How Instagram became the politicians’ playground

Free from viral abuse, Instagram has become our MPs’ preferred platform to show off their human side

Tom Watson is spiralising courgettes with a gadget bought in a supermarket sale. Caroline Flint looks thrilled with the mini trampoline she got for Christmas, though arguably not as thrilled as Tory leadership contender Liz Truss is to be posing with Larry the Downing Street cat on her knee. And Gavin Williamson, the defence secretary, wants you to know he’s been doing some DIY.

Welcome to the soothingly soporific world of politicians on Instagram. You won’t find many profound insights on Brexit, admittedly. But in a week where two Conservative councillors were caught “liking” Facebook memes about beheading Sadiq Khan while Labour’s Angela Rayner received death threats for tweeting something polite about Tony Blair, there’s something undeniably restful about looking at pictures of Emily Thornberry stroking a penguin. If political Twitter feels increasingly like hard work, Instagram is one of the few places MPs still allow themselves to be playful.

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Burgess Prize runner-up 2019: Kate Wyver on Dan Hett’s Sorry to Bother You

Kate Wyver’s reflections on a complex game about grief and journalism earned her joint second place in this year’s Observer/Anthony Burgess prize
• The winning review: Jason Watkins on Daisy Campbell’s Pigspurt’s Daughter
• Joint runner-up: Tara McEvoy on Terrance Hayes’s American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin

Kate Wyver, 22, studied theatre and performance at the University of Bristol. Now based in London, she works as a bookseller and freelance journalist, primarily for the Guardian. The judges were impressed with how her review “placed the work in the wider context of how journalism is changing in a digital world”.

It was hastily done. A desperate journalist scrawled an interview request on a torn scrap of paper and slipped it under Dan Hett’s door. “I’m very sorry to bother you,” the note began, “but…” It was 23 May 2017, the morning after the terror attack that claimed 23 lives at Ariana Grande’s Manchester concert, and hungry journalists were circling family members of the missing. Hett tweeted a photo of his brother Martyn, who had been at the concert and wasn’t answering his phone. Did anyone have any information? Sensing an opportunity, the famished flock descended.

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