I don’t know if I will ever understand the blinkered reasonings of the lazy political journalists that inhabit the UK. Obviously, there are exceptions, but most of them appear just to swallow Government propaganda and regurgitate it without thinking.
I am thinking right now of Nick Robinson’s reaction to Alastair Darling’s 10p compensation statement:
“Labour MPs are happier than they have been for weeks and the Tories, for the first time in a long time, look wrong footed.”
First things first, why does everything have to come down to the political implications? I know Nick Robinson is a political journalist, but does that mean that he must see everything in terms of which party is up, and which is down? What about the actual details of the policy? What about the fact that this is a catastrophic mess? The Government have shown themselves up as completely incompetent; they abolished the 10p tax rate, and are now, partway through the tax year, introducing retrospective changes to undo that measure. What about certainty in tax matters? What about the fact that the compensation package will cost £2.7 bn, which will have to be funded through borrowing? Are these not issues upon which any reputable journalist worth his salt ought to be making sustained comment?
(For what it’s worth, I don’t think the Tories have been wrongfooted. Nobody is looking at them; rather, all eyes are on this blundering Government as it tries to find its way out of its labyrinth of incompetence.)
Anyway, back to Nick Robinson. Maybe he needs to get out of Westminster once in a while for an appreciation of how Government policy affects real people. I remember last year, after Gordon Brown decided not to hold a General Election, Nick Robinson made a comment to the effect that the decision did not have major consequences for the nation. Maybe not for him, but try telling that to people who have been affected by Labour’s damaging policies, and who would have wanted an opportunity to vote them out. Elections can be life-changing events for voters; however, for political journalists, things continue the same. Regardless of who wins or loses, or what policies they implement, these journalists get to hang out with the politicians, conspire in their schemes to withhold information from us, and accept without thinking whatever the politicians choose to tell them.
It’s one thing for a journalist from a commercial enterprise to behave in this way, but when it is a BBC journalist, we should sit up and take notice. We hear a lot of bleating about the value of public service broadcasting. At the very least, we should expect a political journalist from the BBC to have a broader perspective of the issues at play in the country. Hard as it may be for such people to realise, politics is not an end in itself. It affects real people living real lives, way beyond Westminster’s cosy restaurants.