Ronald McDonald lookalike blames bloggers for “culture of cynicism and despair”
Communities Minister Hazel Blears
In a speech pre-released to today’s Guardian, the UK government minister Hazel Blears has picked up Tony Blair’s refrain about the “feral media” being responsible for cynicism and disengagement in British politics. According to Blears:
mostly, political blogs are written by people with a disdain for the political system and politicians, who see their function as unearthing scandals, conspiracies and perceived hypocrisy.
Unless and until political blogging adds value to our political culture, by allowing new and disparate voices, ideas and legitimate protest and challenge, and until the mainstream media reports politics in a calmer, more responsible manner, it will continue to fuel a culture of cynicism and despair.
It always amuses me when New Labour politicians throw up their hands in aggrieved incomprehension at the fact that so many of us rate their honesty and integrity somewhere near that of estate agents.
But the reason we so deeply distrust both our politicians and our estate agents is not because of some right-wing blogger’s conspiracy. It’s because both groups have a hard-earned reputation for dishonesty and cynicism. The current political elite has a long-standing track record of deliberately deceiving the British public – from the big lies over Iraq (see: http://iraqdossier.com/blairslies) to the individual lies routinely told to the families of British citizens murdered overseas (both in my own family’s case and the now-notorious deception meted out to the family of Julie Ward).
Hazel Blears need only look at today’s headlines to see what it takes to move people away from “a culture of cynicism and despair”.
It wasn’t the fault of bloggers, or the media, that the US public was so deeply disillusioned with the government and policies of George W Bush. And neither was it any profound change in tone or attitude by the media or the blogging community that has restored a sense of hope and optimism. It was the emergence of a politician who stood by his principles and opposed the war in Iraq rather than going along with it for political expediency, who has condemned the rampant fear-mongering that the Bush government (often ably assisted by our own) has so often engaged in, and who emphasizes the need for honesty and integrity in politics. Whatever the future holds, it’s clear that the political mood in the US right now is anything but “cynical”.
It seems to me that if Hazel Blears and her New Labour colleagues want to win back our trust, and end the culture of cynicism and despair here in the UK, they could do worse than to take some lessons from Barack Obama.
UPDATE – click here for a characteristically feisty response from one of Hazel Blear’s targets, the blogger Paul Staines, aka “Guido Fawkes”.