The horrific killings of the five women in Ipswich have once again thrown the media under the spotlight, and in particular the twenty four hour news channels. While newspaper coverage has been reflective and non invasive, the thirst for a new angle on the story has led to channels like Sky News covering the most inconsequential of discoveries as if it was the chief lead in the murder inquiry. Sky have at least five reporters and camera crews in the area and are covering the investigation to the exclusion of almost all other news stories. They are all under pressure to find “new angles”. This cannot be healthy. In any murder inquiry the media can either play a very helpful role or they can be a hindrance to the Police. In this case I think they are becoming a hindrance.
News of the World royal reporter Clive Goodman has been in court this week on charges of intercepting voicemail messages from the mobile phones of various celebrities and royals. You might think that this was an isolated incident, but you would be wrong.
A Freedom of Information request by Lord Ashcroft this week has revealed that 305 separate journalists have used one particular detective agency in Hampshire to gain illegal medical records, DVLA information and telephone records. The Daily Mail has used the agency more than 900 times. It is a major national scandal that this continues to happen, yet you won’t have read much about it in your national newspapers for obvious reasons. The Information Commissioner has been forced to release this information and is now calling on Parliament to legislate. He believes that any journalist obtaining information in this way should face a two year jail sentence. Hopefully Parliament will be listening.
I’ll let you into a secret. I hated School sports days. I was useless at athletics and couldn’t wait for the whole painful event to be over. Did it damage me psychologically that I never won the egg and spoon race? I’ll leave that to others to judge. Hopefully it prepared me for fighting elections and losing gracefully! But LibDem MP Sandra Gidley wants to abandon competitive sport in schools because she believes it humiliates children who aren’t good at it. Using that kind of logic we’d be wrapping our children in cotton wool and withdrawing them from lessons on any subject they did not excel at. Life is tough. Children cannot be good at everything. Losing a race or a match is good preparation for what will hit them when they reach adulthood. Politicians like Sandra Gidley should think long and hard before they come out with such rubbish. One of the reasons why we as a nation are not producing the number of skilled sportspeople that we should is because competitive sports have been downgraded in schools, or abandoned altogether. We should be encouraging children to do more sport, not less.
It is a good thing for open government that the Prime Minister holds a monthly press conference, and he should be congratulated for being the first PM in history to do so. However, that’s where the praise must stop. Anyone who saw this week’s effort will wonder why the media bothered to turn up. According to the Guido Fawkes blog, he had some 27 questions, 11 of which were on the Middle East and his plans to become Blair of Arabia. Of the 16 other questions he gave direct answers to arguably 5. Time and again he said “I’ve said all I’ve got to say on that” or “I’m not going to comment” or “I don’t want to speculate”. At one point he was asked about the prospect of Nasdaq taking over the London Stock Exchange but said he wouldn’t comment. Is it unreasonable for a journalist to ask what the British Prime Minister thinks of the possible takeover of our Stock Exchange by a foreign organisation? In Blair-world it is. To me the whole press conference demonstrated that we have a lame duck Prime Minister who frankly doesn’t give a damn. If I were a lobby journalist and I wouldn’t waste my time going to these press conferences any longer.
There has been much talk in recent weeks of Norwich becoming a Unitary Authority. If you live in Norwich you might well be in favour of such an idea, but if you don’t there are plenty of reasons why you wouldn’t be. For one, your Council tax will probably rocket even higher. But if there is a unitary authority should there also be an elected mayor? Now there’s a juicy thought. I can see it now – all four main political parties would put up worthy but boring candidates but coming through the middle to win is a local celebrity. Bryan Gunn perhaps? No, my favourite would be former Anglia TV presenter Helen McDermott, with her BC glove puppet rising from the grave to be her mayoral consort. McDermott for Mayor! The campaign starts here.