Thoughts on politics and life from a liberal perspective

Thursday, 21 June 2012

My name is Dave and I am a pressaholic

Something fascinating has happened in the last year or so. Many senior politicians have effectively been coming clean and admitting an addiction. They have been confessing that they have been addicted to a rather dysfunctional relationship with the media, the press in particular.

That's good. The first step to dealing with a problem is admitting you have one. It is a necessary precondition to recovery from an addiction. But it is not sufficient.

What needs to come next is a full and frank admission of what exactly was wrong with these relationships. Indeed if we imagine these politicians as equivalent to alcoholics, we know from the 12 step programme of Alcoholics Anonymous that one of the most important steps involves admitting the exact nature of the wrongs committed. I'm not really seeing that anywhere here.

Sure, we get a lot of earnest language about politicians having got "too close" to the press and vows to not let it happen again. But so what? I don't really care if they got a bit "too close". It doesn't matter if Cameron had 1000 "country suppers" with Rebekah Brooks. Unless of course that closeness led to some sort of undue influence. But all the politicians who have been asked about this have flat out denied that they have allowed this sort of influence to take place.

Something does not add up here. It's like someone turning up for counselling and saying she wants to stop drinking but then denying there have been any negative consequences from her behaviour relating to this. In which case why does she want to stop?

In order for it to be credible that these politicians are truly on the road to their recovery from the scourge of their addiction we really need more specifics. But of course the problem is that if for example Cameron was to come out and say that his Ofcom policy changed in 2009 in order to fit in with what James Murdoch wanted or if politicians from all parties admitted that their approach to drugs policy is to accord with the agenda of tabloid editors they would terminate their political careers.

Perhaps in private they will be able to properly admit in detail to how deeply in thrall they were to their rapacious Fleet Street creditors.

But unless they confide in us, their electors then they shouldn't be surprised if we behave like a suspicious spouse who's heard it all before and doesn't really believe they have learned much if anything.

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