UPDATE : Guido has got a sneak preview of the new post-Kampfner, Geoffrey Robinson edited New Statesman:
UPDATE : Guido has got a sneak preview of the new post-Kampfner, Geoffrey Robinson edited New Statesman:
When Guido first started this blog he took the view that politicians were held in too high esteem, that they considered themselves to be the ruling class rather than public servants and that the media far from being feral was too tame in its treatment of politicians. That was part of the motivation for starting the blog. From time-to-time the Peter Riddells, Sir Michael Whites and Polly Toynbees of the world complain that it is impossible to report on politics well if you start from the position that they are all scoundrels and have no sympathy for politicians or the practise of politics. Sometimes they specifically addressed that criticism directly to Guido.
Guido never said all politicians are greasy-pole climbing, self interested scoundrels. He does however have a suspicious mind and this is basically his default view until proven otherwise. It takes a certain kind of egoism to want to be a politician. The louder they claim it is because they “want to make a difference”, the tighter you should grip your wallet.
The more you meet politicians, the more you realise that they are not as others. For the ambitious climbing the greasy-pole is all, life for them is a non-stop reality TV show, with power and all its trappings as the prize. Political self-interest is their supreme motivation. Policy is a tool of partisan self advancement, slogans are stepping stones to power and the public is to be manipulated for votes in a democracy of spin. These politicians are really dangerous.
For those who realise that becoming an MP is probably the upper limit to their achievements there are broadly two types; the good constituency MP and the porcine politicians.
The “good constituency MP” is the stuff of legend, furthering his voter’s interests, dealing with their problems with a staff well versed in welfare issues, righting wrongs and often acting as the counsel of last resort to people suffering at the hands of the massive bureaucratic state that politicians created in the twentieth century. They may take on non-partisan causes which are in the public interest – John Hemming’s work on child protection springs to mind, protecting children from social workers and legal indifference.
In contrast the “porcine politician” is contemptible. So long as they keep their local newspaper happy and don’t get caught shagging the intern they are a lifelong burden on the taxpayer and little use to anyone but the party whips. Generally they want a quiet life, the occasional junket to the West Indies to “study” efforts to combat global warming will suffice. If they are not the type to know their interns carnally they may employ the wife to supplement the housekeeping. Exploiting the car mileage allowance yet claiming for two first class return train tickets every week, claiming a second mortgage allowance despite their constituency being on the London Underground and charging the full daily subsistence food allowance (no receipt required) are all par for the course. If they are particularly greedy, helping out lobbyists can be rewarding.
Sometimes a porcine politician does good things, sometimes a usually decent constituency MP gets caught with his hand in the till or on top of a research assistant. These are of course generalisations.
It seems to Guido that the public has an innate wisdom, it knows this and it knows it is being spun, but is too weary of politicians to care. Too busy getting on with their lives to be bothered about politics. Unfortunately the politico-media nexus is too lazy or too embedded in the Westminster Vilage to try to change things for them. Imagine you are Sir Michael White, thirty years in the Lobby, having spent most of your writing career rubbishing good journalist’s stories on behalf of unattributable sources. Those sources are your claim on the front-page. You are not going to jeopardise them and tear up your meal-ticket to Shepherds. Therein lies the problem. Until the media changes from reporting what they are spun to always questioning the behaviour and motivations of politicians, we will be cursed with the political class we have. The current orgy of politician bashing is however a good start.
Newsnight seems to be on top of the zeitgeist, night after night Crick and Grossman have been unveiling political skullduggery, Hencke at The Guardian, Sam Coates on The Times and Chris Hope on the Telegraph and a few others seem keen to tell it like it is, so hopefully like sharks they will get a taste for political blood. Politicians will then out of self interest temper their ways.
It will require us first seeing a few politicians jailed pour encourager les autres. The people want it. Give the people what they want and it might even do wonders for newspaper circulation.
He published it verbatim, including the hitherto unrevealed email address that is a gateway to the inboxes of the Lobby’s Blackberries. Guido called him immediately to tell him that he had just done something very stupid. Perhaps still not grasping the ramifications he just said enigmatically “the wonders of modern technology”.
Predictably, overnight this has resulted in assorted lefties emailing four-letter abuse to the Lobby’s finest. Do you think James Kirkup is going to be popular with his colleagues on Monday morning?
Yesterday on the Today programme there was a discussion as to if the mainstream media would sit on a story that Guido would not. Sarah Montague dismissed the idea that there is in fact a cosy media elite.
