26 July 2020
When I was young(er), my family took the News Chronicle, a daily paper that had been owned by the Cadbury family (Quakers who built Bournville ‘village’ to house its workers). I can remember my father’s disgust when, on day in October 1960, the News Chronicle failed to appear and the newsagent replaced it with the Daily Herald because they’d judged correctly that we wouldn’t have wanted the Daily Mail which had taken it over.
As was his wont when life crossed his path, my father stormed off to the newsagent, returned the Daily Herald and demanded his tuppence ha’penny back and, from then on, we took the Manchester Guardian, later to become the Guardian, rightly celebrated for its wonderful typographical errors and the eccentricity of some of the contributors to its letters page.
When the Guardian announced recently it’s having to cut 180 jobs, 12% of its workforce, I felt a sense of shock and almost understood how my father’s mind had worked (probably for the first – and only – time) when the News Chronicle disappeared. I didn’t really realise how important it is to me, and to the world at large, that Britain still has one truly independent newspaper that is owned by a private philanthropic trust rather than by media moguls and plutogarchs* who control governments.
Access to the Guardian news website remains free when even the Washington Post limits the number of articles you can read in a month without paying.
A survey of 2,823 people carried out in April by YouGov on behalf of the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford produced some interesting results. People were asked about their perceptions of various UK media outlets and their coverage of the pandemic so far. Unsurprisingly, TV outlets got the highest scores, probably because they are more widely used. Equally unsurprisingly, the BBC was perceived as way ahead of the competition with 60% saying they were doing a good job, compared with ITV (36%), Channel 4 (32%), and Sky (28%). The BBC’s coverage was approved by a majority right across the political spectrum.
After deducting the people who thought each paper was doing a bad job from those who thought it was doing a good job, 19% thought the Guardian was doing a good job, streets ahead of its nearest competitor (the Times) which only got 7%. Papers that a majority thought were not doing a good job included the Telegraph (-1%), the Mail (-12%) and the Sun (-18%) – no surprises here then.
This clear consensus, unrelated to political leanings, about which was the most trusted of each of the TV and printed/online media, the BBC and the Guardian, explains why I’d miss either of them very badly.
The full results of the survey can be found at https://reutersinstitute.politics.ox.ac.uk/news-media-broadly-trusted-views-uk-government-response-covid-19-highly-polarised?utm_campaign=MK_VO_WelcomeCanvas&utm_content=variantA&utm_medium=emlf&utm_source=eml&utm_term=Email_Day2_VO
Also released this week was the 50-page report from parliament’s intelligence and security committee’s enquiry into possible Russian interference in the Brexit referendum, the one which the Prime Minister kept hidden for the best part of a year because it concluded that the British government and intelligence agencies didn’t bother to conduct any proper assessment, leading to the unavoidable conclusion that this was because the government didn’t want to know the answer in case they weren’t re-elected.
And the Labour party decided to make a six-figure payment to settle with former staff who claimed the party had failed to deal properly with accusations of anti-semitism. This brought Labour’s former leader out of his box to condemn the decision, and left the party with financial problems. Why can’t Labour party members grasp that their real enemy is the Conservative party, not the other wing of their own party?
Then Johnson (who looked terrible, grey and pasty) admitted they could have done things better and another of his “all done by Christmas” promises had gone out of the window because there are still “tough times ahead” and the pandemic could last into the middle of next year.
And the government confided to Chinese technology company Huawei that it was being excluded from Britain’s 5G telecoms network because Donald Trump had insisted.
Why can’t we vote for sensible people instead of politicians?
Trump agreed to be interviewed by Chris Wallace on Fox News, which normally supports him. This turned out to be a mistake. Amongst other blunders such as confusing slavery with racism, when Wallace asked if he’d accept the results of the election if he lost, Trump said “I’m not going to just say yes.” He also said “We won two world wars, two world wars, beautiful world wars that were vicious and horrible”. Beautiful?
It’s taken Trump just 3½ years to do what it took Maggie Thatcher 11 years to achieve: to become so unpopular that many people on their own side would “rather vote for a can of tuna” than let them carry on.
What’s more worrying is that, in America, peaceful (if you don’t count shouting) Black Lives Matter protestors are being met by counter-protestors, some heavily armed, and it seems inevitable things are going to get violent before long because it doesn’t seem to have occurred to the police to keep the two protests separated.
Trump’s now sent federal troops into troubled areas and will no doubt start calling BLM protestors ‘terrorists’. Some people now fear that Trump will intentionally escalate the situation until he decides he can declare martial law and cancel the forthcoming presidential election, joining the Russia, China, Iran and South Korea club. The Famous Five Go Mad.
I wonder if the Constitution gives him this power; if it does, I must find the Valium.
Then, in due course, he’ll probably declare whatever’s left of the UK as the 51st state, with the British government’s sycophantic support, and I’ll have to find the Tramadol.
But, despite all this insanity, people are still being kind.
Back in 1992, two friends in Wisconsin agreed that if either of them ever won a lottery jackpot, they’d share it with the other. Last month, Tom Cook won $22m and rang his friend Joseph Feeney to say he was just about to get $11m. How many people would have done this?
And the climate campaigner Greta Thunberg won a $1m Gulbenkian prize for humanity and immediately promised to give it all to environmental groups.
* Is there such a word as ‘plutogarch’? If not, there is now.