Thursday, 24 February 2011

The media's role in Clegg's 'forgot' he was in charge gaffe

The media have been able put fuel to the fire to their current narrative, that the government isn't doing enough to rescue British nationals in Libya, thanks to deputy prime minister Nick Clegg saying he "forgot" he was in charge while David Cameron was in the Middle East.

A couple of thoughts on this - both are criticisms of the modern media.

Clegg was asked if he was in charge of the nation, to which he replied: "Yeah, I suppose I am. I forgot about that." This looks to me to be a joke - a bit of a cocky, unfunny one but a joke nonetheless. The media have duly screamed with delight at the 'gaffe'.

I understand that journalists have to supply stories for their editors but this over-reaction from the media is symptomatic of today's reporting. Sadly it is also one of the underlying causes behind a political class who are increasingly wary of saying anything interesting; fearing if they don't deliver a party line to take they will be set upon by the media hounds.

As a result, journalists bemoan the lack of 'characters' in politics and criticise political parties for 'spin' or governments for employing SpAds. Politicians take media training, carefully hone a message, build barriers between themselves and the media and become ever more guarded when in the presence of journalists. And so it all starts again.     

My second, briefer point, is on the media obsession with who is in charge when a prime minister is on holiday or out of the country. In today's day and age, unless the prime minister expressly states they are handing over power assume they are in charge. There are any number of ways a prime minister can remain in touch with the UK even when in the remotest of lands. I know it is one of a long list of stories journalists can dust off every few months but it is a weak, tired story of little relevance in the 21st century and simply lazy journalism.

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