Life beyond Dover …
Posted on 20 March 2009 | 10:03am
The day started with an interview about TB and God for Nick Ferrari on LBC following Tony’s piece in the New Statesman. Perfectly good discussion, no problem at all, and I let pass the line in Nick’s intro about people’s faith in politicians collapsing ‘almost on a daily basis.’
But actually, given how politics and politicians are denigrated by the media not just on a daily basis but hour by hour, minute by minute, you could argue that they stand up fairly well. It was interesting, at a focus group I blogged about a few weeks back, how ‘politicians’ figured close to the bottom of people’s list of favoured ‘brands’, but Barack Obama came close to the top, just behind the NHS. When does a politician stop being a politician? When he is the most powerful politician in the world? I don’t think so.
I travel a fair bit still and I would reckon we have the most negative, anti-politics media in the world. We also have the most introspective. Even amid the recognition that the current economic crisis is global in cause, scale, and solution, coverage here tends to focus on Britain, and in particular Britain’s political leaders.
Imagine how the UK news would have been yesterday if roughly the same number of people who marched against the war in Iraq had marched through the streets of London to protest at GB’s handling of the economic situation. Yet delete London for Paris, GB for Sarkozy, and that is what happened in France yesterday. News to you?
There was the usual wild discrepancy between union estimates for the crowds (3 million) and those of the police (1.2million). A non-rounded number usually has more credibility, but accepting the truth is somewhere in between, that means well over a million took part. That is one big demonstration. It was in support of France’s second attempted general strike in two months.
I said at the time of Sarkozy’s election that he would eventually suffer from that peculiarly French phenomenon of a desire for reform in theory matched by a resistance to reform whenever it is pushed forward in practice. But even accepting that the French are slightly more prone to ‘manifestations,’ as they call them, than we are, I am surprised President Sarkozy’s troubles are not getting more airplay here in the UK, given the country’s importance to Europe as a whole, and given we are coming up to the G20, where some difficult decisions are going to have to be addressed.
But of course it does not fit the UK media/Tory game, which is to help peddle the myths that the British economy is harder hit than others, the British Government more unpopular than others, Gordon Brown a hapless figure trying and failing miserably to make a difference to problems of his and his ministers’ making. Hence all the ‘Merkel snubs Brown’ headlines today.
Sarkozy is facing protests from doctors and teachers. University staff are into the seventh week of protests and sit-ins. Private sector workers were at the head of many of yesterday’s protests which led to a disruption of trains and planes, schools, government departments and some of the capital’s theatres – the kind of thing that would have nicely filled up at least eighteen of the 24 hours in the day in the life of our recession bad news TV channels.
Throw in the added element of a Japanese company’s French staff holding a chief executive hostage in protest at job cuts, and you really do wonder whether our media has ceased to see that life exists beyond Dover. And there we were thinking the Eurotunnel would bring us closer together.
I will be able to take the temperature myself soon when I spend a few days in France promoting the launch of the translation of my novel ‘Tout est dans la Tete.’ Of the many superb articles in the New Statesman this week is one in French by Tony Cartano of publishers Albin-Michel, explaining why he thinks my novel will be a success there. I wrote the terrific headline myself. ‘Pretentieux? Moi?’
Second best laugh in the mag, after the Paul Dacre cartoon.