On the Spectator Coffee House blog today, in a piece ostensibly about Ken Clarke's current woes, James Forsyth mentions the following in the opening paragraph:
Dominic Grieve’s fate as shadow Home Secretary was sealed by a lunch at News International headquarters in Wapping. Grieve went to lunch with various Sun executives and rather than talking tough on crime he laid into the paper for how it covered the issue, claiming that it stoked fear of crime. The word then came back to Tory high command, via Andy Coulson, that the paper would not endorse the Tories as long as Grieve remained in that job. He was duly replaced by Chris Grayling in the 'pub-ready reshuffle' of January 2009 after less than a year in the job.
Doesn't that just sum up a big part of what is wrong with our politics in a single paragraph?
It shouldn't be for executives of national newspapers to decide who is or is not appointed to cabinet and shadow cabinet positions. Sadly it is all too easy to believe what the extremely well connected Forsyth states above.
This is why subjects like drugs policy, crime and the like can never be debated rationally as part of political discourse because politicians are terrified of what newspapers might say and therefore how discussing controversial subjects may well terminate their political career. So they generally steer clear. When they don't they are crucified as Ken Clarke is finding out today.
I just wish politicians, including those right at the top would grow some backbone and stand up to the vested interests in these newspapers. I guess though whilst they have the circulation and the implicit power that gives, this pattern will continue.