Margaret Thatcher’s great spin man Bernard Ingham knew a thing or two about pragmatism. He kept himself out of the Westland Helicopter Crisis as he knew that even a whiff of his involvement would damage Thatcher. And he was surely very glad of the off the record Downing Street briefings that kept his name out of most of the other stories he promulgated.
How things change. The continued attempts to shake down Andy Coulson, who occupies Ingham’s position for David Cameron, are relentless – and are now getting to seem more than a little supercilious. Coulson is caught in the political version of some over-hyped heavyweight brawl – he is being pummelled on the ropes but his opponent is congenitally unable to administer the knockout blow.
The laundry in media land has always had some pretty grubby stains; the sort that not even a P&G miracle concoction could eradicate. Whisper it softly; the truth is that, behind closed doors, there is a huge amount of dark doings done in the name of business. Yes, those hiding and exposing a story, or playing with the truth, should remember that there are few who can hold aloft the sword of honour.
Truthyness seems to be to creeping into modern slanguage and becoming a much more ubiquitous term. I have heard, on numerous occasions, the phrase “it was true at he time”. So I strongly suggest we let he who is without sin cast the first stone, especially as most highly paid media figures do a pretty good job of escaping public inquisition.
Not that I am setting myself up as an apologist for Andy Coulson, but that does not prevent me from finding the pack pursuing him and baying for blood to be full of tiresome and sometimes unwarranted smugness.
The dark arts that can be brought to bear whilst getting a story are akin to taking drug in a sporting competition. Perhaps in 50 years time the use of drugs in sports engineering will be the norm (frankly, as sports subsidy becomes a thing of the past, the big pharma companies will be pretty much first in line to take the monetary strain) but right now, they aren’t in the slightest bit kosher.
I have seen some extraordinary liberties taken when it comes down to the business of folk protecting – and getting at – a story; they will do what it takes to ensure they provide ROI.
Unpalatable? Well, yes. It’s a dirty business trying to maintain success. But it is far too simple an approach to just focus fire on the mavericks – they are simply exotic cannon fodder.
Andy was a great tabloid editor in age of the merciless, aggressive competitor. Will he prove to be a mighty gatekeeper? Time will tell. The coalition faces some tough challenges; and not from the traction of its political foes but from the new digital articulation of dissent that the great unwashed have spread at their fingertips.