Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Of prime ministers and bent bananas

Last week, the Western Mail’s Chief Bent Banana did a thorough and effective demolition job on the attempts by the Prime Minister and those around her to exercise tight control over the coverage of her so-called ‘whistle-stop’ tour to reunite the kingdom.  I find it hard to believe that she and her advisers could really have believed for one moment that four half-hour meetings with a small number of carefully-invited attendees coupled with rigid control over which reporters would be allowed to ask which questions could ever be portrayed as some sort of grand tour meeting the peoples of the nations which comprise the UK.  But what’s even more surprising is how little coverage there seems to have been along the lines of that delivered by the Western Mail.  Were reporters elsewhere cowed or overawed to such an extent that they simply regurgitated the desired message of a robotic Prime Minister as commanded?
Stunts – and it’s hard to see this particular grand tour as anything other than a stunt – have become the bread-and-butter of political campaigning in an age where the expectation is a 30 second sound bite on national news, and a whole day given over to travelling between 4 brief sessions is apparently considered a reasonable price to pay for that 30 seconds.  It takes no more than a moment’s rational consideration to dismiss outright the idea that such a stunt, involving no more than a couple of dozen individuals, could really have anything to do with ‘listening to the people’, let alone uniting the parts of ‘this precious union’, yet that it how it was, by and large, dutifully reported.
There’s more to ‘reporting’ than simply writing what the powerful want written, and for once the Western Mail managed to lead the way.  Clearly, the current Prime Minister struggles seriously to say anything ad hoc or unscripted and selecting which questions are asked is a wholly unnecessary step for someone who knows what ‘answer’ she is going to give regardless of what the question actually says.  The complicity of much of the media in reporting what she says as though she has in fact delivered answers is more reminiscent of what happens in a dictatorship than a democracy.

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