Trust in politicians is dwindling thanks to their evasive tactics
A CORNWALL MP said this week that public trust in politicians is being undermined by journalists refusing to give them credit for saying what they actually believe, writes Andrew Gordon.
Oh dear me.
Conservative MP for Redruth and Camborne George Eustice, the man who uttered these words let us not forget is a former press secretary to David Cameron.
In a parliamentary debate, he also called for party political broadcasts to be allowed on air more frequently. Oh my God.
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Mr Eustice was highlighting the difficulties that he believes political parties are having communicating with voters.
The current broadcasting rules meant that broadcasters had too much power, he suggested.
The rules have also helped to create a particular type of journalism, he said, in which broadcasters "try and interpret – put a gloss – on what a party leader is supposedly saying.
"I lost count of the number of times, when I worked for the leader of the opposition, that we would give a speech because this is something that he actually felt strongly and believed, only to see it then interpreted as a pitch to women voters, a pitch to get the youth vote, trying to appease core voters, always seen through the prism of political strategy,'' he is quoted as saying, claiming it undermines public trust in the political process.
Mr Eustice also accused broadcasters of imposing hostile interview scenarios, where there is almost a duel between the interviewer and the politician.
I would agree with him on that last point – to a point – but anyone who has listened to politicians as long as I have trying to evade the questions people actually want straight answers too will see why journalists are forced on the offensive.
This is nothing new. Broadcasters like Sir Robin Day were giving Government ministers a hard time 30 years ago, not least the former St Ives Tory MP John Nott when he was Defence Secretary at the end of Falklands conflict.
He famously walked out of an interview when Day suggested he would be a hear today, gone tomorrow politician. Well Sir Robin was right on that one.
The term "economical with the truth,'' came into popular usage when it was used by a Cabinet Secretary at the end of the 1970s as a term which really meant he may have been telling fibs.
These are instances when Conservative administrations were in power, but the dark arts of political spin really came into their own when Tony Blair's New Labour party governed this country not so long ago.
Journalists rightly get frustrated when they are trying to get to the bottom of an issue on behalf of their readers or listeners, only to be fobbed off with replies that fail to address their questions.
Sadly, this is now the norm, even within local government here in Cornwall.
I've spoken to reporters on this newspaper who tell me trying to get a specific answer from County Hall to a straight forward question is often difficult. Instead, a line or two is dispatched via an e-mail that does not address the query at all.
Who can we blame for this state of affairs (because journalists are always accused of playing the blame game)?
It has to be laid at the door of the politicians themselves, who are taught evasive techniques by their own spin doctors.
And as for Mr Eustice's possible suggestion that the voting public would like to see more party political broadcasts, obviously the Right Honourable Member for Redruth and Camborne must be on a different planet than the rest of us.
Further air time given over to promises that won't be kept we can do without.