ARTYFACTS: Day 14 – Politics and trust

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Day 14 – Politics and trust

Why don’t we trust politicians?
BBC journalist Robinson kicked off with the admission that he hadn’t prepared for the discussion – bit of an odd admission, but there we go. His off the top of his head introduction centred on the fact that the Blair/Brow conflict, as show in recent memoirs, proved that the journalists were right – it was outright war.

Melissa Benn, the other journalist, thought that journalism had become soft, less probing and investigative. Globalisation, she added, had give politicians less room to make any real difference.

Oona King, ex-MP, thought that democracy was at risk and that because we in Britain are angry at politicians, the frontline between scepticism and cynicism had been blurred. She was honest ad open but sometimes drifted into Labour polemic.

Grayling, the resident philosopher, thought that politics was just difficult and messy, and that there margin for action had been eroded through globalisation. He defended Gordon Brown as a reflective, intelligent, well-read intellectual and regrets the fact that the press have turned on him like a pack of dogs. Grayling said little but made some telling points about avoiding rudeness in journalism being courteous and forensic in your questioning. Robinson’s point was that journalists have less time for interrogation.

Polly Toynbee added that a recent Hansard survey had shown that 41% had never talked about politics at all over the last two years.

There was some regret from Robinson that debates such as immigration and Europe were kept off the agenda, enraging the British public. Polly answered that the David Runciman book Political Hypocrisy: The Mask of Power from Hobbes to Orwell had claimed that hypocrisy was a necessary ingredient in politics, the only way to survive, Oona sort of agreed with this line.

More contention?
One of the better book and debate events in this festival but like many of the debates sometimes lacked contention. There was general agreement on most things, for example, that politicians were good eggs ad really did want to do good things. At this point the names Jeffrey Archer, Jonothan Aitken, Peter Mandelson and Jeremy Conway came to mind. It was not just the fact that they were all crooks, it was the way their peers defended their behaviour. Conway has still not returned the cash he clearly stole from the taxpayer, ad his fellow MPS are not pushing for it.

I’m not sure that we got to the bottom of the ‘trust’ issue but we covered the main topics; media, realpolitics, apathy, The Daily Mail, politicians as people.

Excellent questions
The audience had some excellent observations and questions.

Wouldn’t it be a good idea to insist that MPs have had at least 5 years of employment before becoming a politician?”

“Is there any other profession that meets such rudeness and disrespect, treated like worthless people we can ridicule.”

“Memoirs seem to be creating a sense of distrust.”

There was much talk of ‘cyberspace’ towards the end, a sure sign of a speaker who knows little about the internet. In the ed The Guardian ad the BBC and even books by Oona King, may matter little as their audience is shrinking. The internet is the medium of the future – I agree.


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