My Liverpool Daily Post column: Phone hacking is bad, but do we need some perspective too?

I’m lucky enough (though readers of the paper might not agree!) to have a weekly column in the Liverpool Daily Post. It’s a spin-off of my blog on the website, called Outside The Bubble, and is meant to be an outside look on the world of politics.

I’ve covered the phone hacking issue this week, and how, a week on, it’s perhaps time for a bit of perspective. Here it is:

People working in the media like nothing more than talking about the media. Politicians like nothing more than talking about politicians. When the two bubbles collide, there’s little chance of anything else getting a look in.

I’m not suggesting for a second the allegations against the News of the World aren’t serious enough to warrant discussion, or the relationship between the media and politicians worthy of close scrutiny.

But when we find ourselves in a situation where hours of TV news coverage is given over to every possible vested interest passing often ill-informed opinion on the phone hacking scandal, yet just a couple of minutes are given over to a famine affecting six million in Africa, I think we have a problem.

A week on from the first devastating revelations about hacking into the phones of Milly Dowler, the scandal shows no sign from disappearing from the front pages of the national newspapers. Politicians continue to talk about little else.

Ed Miliband, to his credit, has moved on from mudslinging to suggesting practical solutions for what he hopes will be a cleaner press. The fact he fails to draw a distinction between the activities of the national press and the local press is, hopefully, just an oversight on his part.

At some point, the focus has to move from the latest cough in the News International scandal to the scrutiny of other aspects of government policy. Given the national press show little sign of making that switch, it’s down to the politicians to try and set the agenda.

David Cameron tried to do this yesterday with a fresh speech about changing public services. He believes this is the point where his Big Society concept goes from being an idea to a concrete plan.

It’s essential that opposition politicians, political watchers and the media don’t allow the speech to go un-noted. Thanks to the inaction of the Local Government Association, Town Hall sleep walked their way into the most horrific cuts, the impact of which will only be felt in September.

There’s a danger that could happen again. The Tories describe their vision of the public sector as one which is easier for the public to influence. The state no longer always knows best is the rhetoric.

It sounds good, but in practice it could be devastating. The idea of companies, charities and community groups running services across the public sector will appeal to many, but what about those who live in areas which don’t appeal to such organisations?

The public sector may not be perfect, but at least it’s well-placed to ensure fair access for all.

There’s a real danger that the sexy story of politics, power and the media distracts people from a proposal which is really just a ‘survival of the fittest public sector. Someone needs to stand up for the public sector – this could be Labour’s moment.

2 comments

  1. Another insensitive, finger off the pulse offering. In the week that Rupert Murdoch could be on his way out. He’s played a huge part in cheapening our lives, scapegoating ‘the other’, and wrecking and dividing our society. And we’ve watched powerless while he’s courted by self-interested politicians and given huge tax breaks.

    We now need to build again from the bottom up, with him safely out of the way. This could be our only ever opportunity. The more the media focuses on his people’s criminal activities, the better the chance of success.

    Writing in a Liverpool newspaper, you really should be aware of that already.
    The local journalist doesn’t see the bigger picture in this case…. LOL

    1. Thanks, as ever, for your comment Paul. I’m not sure why I’m being insensitive. If I was saying ‘lets ignore it altogether because there are other more important things doing the rounds’ then that would be insensitive.

      But we currently have saturation coverage of the story at the expense of everything else. There are very few journalists actually breaking new lines on the story, but many, many hours of airtime and words in print being devoted to comment and analysis, which doesn’t take the story any further forward. Of course, everyone has an opinion.

      Going on your theory that Murdoch has cheapened our lives, surely the worst thing we can allow to happen is that events impacting on the lives of many – Southern Cross closing, fresh public sector reform for example – only get scant coverage.

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