Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Media, The politician and Mrs Peach

Diary entry for Wednesday, 13 June 2007

Mrs Peach is a round woman. This is not, in my opinion, an insult, but more of an affectionate nod in the direction of roundness. Mrs Peach is also an efficient woman. Efficient in so much as what ever she starts to say, you can be certain that by hook or by crook, in spite of wind, rain or a blizzard, Mrs Peach will finish saying.

Efficiency and Roundness, all packaged in one person who is determined to delay the start of my, as you should know, important day. Not more important than any other, but important in the way that any day should be important.

I caught the beginning of what Mrs Peach had to say; it was roughly located in the direction of the somewhat unpredictable postal delivery in our Green. I also caught the latter end, the part where, despite protestations, I eventually made my escape. This part centred itself on the fact that our current, but rapidly fading, Prime Minister was going to at last tell the press where to stick it. That is correct; the woman said “stick it.” She didn’t say precisely where it was going to be stuck or, indeed, what “it” was, but stuck it was definitely going to be.

Unfortunately, and commonly, I did not absorb the middle part of the lecture that may have explained to me the connection between the first part and the last part. However, this would have to wait, and as I circumnavigated the efficient lady, I bid her a sunny day and attempted NOT to run to the waiting hackney carriage.

The Cabbie was a little clearer, in that he separated the two subjects for me (admitting ignorance of our green’s postal service) and concentrating on the speech made by Mr. Anthony Blair, First Lord of the Treasury. It appears that he feels very hard done by, “I mean right hard done by, if you get my drift sir!” The hard donners being the massed feral pack of the media.

One cannot help but have a momentary pang of sympathy for a man who has been media-pummelled so relentlessly of recent. But this pang should be, in truth, but momentary as it is the media not the PM that supplies one’s morning literature. And as I actually put my hand in my pocket to pay for such, I have loyalty if not to the organs, but definitely to my wallet.

Passing past the surprisingly dusty visage of the Labour Party Chairwoman, I had time to disseminate the entire context of the speech; graciously and, one hopes, accurately transcribed by Auntie:

John Snow, the anchor of the Channel 4 News programme, around a year ago on a rare debate appearance, said that he felt that the news people had got the balance wrong and that in a bid to "confront" the politician the answers required by the viewer were lost. Or something like that. A year on and I would say his style has not changed, though he did say at the time that perhaps it should. And Nicholas Robinson, Aunties reckless young Political Editor, has blogged noticeably about the subject.

He appears to be worried that Blair, and indeed others have traded accuracy in their reporting for impact. As if they would!

I kind of see is ire over this but I think journalists have traded accuracy somewhat, though not for impact, but intrigue. Over the years I have had many journalists wander through my line of sight, and I was often bemused by how their infatuation with intrigue, with the Westminster Village, would completely subjugate the heart of the story.

It is that old “affair” argument. Can a minister who has had an affair really do his or her job properly?

In reality? Of course he or she can. And do. John Major, the last First Lord that the Tories managed to put up, seems to be a prime example here. So much was he able to do his job that nobody even noticed he was having an affair till his partner in crime wrote about it in a book many years later.

However, can the politician do their job properly when the masses of the media will not let them alone over the affair?

No, they can’t.

But the public, to whom the politician is the servant, expects the job to be done. Indeed, we pay for the job to be done. But the intrusion of the press, the feral battle for those precious column inches, prevents that from happening.

The intrigue goes further. How often in reports has one heard “sources close to …?”

If a news journalist were submitting such an article to the Wikipedia, it would very soon be marked as not meeting standards as it was full of unsubstantiated claims. And quite rightly too! And yet politicians and journalists alike use this form of news dissemination more and more frequently and expect us, the paying public, to just except it. This is sort of taking us for granted and in the context of “news” rather than “views” should not be acceptable. Politicians and Journalists shouldn’t expect the public trust, they should earn it – with accuracy, substantiated fact and clear, unbiased opinion.

There is also the messy area of personality and celebrity.

When Mr Robinson interviews Mr. Prescott, to some it would be difficult to argue which is the most famous. Or which was just Rory Bremnner.

Dear Reader, it is not in my interest to shun celebrity, but it does well to admit the pressures that such an office can put on the way one delivers one’s life to the masses. Take the postal problems of our green. Now, the round lady may be having problems with the delivery of her favoured periodical, but those such as I survive on the literary content of the large sack of letters that our postman has to stagger under the weight of before he has even the chance to collect post for any other green dweller. Such is the price that has to be paid by the celebrity and everyone within a half furlong radius.

The journalist has become celebrity in this age of the media pack; one who must balance the needs of his editor with the needs of his agent. It would be a brave person who attempted to put those two into any sort of list of priorities!

So, I reflect, as I pick my way through the rubble of what had once been a prospective office. I reflect on the flashing bulbs and incautious pens of the media, I reflect on the departing back of the dusty candidate for the Labour Party deputy leadership, and most of all, I reflect that tomorrow morning I will leave my house, overlooking our green, by the backdoor!