An Unnecessary Role

embracing false choices

Broken news, and Gordon Brown’s inadvertent localism

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Last Wednesday’s Newsnight might have been the moment this scandal jumped the shark (a cliche that conjures an image of Paul McMullan leaping over said creature on waterskis, pursued by Hugh Grant in a hovercraft). As a despairing Jeremy Paxman attempted to rouse a hand-picked audience of mutes into expressing an opinion, any opinion, about the whole phone-hacking farrago, Tessa Jowell decided to take the opportunity to shoehorn a bit of authentic faith, flag and family into proceedings:

I’m very struck by just how sombre everyone feels about this. It very much reflects discussions I have had with people I represent in my constituency, that it’s a whole lot of things coming together: a collapse of confidence in the media, people feeling pretty shocked about what appears to have been the behaviour of the police, the banking crisis and so forth. Increasingly what people feel is that they just have to look after themselves, and their families are the people they rely on rather than these institutions.

As I lay glued to my settee, stunned by the gratuitous Blue Labour sucker punch, I began to reassess my own view of what we are apparently supposed to call ‘Hackgate’. I will admit, for a little bit of time back there I thought this was all Very Important Indeed, rather than a preoccupation of newsmen and Brownite heavies with a grudge (is there any other kind?). However, the rush to to sanctimony and the insider nature of much of the commentary have made me question that initial assumption. Certainly the contribution of the public to Newsnight suggests this is not an issue that is resonating with the voters. And Tessa’s analysis suggests someone trying to use current events to confirm their own view of the problems the country and its politics face.

So why leave this sort of thing to Tessa. Brace yourself, but amidst his mostly blundering intervention in the crisis, Gordon Brown said something I agree with:

“The people of this country have always been at risk from huge concentrations of power.”

One of the numerous lessons that we can learn from Newsmageddon, and one most pertinent for us in local government, is that overly centralised power, in whatever sphere, is a bad thing. It breeds complacency, magnifies incompetence and generally results in worse decision-making than dispersed, localised power. It will take me some time to recover from the crippling irony of Gordon Brown making this point, but I welcome him to the cause of localism.


Written by samelliot

July 18, 2011 at 9:30 am

Posted in Localism, Media

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