Tuesday, 12 July 2011

What a week to live in Wapping

It's not every day that you walk out of Waitrose to see a red Range Rover sweep past you and get back home, switch on the news and find out that an embattled Rupert Murdoch was in the car.

I'm no lover of other people's pain. And I'm no lovers of blood sports. But to watch the underdogs of the Guardian and the Indy slowly ripping the jugular out of News International like two enraged and tenacious pitbulls does put a smile on my face.

There is no doubt in my mind that Rebekah Brooks should resign because either she was party to illegal hacking or she should resign through incompetence if she didn't know what was going on. Either way, she certainly shouldn't still in be her job right now.

It would be too easy to sit back and celebrate the demise of the News Of The World. It's certainly true that a world without that horrid rag is a better world than one with it; but there are still other horrors lurking in the British press.

An easy way to see which papers have been involved in illegal hacking is to look at how they have covered it this week. The Guardian and the Indy are going in for the kill. They are so confident that there is nothing lurking in their closets to be discovered by the Met investigation that they have nothing to fear. It took a couple of days before the FT joined in on the act; showing some confidence that they haven't hacked the phones of any murdered schoolgirls.

But look at the coverage in the Daily Mail, The Express, The Daily Star. Even the Daily Mirror has only bring itself to dance on the grave of News International and has not condemned the hacking. It almost makes you wonder whether they are scared that if they shout too loudly, their closet door will creak open and then who knows what will fall out.

As I say, I don't take pleasure in other people's displeasure - but if the Murdochs and the horrible Brooks woman are going down then it would be a mighty shame if the despicable Paul Dacre wasn't also burnt on the same pyre...

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Why I don't like politics anymore

Over the past few years - and in the past year especially - politics has taken a turn into a direction which leaves me feeling cold.

It's got nothing to do with the particular policy, but it's to do with the quality of the debates and discussions which have been happening.

Whichever party had won the election last year, there would be difficult decisions to make and steering the economy back into growth is not an easy thing to do. So now, more than ever, we could do with some clarify of explanation behind the decisions being made, and more importantly to have the alternative options presented in the form of a reasonable argument rather than partisan ranting.

Take the AV referendum for instance. Both sides of the discussion resorted to rhetoric and soundbites to make their case, rather than presenting a logical argument about why they did (or didn't) believe AV to be a fairer system than first past the post. I would much rather hear an eloquent speech from someone with whom I hearily disagree than a rant from anyone - whether I agree with them or not.

We were told to vote "no to AV" because "The Lib Dems want AV, and we don't like them" or to vote "Yes to AV" to "annoy the Tories". Well no. I'm afraid I won't vote for or against something simply because of who the result will upset - I will vote yes or no for something based on whether I think it's the right thing to do, or not.

Even worse has been the quality of the debate surrounding the cuts being introduced by the government. At the moment, the only opposition to the cuts seems to be vocalised by saying "we don't like cuts". There are very few (thankfully some) voices in the crowd talking about the alternative to the cuts. Very few people talk about how savings could be made elsewhere, or engage in the discussion about how quickly the deficit should be paid back and whether the cuts could be introduced more slowly. Instead, it's finger-pointing and ranting about job losses. The people making incoherent cases are actually doing more to harm the cause than help it.

There are plenty of meaty, interesting and (most crucially) important debates which need to be had at the moment. There should be a sensible and open debate about the strategy to deal with the budget deficit. There should be a rational discussion about whether public sector pension reform is necessary, and if so, how it should be fairly introduced. Instead we have politicians, journalists and other commentators shouting at each other like children in the playground.

The shame is that most - if not all - of the people doing the shouting are actually quite intelligent and would be perfectly capable of putting together a structured and eloquent explanation of why they are supporting or opposing something. But instead, the only way they can secure votes is to come up with childish insults and petty point-scoring soundbites which fit into the space of a tabloid headline.

Of course, the other place where this petty approach to discussion proliferates is on Twitter. I tried a few times to engage in sensible discussion on there, but people who really should know better are all too often tempted to slip into point-scoring and bluntly refusing to engage in what I would describe as an adult conversation.

And that's why - a month or two ago - I un-followed everyone political on Twitter. I used to follow MPs, party members and councillors. I used to follow people of all political parties, whether or not I agree with what they have to say. But eventually it all got too much for me. It felt like I was listening to children in the playground rather than sensible adults.

Politics should be interesting. Democracy is an interesting and deep philosophical concept. But the problem with politics is that it's packed full of politicians fighting for votes rather than leaders fighting for what's right. And that really is a shame.