Sunday, November 19, 2006
A friend of mine was a minister in the Thatcher government. He had a chauffeur driven car - a old brown Ford Mondeo. He turned up at an event one night and saw the editor of The Times getting out of his car. It was a new Jaguar. Journalists sit in judgment on the private lives and financial dealings of politicians. But journalists, in Britain at least, are richer and almost certainly more corrupt. (British politicians are almost certainly the least corrupt of any developed nation, whatever bloggers say. If you don't believe me, check out Japan, Italy, France or the US.) Yet it is the politicians who gave journalists this power in the mid-nineties when they suddenly decided that the next day's headline was all that mattered. This compromised both sides of the deal. The journalists accepted the politicians' agenda and the politicians accepted the journalists' power. Neither side was, therefore, able to do its job and neither side showed any concern whatsoever about the effect of politics in the real world. Of course, politicians should be monitored, called to account, jeered at if necessary, but only by a genuinely independent press, not one in thrall to tedious little Westminster games. Bloggers inherited the fatal mid-nineties deal. They, therefore, play this same game and, in order to do so, create this fiction that our politicians are, somehow, uniquely nasty people doing a uniquely nasty job. Insofar as they keep this up, yes, they are debasing politics. Unfortunately, it is the dumb politicians who continue to help them. Politicians look in the mirror, see Caliban and then issue a press release about it. The debased hacks and bloggers caper about in the happy knowledge that they are Caliban.
Posted by Bryan Appleyard at 7:39 am