The media must be stopped in its demolition of democracy

The last time we had a ’who rules Britain?’ election - during a national pit strike in 1974 - the Tories lost. It looks as if they are doomed again now that the issue is ’who rules Britain - elected politicians or the self-appointed press?’

The last time we had a ’who rules Britain?’ election - during a

national pit strike in 1974 - the Tories lost. It looks as if they are

doomed again now that the issue is ’who rules Britain - elected

politicians or the self-appointed press?’



The first two (unofficial) weeks of the current campaign have been

dominated by the media’s preoccupation with ’sleaze’. In the course of

them, two former junior ministers, Messrs Tim Smith (Beaconsfield) and

Allan Stewart (Eastwood, Scotland) have stood down, the latter suffering

a nervous breakdown.



And the chairman of the Scottish Tory Party, Sir Michael Hirst,

favourite to succeed to Mr Stewart’s seat, voluntarily ended his

political career, apparently because of a homosexual ’indiscretion’.



Five other Tory MPs seeking re-election remain in the firing line -

Piers Merchant (over alleged natural sex with a bimbo) and Neil

Hamilton, Michael Brown, Michael Grylls and Andrew Bowden (because hell

hath no fury like a Harrods al-Fayed scorned, unless it be the

sleaze-soddened Guardian, which refuses to wait upon the due processes

of Parliament). And there is to be no TV debate between our political

leaders, essentially because Labour has chickened out. It has dawned on

Tony Blair’s handlers that, unaided by the usual carefully selected

studio audience, he may not shine against the otherwise beleaguered

Prime Minister. Since he is miles out in front, why risk it? In other

words, the agenda of this election has so far been dictated not by what

really matters - the parties’ alternative prospectuses for the

management of this nation - but by the media’s commercial interest in

purveying scandal and the potential bloodsport of an Americanised TV

confrontation.



So I find myself torn. While not condoning the foolishness of the likes

of Messrs Merchant and Hamilton in setting themselves up, or allowing

themselves to be set up, I am heartened by their refusal - and that of

their constituencies - to dance to the tune of an entirely hypocritical

media. This was John Major’s first instinct, faced with the earliest

allegations against junior ministers, until expediency took over.



But the issue will not go away. Nor will the unreality of a pristinely

pure Labour Party last. It only has to win this election and its MPs’

public and private lives will automatically become media playthings,

especially as it has ridden to office on the back of media muck. Sooner

or later, politicians and people will have to make a stand against the

media’s commercial prurience, which is inflicting grave damage on the

trade of politics just as did trade union terrorism earlier.



Editors would think twice about pursuing politicians if their

’indiscretions’ were regularly plastered all over the Commons’ Order

Paper. They should not assume they hold all the cards.



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