Gunn on politics

Journalists record opinion poll ratings below those of politicians.
Having a foot in both camps I spend a fair amount of time trying to
justify their actions.

But when individuals in either make errors of judgement for which
others suffer serious disadvantage, they should be sacked or
punished. Daily Mirror editor Piers Morgan failed that

He wanted to believe that those photographs of British soldiers
mistreating Iraqi prisoners were real. As a result, he did not
appear to carry out adequate checks on their authenticity or, when
doubts surfaced, concede that he may have been wrong. Hubris so
often deals the final hand.

On one side of me is a box with 130 exam papers to mark, which will
affect the careers of my journalism students at The City
University. On the other is a draft itinerary for training African
politicians in good electoral practices. As both groups hope to
play their part in the future, they are a welcome distraction from
the current dysfunctional relationship between our politicians and
those reporting on them.

Many facts are attributed to this impasse and its impact on voter
apathy. But two specific “relatives” must bear some

The first is The Independent. This attractive newspaper
may seem an unlikely culprit, but one of its distinctive features
was to interweave comment and analysis into news coverage. At its
birth, while political correspondent on The Times
understandably nervous of this new competitor – I and my colleagues
were encouraged to follow suit.

This initially felt self-indulgent, but it is depressingly easy to
do and now infects much of the news coverage in our national

The second is that former Daily Mirror journalist and
fellow Camden resident, Alastair Campbell. When he switched his
allegiance to promoting Tony Blair and New Labour, manipulation of
his former colleagues was central to his role. He was, and still
is, an unfailingly loyal servant to his former master.

The state of relations between politicians and the journalists is
the cause of much of the frustration, anger and cynicism about
both. Yet it has been caused largely by the actions of very few. A
more constructive relationship between our elected politicians and
those reporting on their activities is urgently required.

Sheila Gunn is a political commentator and a Conservative
councillor in the London Borough of Camden.

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