On the 20th January, the country watched in surprise as the Shadow Chancellor unexpectedly announced his resignation. Alan Johnson cited ‘personal issues’ as the reason for his stepping down from the post, seen by many as second only to the leader of the opposition.
The following day, Andy Coulson- David Cameron’s media chief and former editor of News of the World, chose to announce his resignation from the government. It was surely no coincidence that Coulson picked the day that allegations were emerging about the misbehaviour of Johnson’s wife.
Also that Tony Blair was sat uncomfortably under the spotlight and facing questions at the Chilcot Inquiry.
The reporting of Coulson’s resignation was prefaced in news reports everywhere with the expression ‘‘a good day to bury bad news’’.
This is a term that has resonated in politics ever since advisor Jo Moore on September 11h, asked her colleagues if it was a good opportunity to declare changes to councillors allowances.
Labour MP Tom Watson stated that it was ‘‘the mark of the man that he would sneak out a statement on a Friday morning on a busy news day’’ and that it was ‘‘the second job Coulson has resigned from for something he claims to know nothing about’’. Coulson has been living under a dubious cloud of scandal ever since the Guardian uncovered the illegal practise of phone hacking that appears to have been rife under his editorship at the News of the World.
It is now being said that Coulson’s resignation is going to raise continual uncomfortable questions regarding the phone hacking scandal itself- in David Cameron’s personal judgement. In addition it will shed light on the seemingly biased allocation of Jeremy Hunt to the job of selling BSkyB to Rupert Murdoch.
Compare this resignation – quiet, shrewd and suspicious, with that of Alan Johnson, a politician widely renowned for being honest, fair and approachable. It seems utterly unjust that a man such as Johnson will now face a long series of fantastical allegations about his private life, whilst Coulson has done his best to escape the numerous charges against him as covertly as possible.
The ethics of the media have never been in a poorer state than as we currently see them. There is no doubt that this has rather a lot to do with the huge proportion owned by Conservative loving media magnate Rupert Murdoch, an amount which is only set to grow. Under the Tory government we have seen not only the shockingly blatant attempts to completely destabilise the reputation of their Coalition partners, the Lib Dems, but also, the destruction of the relationship between MPs and constituents.
When the Daily Telegraph went undercover at Lib Dem MP’s surgeries, they jeopardised the way MPs felt they could speak openly to their constituents, but also funnily enough, didn’t seem to find time to seek out what Conservatives were saying about their Lib Dem partners. This was nothing short of entrapment, and should never have been allowed to happen.
It may have been a bit far for Lewes Lib Dem MP Norman Baker to compare himself to Helen Szuman fighting apartheid, but it seems highly likely that many Conservative MPs denounced their partners in government in much the same way. The difference was that we never got to hear about it.
Further indicators of the Tories willingness to allow the Lib Dems to bear the brunt of just about everything, was their handling of the tuition fees argument, in which they were conspicuously absent for the majority of the protests. It’s also no coincidence that the Tories will be hoping to stop the AV voting system from coming to fruition when a referendum is held. It will do them no harm to see the Lib Dems receiving as little credibility as possible.
The practise of the right wing press in the recent months has been nothing short of shameful. To see journalists resorting to loose discussions of the private lives of respectable, professional people, and using highly corrupt methods to destroy entire reputations in one single news story hardly seems to be in the public’s interest.
When Gordon Brown, exhausted and frustrated, called Gillian Duffy a ‘bigoted woman’, this was a private moment. We are fools if we do not believe that Clegg or Cameron expressed the odd derogatory word about a troublesome voter once they believed that they were away from the glare of cameras and microphones.
The role of the media is to serve the public’s interest, and all too often this is ignored in favour of cruel stings that we gain nothing from but a bad taste. The resignations of Alan Johnson and Andy Coulson, along with the respective coverage they received, say far more about the ethics of the media than meets the eye. Unfortunately, we continue to be reported to by a media that wishes to polarise, cause personal pain, and above all, sensationalise.