So Guido wonders how he will feel about this comment about a time in October 1997 when New Labour faced a little PR difficulty; “The words went to Webster, the spin was applied, and away we went,” writes Alastair. Kind of gives the game away…
As this is to be my last regular column for The Times, I am in a different position today from other commentators. I don’t have to worry about whether the new regime at No 10 will return my calls, at least until the autumn. I don’t have to curry favour with anyone or worry about giving offence. Instead I can give you an unvarnished prediction of what the next few years of a Gordon Brown premiership will be like.
She has, it is rumoured, taken up the offer of a redundancy payout in the latest round of News International job cuts. Last time Guido indulged in a bit of Times-bashing they got very upset. Peter Riddell even called up an associate to tell him to stop associating with Guido, there was talk of them getting Guido back with an “exposé”. But here you have it from someone who knows; Peter Riddell, Phil Webster et al suck up to Brown and Balls out of fear. It must be true, it is printed in The Times…
Phone calls and emails go unanswered. Guido strongly recommends that he pays up this week.
Guido even managed to beat blogging Benedict Brogan, which is becoming increasingly difficult to do nowadays. Do keep up the rest of you…
François had four children with Ségolène Royal (pictured left), the losing French Socialist Presidential candidate. He is having an affair with TV8’s political reporter, Valerie Trierweiler (pictured right). When announcing their split the elegant Ségolène said that now “he was free to enjoy his romantic life alone”.
France has strict privacy laws of the kind that some of our politicians would love to have over here. Blogs now make those laws almost impossible to enforce. Technological progress.
Hat-tip : EuroSoc
Incidentally, Guido’s champagne-swilling co-conspirator spied Dominic Lawson deep in conversation with John Scarlett for much of the evening.
UPDATE : Just noticed that d’Ancona outed himself as an attendee on his blog this morning. He mentions the “oblique reference in His Lordship’s own speech to the great cloud of loans for honours and the files now with the CPS.”
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?
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.
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?
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.
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.
They would of course need corresponding badges of approval to signify a story in these categories:
Fully Spun : Story written up after being called by or out-to-lunch with a politician / SpAd / government spokesman. No checking, just taking dictation.
Pinocchio piece : Journalist knows it is probably an untrue flyer, but it will fill the white space in the paper and the source will owe one for helping out with placement of disinformation. Good for a Sunday splash.
Frame game : Journalist uses terms coined by focus groups on behalf of politicians to frame their opponents using language tested the same way as washing powder. Can produce a snappy headline. Won’t wash.
Secret formula source : Anonymous official source whose purpose is to smear a political opponent or leak misleading information is given an unqualified write up – as in “sources close to CPS say there will be no prosecutions”. See Mark Townsend.
Old news : Story reported elsewhere is used as a justification not to revisit a developing story when significant new information surfaces. See, forinstance, the Guardian’s non-reporting of new revelations in the Smith Institute scandal. Polly Toynbee is on the board of the Sith.
Leader, Thursday March 22, 2007
For richer, for poorerYou 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.