Monday, 6 September 2010

An Issue Missed

I read a blog earlier today by Yasmin Alibhai-Brown in which she slams Westminster gossip bloggers, particularly prominent rumourmonger Guido Fawkes, for their treatment of William Hague.

In her entry, Ms Alibhai-Brown states that the actions of such bloggers 'deny a minister privacy'. Of course, it would be ridiculous to suggest that Mr Hague should be denied a private life, but the office that he holds in public life surely demands better judgement than he has shown this week.

According to Ms Alibhai-Brown, Fawkes 'makes history' by 'disseminating titbits on politicians, most low and distasteful'. Somewhat confusingly, she then proceeds to qualify this statement by listing instances when Whitehall insider information has uncovered matters of genuine public interest, such as Tessa Jowell's husband's fraudulent interaction with Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi. For Fawkes' part, he makes no secret of the fact that his blog is based on rumour and gossip. He even sells branded merchandise.

I cannot claim to have intimate knowledge of Westminster, so I am reliant entirely on information from the papers. However, what is certain is that Christopher Myers, just 25 years old, is now Mr Hague's former adviser, having resigned when the first hint of potential scandal appeared in the mainstream press. Some commentators have suggested that Mr Myers had no specialist knowledge and that he was too young and inexperienced for the role, while others insisted that Mr Hague already had a full complement of experienced advisers and didn't need more. But in the face of what seems a bizarre appointment in the first place, did Mr Hague seriously believe that sharing a room with this young man was not going to result in gossip and newspaper stories? If so, this is astonishing naivety from a man who first stood for parliamentary office nearly twenty-five years ago.

The fact here is that the issue that the media picked up on, namely Mr Hague's suggested homosexuality, is of supreme indifference when compared to his ability to be head of a high office if indeed his judgement is so remiss.

Ms Alibhai-Brown, while acknowledging the positive role that the internet has played in our democracy, goes onto say that it has led to the end of 'decency, fairness, self-restraint' but that these qualities still apply to journalists who work for newspapers. I am sure that Wayne and Coleen Rooney appreciate the 'self-restraint' that the papers showed in their exposé this weekend. Perhaps the best that we can do as individuals is to set an example, both with the maturity of our behaviour and the sensitivity with which we comment on the actions of others.

Share your thoughts in the comments.

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