I have written something in the past that could be taken out of context and used against me.

I’d like to trust people to be responsible about it, but I wonder if it’s possible. Certainly, it is a sad reflection of the state of politics that astute bloggers feel the need to cover up their writing for fear of it being used against them and thwarting their political careers.

At least Anne McLaughlin and Kezia Dugdale have not been put off for good and have been able to continue blogging in the long run. I wonder if one day soon a modified version of Tartan Hero will return to the blogosphere.


  1. What I’m looking forward to in maybe ten, maybe twenty years time is when the teenage Bebo profile of a rising political star gets dug up by a tabloid complete with ancient, scandalous photos. As social networking becomes a fact of life rather than the preserve of the nerds, it has to be only a matter of time. It amazes me that these seemingly web-savvy politicians (well, maybe not – but savvy enough to start a blog at least!) don’t realise that caching and RSS readers make deletion a futile exercise – and one which, as you so rightly point out, only encourages those investigating to dig deeper and see what the person thought they had that was worth hiding.

    It would be great to think that as this stuff becomes more prevalent one’s political enemies will take a pragmatic approach… I suspect not, when it makes point-scoring so easy!

  2. Yes, I think we are in a transitional period just now where the rules around this sort of thing are being written as we go along. Not so long ago the worry was that your Facebook or Bebo profile, complete with embarrassing drunken photos, would be used against you. But now that almost everyone growing up has some sort of online presence, soon it will be the people who don’t have Facebook profiles or blogs who will seem suspicious.

  3. Gosh! If I had realised deleting my blogs (firstly to create something new in its place, secondly as an admission I no longer had the time to blog) would lead to intrigue and speculation over my motives I wouldn’t have bothered.

    It is a sad day when EVERYTHING a politician does has to be via an ulterior motive.

    Grant had long since ceased posting to his blog, I suspect he came to the same conclusion I did regarding available time.

    I look forward to some intrepid opponent/journo trotting out my blog posts from days gone by at some future stage.

  4. Hi Mark, thanks for the comment.

    I can sympathise with someone deciding they don’t have the time do blog. I certainly struggle at times to keep churning out articles when I have other things on my plate.

    But I don’t understand why you have to delete a blog rather than simply write a goodbye post and keep the archives up. For one thing, it creates a trail of dead links through the web, which ain’t good.

    It is true that Grant Thoms stopped posting in March. But he had a much longer hiatus last year, lasting from June until sometime late in the year. He didn’t delete the blog then.

    I just don’t understand why someone would spend so much time outlining their vision only to attempt to destroy something they put so much effort into. It would be like writing a book, getting it published then trying to burn all the copies once it got into the shops.

  5. Mark, I think perhaps the problem was that the blog disappeared (rather than merely being dormant) when the Glasgow by-election became a certainty rather than before or after, thus raising the suspicion that it was removed because of the prospect of Grant standing in the election rather than for other reasons and, as mentioned earlier, why delete it because it’s dormant rather than just saying goodbye and/or just leaving it as it was before deletion – as the Doc compellingly argues, deleting it served little purpose other than to question Grant’s motives and encourage the consequent media and internet speculation.

    But I’m sure many of us lesser mortals would love the chance to be considered sufficiently newsworthy that we have to worry about what’s been written on our blogs!!

  6. Writing a blog seems to be a terrible career move for politicians. Didn’t Tom Harris get fired from the government because of his?

  7. The past will always come back to haunt you! Especially with our muck raking infantile Press and Media. Our politically correct hypocrits.
    It is particularly dangerous to be a blogger in Scotland if you have Independence leaning thoughts. For the rabid quislings of Scottish Unionism will twist and slander anything you say!
    We live in a country where it has become dangerous to say what you mean and mean what you say!