‘It’s the media, isn’t it?’ a Hanson executive asked me, seeking to
explain our current passion for disclosure, after I had presided at a
recent City seminar on corporate governance. Earlier I had claimed that
the media believed that only their wits stood between the public and a
rapacious Government or business. They were determined to hold power
publicly to account. We had better learn to live with it - and them.
Sadly, it isn’t all down to the media. Too many people have encouraged
the view that power and authority are up to no good. But debased
standards, combined with the media’s negative concept of news, their
innate suspicion of government and their passion to disclose, mean that
our clients live in an age of accountability policed by conspiracy
theorists who presume guilt.
I told the Hanson chap it was not much good complaining about the media
to me. I was one of their severer critics - from within. Business should
start speaking up if it felt the media were damaging the nation. And lo
it came to pass that I picked up the latest Spectator and found Lord
Hanson, large as life, deploring media cynicism and the nationally
damaging attitudes it engenders. I should be astonished if I were the
catalyst. But there is scarcely a blade of grass between Lord Hanson’s
views and mine, which are documented over the past decade in published
My cup runneth over. I would like to think it has something to do with
the effortless superiority of Yorkshiremen. We are both from West
Yorkshire. But I would be in raptures if Essex, Northumberland, Devon,
Notts and even Lancs tycoons took up the cry. The truth is that Britain
is far from perfect. Where wrongdoing occurs, it should be exposed and
punished. But it is a far, far better, richer, more successful and more
decent place than you would ever imagine from the media. Given their
motivation, the mirror they hold up to society has always been
distorted. But now, thanks largely to their attitudes and self-righteous
witch-hunts, they offer a grotesque picture of decline and fall.
It would not be so bad if we knew that the White Knights of the
Independent Order of Eternal Truth were paragons of virtue themselves -
and modest with it. But we know different. Or if they had - as Lord
Hanson, like Lady Thatcher before him, reminds us - much experience of
running the country or a successful business. Instead, Fleet Street was
going to the union dogs before the Government’s labour laws saved it.
But it’s no use privately crying into our beer about their insufferable
hindsight and piety. The damage which their excesses do should be
exposed, too. Who will advise their clients to stand up and be counted
like Lord Hanson?