Sunday, October 03, 2010

a glimpse of the press in action: Ed Miliband edition

Has anyone else found that the Guardian's coverage of the Labour conference made them want to throw up? Here's Patrick "Unseasonably Mild" Wintour:
But his efforts to show he can lead a united, re-energised party committed to redefining the centre ground of politics look likely to be hampered by the expected decision of his defeated brother, David, to leave frontline politics to give him the chance to lead on his own terms.

Ed Miliband is said to be still trying to persuade him to remain at the top of Labour politics, and insisted there was "no psychodrama" between them. David Miliband has been offered the shadow chancellorship, but friends say he does not want it. More broadly, they say, he fears that if he remains the brothers will be ground down by rumours of splits, jealousies and factionalism that disfigured nearly a decade of Tony Blair's premiership.

So David Miliband's decision to resign is both going to "hamper...his efforts to show he can lead a united, re-energised party" and also prevent "splits, jealousies, and factionalism". Right. Also, the actual news in the story - that David Miliband isn't going to serve as shadow chancellor - has been buried, because it's more important to show that Wintour still gets given talking points by Blairite press officers. The piece attributes statements to "friends", "aides", his "team", or to nobody at all ("it is said") some eight times in 23 paragraphs. Also, there are four "he will say" statements - i.e. "I have been given a copy of the speech, like the other reporters, and like them I am trying to retail this as if it were a secret".

Meanwhile, we get a vast quantity of stuff about David Miliband's wife and his hurt feelings (no less than three Wintour pieces use the same quote about her). ""David is giving Ed some space to carry on torching the house we built." comes up in some form multiple times as well.

So much for Wintour. As usual, if it was news you were after you'd have done better to read the paper's second string political reporters, notably Allegra Stratton. But the rot is not entirely contained. Here's Patrick Barkham.
For his three days as Labour leader, Ed Miliband has worn purple ties every day: first a gravitas-imbued deep purple and then a heavily textured lilac affair yesterday that was far closer to blue than red....Miliband's purple policy looks very deliberate given his scattergun approach to ties in the past. Mary Riddell, the commentator, has noted that during the intensive pre-Copenhagen summitry last year, Red Ed liked nothing better than to buy "garish ties from street traders" in New York. Was he stocking up on purple in preparation for his immaculately-tied leadership tilt?

Honestly. There's a scene in Nanni Moretti's film Caro diaro where the protagonist, stuck in Rome in August with not much to do, has gone to see Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer based on a review in one of the newspapers. Having walked out of the movie, he tracks down the critic and confronts him in his bed, shaking him awake and forcing him to listen as he reads out the review. He cowers with embarrassment at each sentence. Reading this slab of dreck (so he wore a different colour tie each day, and this is a departure from a "scattergun approach"?) I felt like doing something similar. At least on the Daily Hell you're allowed to do an Alan Smithee and have pieces like this attributed to DAILY MAIL REPORTER when the management insists on them.

There's more, and worse. Jon Henley is sent out to do that classic piece of vacuous psuedo-reporting, a vox pop. In order to grasp the temper of the peuple de gauche, he gets sent to Pangbourne of all places. Even there, though, he struggles to find the rage he was sent for.

"We don't vote on stuff like that any more, do we?" said Dan Perkins, 31, a geography teacher supervising a group of schoolchildren..."Judi Green, 34, said she thought that was "brilliant. All to the good; really quite refreshing. The sign of a new era, even."

He pays a visit to the local working men's club:

In the working men's club – "the only working men's club for millionaires in the country", one winking lady member suggested – the lunchtime drinkers, of an earlier generation, weren't quite so sure.

Oh really?

"They'll use it against him, the tabloids and that." ...Ann Willoughby, a widow from the former council estate who would, personally, "have liked to see John Prescott get it, because he's really one of us", agreed Ed Miliband's family arrangements could be "a stick for his enemies to beat him with. They'll try anything."...Her son Mark, 42, an HGV driver, reckoned simply that "none of that stuff bothers me, and nor should it bother anyone". Jane Turner, a single mother of 43 on her bike, said she couldn't care less either. would be "wrong to judge someone on that, in 2010"....felt strongly that it was "far better for a politician to be honest and up-front than pay lip service to a faith you don't have"...

In fact, the only people he encountered with any objection to Ed Miliband were two self-declared conservatives, one of whom turned out to be William Hague's sister. But he could always try back at the office. Here's Madeleine Bunting:
What's really at stake here is not a few details about his family life but an accumulation of characteristics that speak to the cliche of a metropolitan liberal elite. It's part of why the Blairs came to be so distrusted and Miliband will have to work hard to head off the damage that some of these associations could generate.

This is in a piece about the fact that Ed Miliband is not married. So, what are the other characteristics in that "accumulation"? She doesn't say, except that ("metropolitan") he lives in London, like all the other 650-odd MPs and Madeleine Bunting. I wonder if he might be a rootless cosmopolitan or a sinister left-wing intellectual? Has anyone heard if such might be the case? Worse yet, apparently the reason why the Blairs came to be so distrusted is that they weren't married. Who knew?

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