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.




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