My old media relations tutor used to say “Laddy, never pick a fight with people who buy ink by the barrel”. Well times change Colin and I’m picking a fight.
Paulie at Never Trust A Hippy has started a worthy campaign against political journalists and commentators. Bravo. I am unable to watch any news programme or read any newspaper without seething with anger at how low political journalism has sunk.
These people besmirch the honourable profession of journalism. Most journalists I know are diligent reporters, analysts and seekers of the truth. Many political journalists are cynical, corrupt spinners who never let the truth get in the way of their own personal prejudices. Obsessed by spin, personalities and gossip they either deliberately or ignorantly mislead their readers and viewers in order to peddle their personal prejudices.
No political party is spared their cynical whining. Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat politicians all suffer at the keyboard of those who are incapable or too afraid to articulate their own policies and stand up to democratic scrutiny.
The fact is that most people in politics are in it because they have a belief and want to make a difference. They want to make the world a better place. When mistakes are made it is because politicians are human. Policies are formulated and actions are taken with good intent. But political journalists prefer to imagine secondary motives, snouts in troughs and corruption. Perhaps they are looking in the mirror?
By destroying public trust in democratic institutions they are slowly but surely ripping apart the fabric of the nation to the detriment of us all.
4 Replies to “Campaign against political journalists and commentators”
Good to see you back in action!
I've a lot of sympathy for your argument. It's very hard to have a serious debate in Britain without the media – not just political commentators – getting hysterical. The list is endless: taxation, new homes, immigration, nuclear power, political party funding the EU…
I'm a big fan of keeping news and opinion apart (feel free to call me naive), but the line between the two is now well and truly blurred. And let no-one claim this is a new development – as anyone who remembers the Daily Mail 'news' pages in triumphant mood after the 1979 election will recall.
You're right to remind us that people go into politics for honourable reasons. And in the haze of accusations about sleeze it's worth remembering that few enter politics for personal gain. (Anyone who does is likely to be disappointed very quickly!) But you make it sound as if politicians are totally innocent victims, who have never indulged in spin or misinformation.
The problem, of course, is the age old one of getting the rival parties to recognise that Punch and Judy playground politics is a real turn off for voters. Playing to the gallery is addictive – but destructive. A bidding war of unrealistic promises at election time leaves everyone feeling cheated.
Politicians need to play it straight – keep your promises, play it straight and treat people as adults. Use blogs, podcasts and other means to communicate directly with voters. (But make sure you talk their language, not Westminster-speak.) Then you'll have a chance…
Hmm. I can't help thinking, Stuart, that you're putting the cart before the horse. Surely the ones who are "destroying public trust in democratic institutions" are the ones who are, for example, creating spin-laden dossiers designed to take us to war with the flimsiest of reasons? Or creating rules for sentencing that allow convicted child rapists to possibly go free after five years, then blame the judges who's hands are tied for the sentence? Or who, after nine years in power, suddenly realise that a key department is "not fit for purpose" when a 1000 criminals who could and should have been deported simply disappear?
Many people in politics, particular at local level, are indeed in it as a public service – just as many civil servants are. It certainly doesn't stop this government (and its predecessors) decrying public servants like, say, teachers as "vested interests" who are "standing in the way of change" when it suits them. So I have very little sympathy with your point about politicians at the highest level. I can't think of too many ministers who haven't played the same game when it suited them.
You're falling into the classic trap of blaming the messenger. The fact is that people – and journalists – are cynical about this government not because of any spin, but because the actions of the government over the past nine years have shown them to be worthy of cynicism.
Rob – agree totally about the need to communicate directly with voters and that using blogs, podcasts etc is important. However, traditional direct contact is also still very important – local community newsletters through people's doors. The difficulty is that this is very time consuming and expensive to do and all parties struggle with the resources to do this.
And yes of course all politicians 'spin', but it is one of those chicken and egg questions. They wouldn't need to do it if so much if the media wasn't so irresponsible.
Ian – I'm not entirely sure what you are saying. I deliberately wasn't being party political (which all of your points appear to be). I'm open about being a Labour Party supporter but have every sympathy with the Tories who I think are treated just as unfairly by the media.
I'm lucky enough to have met/know both Labour (lots) and Tory ministers (some) and don't think principles are any different at the top than they are at the local level.
The public are cynical because they have been grotesquely misled by the media.
Stuart, the point is only tangentially party political (although, caveat emptor, I'm a member of the LibDems), as I'm sure you could build an equal case against the others.
The point is that I have more faith in the general public's ability to see through spin from the likes of The Sun and Daily Mail than you do. Papers might set agendas – but they don't determine opinions.
Cases like the ones I cited don't need any spin on them by the papers to undermine the faith that people have in the political class. People aren't stupid: they know that the Iraq invasion involved them being misled, they know that the Hutton Report was a whitewash, they know that it's politicians, not judges, who create sentending guidelines. If people are cynical, it's because the government has consistently tried to mislead them, over virtually the entire course of 9 years.
I'm afraid that the main people to blame for the cynicism of the electorate are politicians themselves. I'm not exempting the other mainstream parties from this – all of them are guilty of much the same thing – but the Labour Party is the best example to use, simply because it's in power and has had more obvious failures.
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