Monday, April 30, 2012

Politics and the Media: isn't there something more important than Jeremy Hunt?

Let's see. We've booked David Cameron for the sofa, Andrew Marr is in makeup, so, what shall we have him talk about?

Well, what's happening? The economy is back in recession and there are important local government elections next week, the Leveson Enquiry is still exposing the complicity between government and the Murdoch 'empire', unemployment is far too high, the Eurozone is in trouble (again). So many choices...

I know, let's talk about Jeremy Hunt!

Don't get me wrong, the behaviour of a member of the Cabinet is a serious business, but we're hardly likely to learn anything from an attempted cross-examination of his boss. And whilst anyone who doesn't like this government, or David Cameron, will probably have enjoyed the experience, they won't actually have learned much. Cameron demonstrated that he believes in loyalty - usually a good thing - but perhaps demonstrated a tin ear when it comes to public perception - which he may pay for later.

And yes, late in the interview, there was a brief exchange on the economy, which allowed Cameron to say how much he cares and how hard he, and the Government, are working to turn things around. As if he was going to say anything else...

It reminds me that the political debate in this country is insular and closed. Do the public care much about the fate of the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport? Will his fate impact on many people? Is he irreplaceable? The answer to all of these questions is no. Does Jeremy Hunt have an impact on the economy, on inflation, on war and peace? No, not one jot.

And yet, journalists talk to politicians, politicians to journalists, all the while not actually talking to us. No wonder that people feel further and further removed from politics.

At a time when we should all be focussing on how to build a sustainable economy, or how to provide care for an increasing elderly population, the debate is dominated by the fate of one, rather insignificant, politician. So, for pity's sake, have Sir Alex Allan look at it, and let us get on with something important.

Of course, that won't happen in our increasingly personality-driven body politic. Who's up, who's down, who is in and who is out - so much easier than the complex issues of economics or international affairs. The examination of big ideas - what balance to we want to achieve in our economy, what steps should government take to achieve that, how can government fund its activities and what those activities should be, what relationship should we have with our neighbours, our friends, our enemies - is complex, requiring reflection, close examination... and listening to the answers.

But no, we've all tuned in to watch the other guy being skewered by some bloke in a suit, whose job is to make sneering comments, interrupt virtually every answer and generally preen - yes, I'm looking at you, Jon Sopel and Jeremy Paxman - a disease which has even spread as far as local radio. I don't really care what the interviewer thinks, and I don't want him/her to do anything other than ask intelligent questions and allow the interviewee to answer them. Don't let them waffle, but do allow them to develop an argument. And if you won't, don't be surprised when politicians respond in meaningless, glib soundbites. After all, that's all that you've allowed them...

But then, as the public don't appear to care either, perhaps we have the politics that we deserve...

No comments: