A number of our Tory politicians began as journalists, and then moved on to politics. Not all journalists are rogues, but the ones who write for the Right-wing press very often are. Boris Johnson is a key example, filing anti-EU stories from Brussels that he knew were lies. The EU’s insisting on ‘straight bananas’ was one of his. He was once sacked by his editor for one of his lies, though not this one. Michael Gove is another, and arguably even more immoral than Bojo; writing pieces attacking middle-class drug-taking at the same time as it has now been revealed he was regularly sniffing cocaine; and that in his 30s, mark you, so hardly a ‘youthful’ indiscretion. His hypocrisy has even been called out by the Daily Mail, despite his wife’s working for the wretched rag.
Is it something about journalism, at this lower end of the scale? Journalists write for effect, which it’s possible to do while being honest and accurate too, but easier if you have little regard for the truth. Both these clowns, one of whom seems likely – though not certain – to win the Tory leadership over the next few weeks, seem to speak and legislate also for effect, without any deep research, thinking or regard for honesty. They’re our equivalent of the Fox News/Trump phenomenon in the USA, and probably equally dangerous. (They’re very friendly with Trump.) Just contrast them with the transparent honesty, even naivety, of Jeremy Corbyn; yet it’s Corbyn and his team who are vilified in the Tory Press. Look at the treatment Diane Abbott got when she was found drinking a small can of rum and soda (or something) on a train a few weeks ago; and contrast it with the sympathy accorded (in the main) to Govey for his far more serious – imprisonable, as it happens – crime. Of course, Abbott is (a) a woman and (b) black. And as a socialist she threatens all the press lords’ ill-gotten gains.
I first took against Gove when he gave evidence to the Leveson Committee on the Press, when he gave a historical account of the development of the Press in Britain which no-one there tried to counter, because they didn’t know as much about it as I do. I won’t go into details; but he mainly argued that the British press was always as bad as it is now; based on the false premise that if you can find something happening many centuries ago, it must always – that is, in all the years in between – have been thus. (If I remember rightly he went back to Roman times.) That was nonsense with regard to the nineteenth century British newspaper press before it was taken over by speculative capitalists around 1900. But Gove was so smooth and arrogant with it! It’s curious that he should be so widely regarded as an ‘intellectual’, for he has none of the sense of truth or rationality – the intelligence therefore – that true intellectuals should have. Maybe the cocaine affected his brain.
I might be able to forgive his drug crimes in the 1990s; as I can all the other Tory leadership hopefuls – eight of them so far – who have been suddenly admitting to much lesser drug offences – marijuana, etc. – and at much earlier periods of their lives, over the past few days. But the dishonesty: no.
Still, I probably shouldn’t worry. Cuddly lazy-but-funny upper-class eccentric Bojo will probably beat him to the leadership of the Conservative Party. The Tory ex-colonels, small businessmen and blue-rinse ladies who run the party in the country love a ‘card’, especially if he’s a reactionary. (And he’s just promised to reduce the higher rate of tax for them!) So he’s the one we should be worrying – nay, panicking – about.
Moral: don’t trust journalists in politics.
Journalism today is sadly an ideal launching pad for a political career, especially from the right wing press with the support of a press baron or two. What a contrast in background and attitude with some previous Tory leaders; one thinks of Baldwin and his war with the Northcliffe press…’power without responsibility etc…..,and the Telegraph which attacked his statist interventions.
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I’ve always thought of myself as a reporter rather than a journalist, nowadays described by Oxford dictionaries as “A person who writes for newspapers, magazines, or news websites or prepares news to be broadcast.” If you call yourself a reporter you can warn about journalists turning into politicians, think Benito Mussolini and Theodor Herzl.
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Right, Andrew, there’s a crucial difference between reporters and commentators.