Save Us From Journalist Politicians

I strongly suspect that the world would be a much better place if we journalists were never allowed to go into politics. (Although I suppose that, if pressed, I might make an exception for Winston Churchill.)

We suffer from an alarming tendency to believe in simple answers. We prize making an impact over getting things right, and an off-the-cuff opinion over a considered judgement.

As the American journalist Andrew Ferguson put it many years ago: ‘Journalism is a character defect… It is a life lived at a safe remove: standing off to one side of the parade as it passes, noting its flaws, offering glib and unworkable suggestions for its improvement. Every journalist must know that this is not, really, how a serious-minded person would choose to spend his days.’

Ouch. A good journalist might know how to ask the right questions, but a good politician knows how to find the right answers. There’s a big difference.

Exhibit One: Toby Young, former provocateur extraordinaire, a man so proud of his ability to get up people’s noses that he wrote a book called ‘How To Lose Friends And Alienate People’. It was later made into a film, but it demonstrated, as Young continued to do for many years, an unusual knack for being both offensive and wrong.

If that’s how you get your kicks, fine. But as Young has belatedly discovered, it becomes a bit of a problem if you then try to reinvent yourself as a serious educational reformer with ideas that deserve to be listened to by policy-makers. What seemed clever when you were in the losing friends business risks backfiring when you start trying to win allies.

So I’m afraid I have little sympathy now that he has had to resign as a member of the board of the higher education regulator, the Office for Students. As a puerile wordsmith, he can comment till he’s blue in the face about women’s body shapes (while watching Prime Minister’s Questions in 2012, he tweeted: ‘Serious cleavage behind Ed Miliband’s head. Anyone know who it belongs to?’)

He can also, if he insists, be crassly offensive about people who don’t share his superior intellect: ‘If Gove is serious about wanting to bring back O-levels, the Government will have to repeal the Equalities Act, because any exam that isn’t “accessible” to a functionally illiterate troglodyte with a mental age of six will be judged to …read more

Source:: The Huffington Post – UK Tec

      

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