Many will surely see in Lindsay Tanner’s Sideshow what they want to see. Critics of the Press Gallery have taken to Twitter to explain how its 200 pages vindicate their belief in how out of touch and irrelevant the Gallery is. Working journalists are likely to see an attempt by Tanner to, as he himself put it, “blame the umpire” and duck responsibility for the dumbing down of politics that everyone, in one way or another, agrees has happened in recent years. Current and former politicians, whatever they may say in public, are likely to agree with him and lament their own incapacity to utter the same condemnation.
In promoting the book, Tanner has taken flak for a couple of things – not offering any solutions to the problems he details, and refusing to comment on current politics. It’s legitimate for journalists to ask Tanner to comment on current policy issues of course, but it’s now equally legitimate for Tanner to decline to answer on the basis that he’s now a private citizen. His book, after all, is no policy opus, but deals with politics itself. And he does muse on some solutions at the end of the book – more of that later -- but his main concern, he says, is to identify the symptoms of a growing and significant problem.