Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Involves No Research

A footnote here: one interviewing trope is to ignore any of the virtues of what the politician is saying, and simply to trump him with “but you've been pursuing that policy for years and the voters have still given you a bloody nose”. This move is cheap, reliable, involves no research and puts pressure on the interviewee to come up with some novelty or other, as though politics were as much about entertainment as about running things.

I'm a blogger, so I'm excused research. (I've got a note.) Let's look at some background, though. The above is our Dave in the Times, thundering 'Listening' politicians are a menace. He's talking about Gordon Brown's interview with Andrew Marr (available on iPlayer until Saturday). There's a very good summary of that interview by Simon Carr of the Independent. It clarified one thing for me: I didn't understand the Frank Field reference. The Independent! Hardly are those words out when a vast image ... well my memory was jogged anyway. David Aaronovitch worked on the Independent. Wikipedia: "He moved over to print journalism in 1995, working for The Independent and Independent on Sunday as chief leader writer, television critic, and columnist until the end of 2002." I can't recall, and Wikipedia is no help here, when Andrew Marr started editing the Independent: it was either 1995 or 1996. He was sacked in 1998. Yes, our Dave used to work with Andrew Marr. This may or may not be relevant. Wikipedia also contains a section on Andrew Marr's supposed political bias.

That should be enough for now, shouldn't it? It's not quite, I'm afraid. Dave's The rats are sinking Brown's ship piece last week included "You get a better write-up in The Guardian if you are Fidel Castro or the leader of Hamas than if you're the Labour Prime Minister." This prompted a reply on Comment is Free by Jackie Ashley. As I noted in an earlier post, she's fairly pro-Brown. See He may be disappointing, but Brown isn't a disaster. Dave attacks the Guardian. Guardian political journalist replies. But what's this? Isn't she married to Andrew Marr? Why, yes she is. Suddenly this stuff about journalists not doing research and making 'cheap' moves becomes a lot more interesting.

Now that that is out of the way, I'll cut to the end of the article.

Take this column. I can generally expect that a piece like this, which hints at sympathy for politicians, will generate comments on The Times website running three to one against me. So next week imagine that, chastened by the hostility, I were to begin with: “I have been listening. And, in order to please those decent readers made irate by my suggestion that modern Britain is not a Luciferian inferno, I have decided to write that things are every bit as bad as the Daily Mail says they are. I hope you will appreciate the change.”

I think, and I hope, that you would feel as uncomfortable and as cheated as you should when a politician is forced to tell you he is listening to you.

I read this before I went to work this morning, which was also before anyone had left a comment. When I reloaded the page, there were 66, and there are probably more by now. I imagine Dave is quite happy with that. Speaking of sympathy, I'd love to find Dave's work on the Independent in the year up to May 1997. I wonder if he expressed sympathy for John Major. Or, if not, if the sympathy he talks about now is, in fact, partisan bias.

I may - finally - be clear to actually look at the article itself.

I heard the Prime Minister on Sunday telling Andrew Marr: “I am listening to what people have said; I have heard what people have said,” and I thought: “Oh bugger.” And this is why.

The idea of listening is, of course, part of the necessary rubric of political discourse, but it is either a polite hypocrisy, because modern politicians are always horribly tuned in to what voters say (unless one imagines the PM or the Leader of the Opposition sitting in the basement of No 10 or in Notting Hill, with his hands over his ears going “lah, lah, lah”) or else it's code for something else entirely.

Were we to descend to cliche, we might be tempted to observe that one man's "polite hypocrisy" is another's barefaced lie. I can't quite understand why our man thought "Oh bugger." Is it the polite hypocrisy of listening he didn't like, or the suggestion that Brown may "have heard what people have said". The 'listening' trope isn't new. Neil Kinnock tried it in opposition. It didn't help him much. I Will Listen ..And Learn - that was Gordon Brown 51 weeks ago to the friendly Sunday Mirror. He's been saying that he'll listen for a while now. Has David only just noticed? Or has he turned on Brown too?

As for the suggestion that politicians should know best, I think it's best just to leave that.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry, slightly off topic, but there is an interesting discussion by David Habakkuk and others on Col Pat Lang's American intelligence blog on the identities, roots, organizations and publications of British neo-connery:



5/06/2008 09:26:00 PM  
Blogger Graham Day said...

Well, Brown has said that he'll "listen and lead". Which some cynical people (not me, absolutely not, no siree) might translate as "I'll listen, and then do whatever the fuck I want anyway".

And that way disaster lies...

5/06/2008 09:55:00 PM  

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