Well here is another story that everyone in the Westminster media knows yet won’t publish. It involves three household names; Jackie Ashley, the Guardian’s cheerleader-in-chief for the Brownies, Alice Miles of The Times, who cheers for the Cameroons and Andy Marr, Gordon Brown’s much favoured BBC interlocutor.
If this story was about soap stars, footballers or chart-toppers it would be all over the papers. If an actress on EastEnders had an affair with an actor on Coronation Street who was married to the star of Emmerdale which resulted in a love-child it would be front-page news on every newspaper.
Yet Andy Marr fathering a child with Alice Miles whilst married to Jackie Ashley goes unreported. Across newsrooms, at Islington and Hampstead dinner parties it has been common knowledge for years. These three journalists are at the heart of the politico-media nexus that constitutes the new ruling class. The producers and editors who are the media gate-keepers would not be keen to dish the dirt on their own… despite the fact that it would be of huge interest to the public.
UPDATE : Lots of high minded left-windbag pomposity about this story. Excellent. The great Stanislav returns in the comments with a verbal tour-de-farce which very eloquently mirrors Guido’s thinking. Don’t recall any of those now attacking “gutter blogging” raising any such hackles when another prominent political journalist’s sexual foibles and follies were exposed. In fact most of them rejoiced everytime Boris Johnson was caught with his pants down…
UPDATE 2011: According to reports, following a DNA test Andrew Marr turns out not to be the father despite having paid paternity for years.
UPDATE : The Grauniad online subs have now changed it to read “Tory schools spokesman”. Note, he is a LibDem you plonkers. He looks like a Tory, sounds like a Tory and has remarkably sympathetic policies, but he isn’t…
As Lobbybore asks in this blog’s comments, is the speculation actually firmly based on briefing, “or is the post from the Telegraph blog from dopey Rosa Prince motivated by malice? She used to slave away under the Mirror’s political editor Oonagh Blackman who now works as, you guessed it, a special adviser to Mr Woodward!” Guido would like to think it based on both bitching and briefing…
Incidentally, Guido lived for a few happy bachelor years in a luxury riverside apartment complex opposite parliament, the neighbours included spooks from Thames House opposite, Carol Vorderman, richer parliamentarians and security conscious Russians. Guido’s smugness with his panoramic pussy pad was dented when he discovered that the Woodwards had an apartment in the complex just for their butler, who serviced their £5 million penthouse duplex above him.
To get this into the proper perspective one should know that David Blunkett told the head of the Prison Service to call in the Army and “machine-gun” rioting inmates to regain control of a jail in 2002. Martin Narey, then director general, said the then Home Secretary told him he did not care about possible deaths during bids to retake Lincoln prison. This was at a time when the Daily Mail was lauding him as a great Home Secretary, but before he was exposed (by the Daily Mail) for fathering a son with another man’s wife, fiddling his expenses and fast-tracking for his mistress her nanny’s visa. All covered in detail on this blog…
They do say write about what you know…
…cheap stunts like shamefully pouring tea for Maggie Thatcher [don't] look so clever when you’re in trouble and desperate for friends. Fair-weather right-wingers Brown wooed are long gone, firm backers he recklessly took for granted no longer prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt. Brown will pay dearly for repeating Tony Blair’s mistake, neglecting Labour’s core while pegging his big tent on the shifting sands of floating voters. A premier who unwisely blew then blew some more into an election bubble that burst his authority, looks dangerously clueless now the going’s got tough… Can you think of three good things to say at the moment about Brown’s Government? No, me neither.
Might be nearly time to back Labour at the bookies…
Maggie and Mandela | Charles Moore
Mandela was Christ-Like | Peter Oborne
Maggie Personally Donated £20,000 to Mandela Foundation | Bono
Why Environmentalists Should Favour Fracking | CPS
Balls Gag Falls Flat | Asa Bennett
Mandela the Thatcherite | John Pilger
Balls’ Heckling Hypocrisy | Isabel Hardman
Gordon Dinner Raises Just $350 | Trending Central
Labour Need Darling to Replace Balls | Peter Oborne
Osborne Will Have to Push Harder Than This | Fraser Nelson
No, Cameron Did Not Make Hang Mandela Posters | Buzzfeed
Nelson Mandela on Margaret Thatcher, July 1990…
“She is an enemy of apartheid… We have much to thank her for.”