What do Virgin Radio and the New Scientist have in common? They’ve both been graced with Tony Blair’s presence over the past week.
Blair phoned Virgin on Friday (which by chance I heard) to ask listeners to support the Freeman Heart and Lung Transplant Association. Meanwhile, he is in the New Statesman this week banging on about the importance of scientific research (podcast here).
All very well, but it does rather suggest that his Operation Legacy that was leaked to the papers in September is very much going ahead. We’ve already had Blue Peter and no doubt Songs Of Praise is just around the corner.
My concern about all this is that it doesn’t seem to have very much to do with running the country, and yet it has everything to do with promoting the Labour Party and giving Blair’s own ego a boost. Yet are either of these two paying to have him go around the country as Prime Rentagob? Blair stands to make a tangible pile of cash out of boosting his legacy. If all he’s going to do for the next six months is remind us how wonderful he is, and leave the actual job to Gordon Brown, then it really is time he did the decent thing.
I was amused to see Susanne Lamido get a whole article printed about her blog in this week’s Islington Tribune because she recommends it as “the best read for local residents”. Clearly blogging has come of age when local newspapers actually write whole articles out of the fact that a blogger has said a nice thing about them.
I too find the Tribune required reading, although I suspect not for the same reasons as Susanne. As a political hack, it’s a great, fun read – full of scandal and gossip – but I’m not as convinced by commitment to news values as Susanne clearly is. It’s certainly true it has a strong interest in community issues, but it has a real weakness for hearsay and seems more interested in mischief making than informing.
This week, for example, there is a report on a public meeting about Highbury Fields. Headline: “Fields update more like a ‘game show'”. Sub-heading: “Audience ‘shouted at by woman in dominatrix shoes’.” Indeed, fully 50% of that article is about the fascinating-sounding facilitator and her footwear (clearly I need to go to more public meetings), all based on the fact that Josie Lawrence-lookalike Green councillor Katie Dawson made a couple of catty comments.
The letter’s page is also a great read. Being a member of a political party or a pressure group appears to be compulsory and all the letters are full of bile and vitriol. All great fun, but anyone interested in getting to the truth of the matter is entirely frustrated.
Do ordinary people read this thing? It’s possible but if they do I doubt they gain anything from it except a confirmation of their worst prejudices about politicians. A bit of nuance, and the volume set at something other than 11, would be quite refreshing every now and again.