Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Media And Parliament

It is a strange day when you find yourself agreeing with Tony Benn.
Oh, the last volume of his diaries are classic - who can forget how a man who was once responsible for national energy policy could swallow a mothball in the mistaken belief that it was a sweetie (what in God's name does he keep in his pockets?), or brush his teeth with a skin cream? Should the Stansgate peerage ever revive its coat of arms, one hopes the crossed pipe and thermos flask will feature prominently. Benn's devotion to his thermos flask is heroic - you'll only take his thermos flask from him out of his cold, dead hands.
They also show quite an unattractive side of Benn - wholesome disagreement with the presence of 'No Smoking' signs in railway carriages does not give one carte blanche to peel them from the windows.
Yet there is one area in which one must give him his due; his criticism of the way in which the media has usurped the role of Parliament. Regardless of how badly its members might have behaved, perhaps itself in some cases a reaction to being sidelined in favour of tight party control intended to present a favourable media image, it is utterly inappropriate for any media outlet to declare that Parliament deserves to burn; this is nothing short of scandalous.
A Parliament run for the benefit of the people is one thing, one run for the benefit of the parties, which is what we've had for far too long, quite another; but one run for the benefit of the media is no kind of Parliament at all, a nonsense Parliament in which the only electorate that counts are media proprietors. Once in a while. it would be very gratifying to see a Minister metaphorically rip Jeremy Paxman's or John Humphreys' heads off their shoulders and berate them for the insolence with which they address the peoples' government; if nothing else, being reminded that they are unelected talking heads who have been given the privilege of addressing the powerful might give a healthy shock to both of those gentlemens' systems.


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