Further Reflections on that Blair Speech

Guido’s instant reaction to Blair’s speech is below. Having now re-read the speech it seems a reasonably accurate analysis of the state of media coverage of politics. The problem is that Blair has to a great extent brought this upon himself, contemporary politicians have got the media coverage they deserve. It is not really a development borne out of technological advance, the cynicism is their own creation, not a product of technological change or 24/7 rolling news demands – as he seems to imply. New Labour conceived the Downing Street grid of rolling media announcements, firing out releases to fit the government’s narrative and control the agenda.One section made Guido laugh, when Blair said;

It used to be thought – and I include myself in this – that help was on the horizon. New forms of communication would provide new outlets to by-pass the increasingly shrill tenor of the traditional media. In fact, the new forms can be even more pernicious, less balanced, more intent on the latest conspiracy theory multiplied by five.

This is unreal, perhaps he imagined that if the media was democratised by citizens they would be more susceptible to his charm than hardened journalists and media moguls. In reality the citizen-journalists of the new media are less manipulable, less embedded in the Westminster politico-media nexus, less needy in terms of access and more likely to tell it as they see it without fear. That is not shrill, that is clear and unspun. Blair went on to complain that

it is rare today to find balance in the media. Things, people, issues, stories, are all black and white. Life’s usual grey is almost entirely absent. “Some good, some bad”; “some things going right, some going wrong”: these are concepts alien to today’s reporting.

Whether from the left or right, bloggers do tend to see things in black and white terms, right and wrong, not in shades of grey. Is it naive to expect high moral and ethical standards from those who seek the privilege of serving the public in a democracy? Maybe. Guido thinks we should still demand the highest moral and ethical standards of our law-makers. Is that too much to ask?

Picture credit : GQ

A couple of months ago Bryan Appleyard wrote an article arguing that “Guido is Blair’s true legacy”, the Speccie’s Matthew d’Ancona in the latest GQ magazine says bloggers have “changed the terms of trade”. Good, because politicians really do deserve the treatment they get here, they don’t deserve to be given the benefit of the doubt, to be allowed to keep their dirty secrets, to quote Paxman, political journalists need to always be asking themselves “Why is this lying bastard lying to me?” The damage which saps the country’s confidence and self-belief has been done by politicians, not by the messengers of the old or new media. Politicians, and particularly Tony Blair, have only themselves to blame.

Finally to those who worry about regulatory threats to blogging, forget it. Guido got it direct from Tim Toulmin (director of the Press Complaints Commission), they know they can’t touch Guido and they won’t even try. Short of going down the Iranian/Chinese route of censoring the internet there is nothing they can do but bluster. So feral and untamed Guido will happily stay.

Politicians are Feral Spinners

Blair must reap what he sowed. The culture of New Labour is a culture of rapid rebuttal, the set “line”, the vicious rubbishing of enemies, the off-the-record briefing all backed up by armies of government media handlers and Special Advisers. 24/7 rolling spin…

Remember, for example, what they told us about the Women’s Institute member who led the slow-hand-clapping of Blair – that she had a National Front past. That was feral spin, vicious and untrue. Do you remember Alastair Campbell’s plan to “fuck” David Kelly? That was feral. Do you remember Alastair Campbell’s foul mouthed tirades? They were feral. The old woman mistreated at an NHS hospital during an election campaign? “Racist” they smeared, without any evidence. The Brownite pack’s undermining of Blairite colleagues like Ruth Kelly and John Reid? Wasn’t that feral?

Blair’s treatment by the media got rough only after he was completely found out. It was the dodgy dossier, and the false prospectus for war that did for him, his spin was until then more than a match for the media pack.

UPDATE : The IPPR has just emailed out a piece (on the back of the Blair speech) by Sir Michael White where he blames everyone else for the “gross tabloidisation of national journalism” including of course the “unmediated internet”. He repeats his claim that the Loans for Lordships investigation is just political opportunism by the SNP and Blair’s political enemies. Michael White has spent 30 years covering politics close-up, he is no longer able to see that selling seats in the legislature is just plain wrong. He basically says “everybody did it”, why the fuss now?

The better question is, why only now has there been a fuss? Well if a young new MP had not stumbled upon the corruption legislation, if a less determined detective had not been given the case and the story wasn’t pushed relentlessly by “unmediated” voices, there would have been no fuss.

Just as well the likes of Sir Michael White and Nick Robinson were ignored and some kept on at the story in an unmediated and grossly tabloid way, eh?

