Journalists cock waving.

Vince Cable

Here in Britain, the Coalition Government of Conservatives and Liberals is under attack. Our formally respectable broadsheet, The Daily Telegraph, has published stories about conversations secretly recorded by their journalists at Members of Parliament’s regular constituency surgeries whilst pretending to be constituents of various Liberal ministers, including Vince Cable, the second most senior Liberal in the cabinet and my home town’s very own MP, Norman Baker.

Rupert Murdoch

Dr Cable, the business secretary, was recorded saying negative things about that ghastly media baron Rupert Murdoch and has subsequently lost the media part of his portfolio. He has been treated leniently by the Prime Minister, David Cameron, whose policy in these things, so far, has been merely to sack any of his erring Conservative colleagues. Lord Young, one of his Conservative advisers was hurtled from power for much less.

David Cameron and Lord Young

The difference is, of course, that without the Liberals, this government would fall.

I know that the Daily Telegraph is a Conservative newspaper and there is nothing wrong with that, everyone knows their agenda,  but I do wonder if it is serving the interests of democracy to entrap members of the government expressing their opinions in private. Everyone, even government ministers, is entitled to his own opinion and should not be censured for them if they are not uttered in public. If our politics is to be defined by journalistic agendas which seek to act as thought police then democracy is being undermined.

Journalism has a responsibility to expose the bad guys and secret recordings of wrong-doing are essential and powerful tools but these under-cover recordings are mere trouble-making and, worse, they only act to stifle intelligent debate between individuals.

I have had similar doubts about some of  those WikiLeaks exposures too. Unless there is a real issue here where evil or corruption is to be revealed, leaking private discussion documents can only weaken the diplomacy between nations. For those with the responsibility to govern or to advise governments, frank off-the-record briefings and conversations are essential.

If our politicians have to only ever say or think what is politically acceptable then the workings of that weird thing known as international diplomacy will wither on the branch.

Let’s have brilliant journalism striving to keep our masters on the straight and narrow and let a free press insure that change is brought about when action needs to be taken. If, however, as our beleaguered Liberal ministers are finding out, journalism is reduced to just a series of cunning stunts then all we are witnessing is a destructive form of self-indulgence and glory-seeking…in ruder circles this used to be called cock waving.

4 Comments

  1. The liberals are a bunch of political sell outs that deserve everything thats thrown at them. Who'd have thought the Torygraph would do such good work for the labour party. Thats at least 50 former liberal seats gained at the next election!

  2. I asbsolutely agree.
    Who would ever go into public life if they thought every conversation would be published? Not the decent men and women, surely, but only the very careful and devious.
    I don't like this sort of news story.

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