Rolling Down the Schedules

I doubt if there’s a voter left who thinks that Tony Blair is a great Prime Minister or a Londoner who thinks Sir Ian Blair is a great police officer. The public is weary with both of them in part because of the nausea the 24/7 media generate.
Think of how Blair’s face has been on every evening TV news bulletin, how film of his engagements has rolled through the night on the Sky and News 24, how his foibles have dissected daily Radios 4 and 5 and his faults blasted in hundreds of thousands of pundits’ columns in the papers.
Blair, Blair, blah, blah…it has been impossible to escape the man since 1994. And with familiarity has come the inevitable contempt. In his final Anatomy of Britain, Anthony Sampson noted a paradoxical change in the country he had studied since the Sixties. The iron law of the 21st century was that the more often public figures performed for the media the more the public resented them.
There’s a hypocrisy at work here as the media doesn’t apply the same sneering standards to themselves. When Jeremy Paxman behaves stupidly, the clip isn’t shown thousands of times. When politicians do the same, the incriminating footage follows them to their graves.
Politicians complain about the duplicity but plead that they have to play the game to reach the voters. Whether they are sincere is another matter. Blair has hinted that he wouldn’t chase so many headlines if he had his time again, and I suspect that Gordon Brown has learned from his mistakes. The smart move when he becomes PM would be to counter the stunts of David Cameron by restoring decorum and a touch of mystery to Downing Street.
If Brown or any other leader is going to try to discover if there’s a market for reticence, they must understand that seeing your face on television can be an addiction that has to be fought. After I’ve been on, I always find myself in front of the bathroom mirror the next morning narcissistically studying my dumpy profile as I mouth opinions on subjects I know absolutely nothing about.
That way madness lies. And it is the madness the media induces which has seized Sir Ian Blair.
Unlike the PM, he’s a civil servant not a politician who could and should have got on with his job without hype.
Yet Sir Ian appears infatuated with publicity. He outrageously tried to influence voters by backing New Labour’s plans for identity cards just before the election, pontificated on Any Questions and allowed the Met to comment on poor Jean Charles de Menezes before investigators established the truth about the death. As for his latest twitterings on the Soham murders, the scandal was not that what he said was wrong but that he felt the urge to shoot his mouth of at all.
It’s a sad case. Like many another addict, his cravings could destroy him.

Resonating with Reptiles

To Resonance, London’s most endearingly eccentric radio station. From a cramped studio above a Soho Tandoori it broadcasts the weirdest playlist on the planet.
If you are yearning for the best of Germany’s “electronic krautrock utopia” or “the different forms of Albanian music, art and culture,” then all that – and much, much more – is there for you at 104.4 FM or on-line on the Net.
I was on its political programme and afterwards I asked if it was Resonance’s most popular talk show. “Oh no,” said the interviewer. “Our number one show investigates UFOs. I say ‘investigates’ but we do nothing of the sort. Last week the potty presenter put this killer question to his equally bonkers guest: “OK we agree that 11 forms of alien life are circling the world, but tell me: how many of them are reptilian?’”


Bedtime Reading

ANDREW Motion, Philip Pullman and JK Rowling have helpfully provided parents with lists of books they should be encouraging their children to take to their rooms.
Very edifying they are too: Shakespeare, Dickens, Orwell, Homer…all the classics. I’m sorry to say that most people with toddlers won’t care whether it’s John Milton or John Grisham as long as they can be promised that their children will one day read to themselves. Until I became parent, I thought I would have the time to go back to the greats, Middlemarch for instance or Madame Bovary. As it is, the books I’m going back to again and again are Faster Faster, Little Red Train and Mog’s Amazing Birthday Caper.

Stars in their Eyes

CHILDREN going to the London Planetarium will soon be gawping at the stars rather than studying the heavens.
Perhaps we shouldn’t be upset by its capitulation to the demand for celebrity culture. The young can get DVDs on their home computers that show more about the wonders of space than a fusty old light show off Baker Street could ever manage. The only reason to worry is that it’s impossible for many children from the bottom of the heap to aspire to be an astronomer or physicist because there are no good schools for them. Celebrity is their only way out. Madame Tussauds may be rubbing that miserable point home more effectively than one thousand educational reformers.

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