Informed Sources?

Isn’t today the day that the Sun’s George Pascoe-Watson revealed on the front-page that Blair would leave office? ITS MAY 31ran the headline.

Not quite…

Hefferlump Shot

Simon Heffer is no longer going to edit the comment pages at the Torygraph. There will be cheering in Notting Hill tonight…

UPDATE : A co-conspirator points out that this is something like the eighth comment editor in three years.

Hat-tip: Image stolen from B3ta

Parliamentary Women’s Lobby

Guido is amused by the deliberations of Kitty Donaldson’s Parliamentary Women’s Lobby. It was set up in 1999 as a dining club to allow political figures to meet women political reporters. Anyway Kitty wanted to formalise things with a constitution requiring declarations of interest and a code of conduct (not about starting with cutlery from the outside).

The whole thing has reached a bit of an impasse after a rumpus over the code of conduct. Frantic emails between all members followed and culminated in the suggestion that if Gordon Brown announced at the PWL he was taking Britain into the Euro, they would all have to agree not to report on it for an hour so Kitty could settle the bill. Madness.

A number of more “senior” women journos have had enough and think the whole thing has got rather silly. No-one else is standing against the proposed chairman and vice-chairman, mainly because they say they have got better things to do. As one of them put it: “I answer to my newsdesk not the PWL”.

P.S. Please don’t be misogynistic in the comments, Melissa Kite will only recycle the material for another article.

Is Bell Off His Rocker?

Many co-conspirators have pointed out that Steve Bell has decided to depict Gordon in a nappy. Now that was a picture Guido did not expect to see… in the Guardian.

Handbags Over at the Speccie

Kite v Dale Round II : Melissa got Fisked and she didn’t like it. Tim Montgomerie and Alan Duncan get a swipe as well. Horrid Tory boys…

Freedom of Expression is Absolute

According to the respected human rights advocacy group, Article 19, in 2003 Iran became the first country ever to imprison a blogger for views expressed online. Since then, over 28 bloggers and online journalists have been imprisoned on various charges such as “insulting the Supreme Guide, propaganda against the regime, threatening national security, incitement to rebellion and insulting leading figures in the regime.”

Every day Guido wakes up with the sole intention of inciting rebellion and insulting leading figures in our own regime – so a sense of solidarity is natural.

Guido ventures into foreign matters only because the dead-tree-press are getting into a bit of a lather about us hoi polloi writing, horror, what we like on blogs, Jonathan Freedland is today’s worrier about the health of the blogosphere. His focus is on unruly comments. He notes the quip “First they came for the commenters, and I said nothing because I did not comment.” That sentiment is Guido’s feeling. The comments here do get out of hand occasionally (imagine what they’d be like if Guido didn’t hit delete). The house rules are mysterious, arbitrary and sometimes inconsistently exercised. But this blog is not a public service, it is private property, no taxpayers were harmed in the production of this blog. Nobody forces you to come here, you don’t have to read it, so if you don’t like it, don’t come back.

Time is Ripe for a Code of Conduct

The commentariat are hyper-ventilating (again) about creating a voluntary code of conduct for blogs and even self-certifying seals of approval corresponding to publicly established guidelines. Guido would like to see the old media and dead-tree-press implement it.

They would of

[…]

+ READ MORE +

Obscenely Hypocritical Guardian

Leader, Thursday March 22, 2007

For richer, for poorer

You don’t have to be one of those obscenely overpaid City analysts to recognise that the number one thing on Gordon Brown’s mind yesterday was politics.
Alan Rusbridger, the editor of

[…]

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Letts Losing Dacre’s Favour?

Apart from the Mirror and The Times, the Daily Mail is (counter-intuitively) the biggest dead-tree-press cheerleader for Gordon. The Mail’s brilliant Quentin Letts has a Straw-not-Gordon article published in online-only magazine First Post. Strange that it didn’t appear

[…]

+ READ MORE +

Mark Townsend – Fancy a Bet?

Is Mark Townsend a patsy, a liar or an idiot? Is he fit for purpose? You decide. Guido (and his source) would like a little wager Mark…

See also.

UPDATE : Just got off the phone with […]

+ READ MORE +



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Quote of the Day

Andrew Cooper quotes Tony Blair…

“The single hardest thing for a practising politician to understand, is that most people, most of the time, don’t give politics a first thought all day long.” 

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