Sunday, July 12, 2009

Disagreeing with Peter Oborne

Peter Oborne is one of my favourite journalists. But his Spectator Diary this week starts off with a little story which makes me wonder if he hasn't lost the plot. Read on...
The shadow chancellor George Osborne has been lunching privately with the textiles magnate Richard Caring, the Labour-supporting businessman who got caught up in the cash for peerages investigation. It is less than a year since Osborne demonstrated a catastrophic failure of judgment by being lured onto a yacht owned by the disreputable Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska. After the Deripaska episode Osborne promised to have nothing more to do with political funding. Yet here he is consorting with another party donor. What on earth does the shadow chancellor think he is doing?

Oborne is falling into a trap. Using his logic, a politician should never meet or have lunch with any businessman who could potentially be considered a political donor. Did Peter Oborne consider that George Osborne might possibly be meeting Mr Caring to learn about textiles and the sector's contribution to the British economy? He insinuates that Osborne would have been touting for a party donation, but admits that Caring is a Labour supporter. How do those two statements marry?

I am all in favour of journalists having a go at a politician when that politician has done something wrong. But to do so on this evidence presented is just gratuitous.

Stories likes this illustrate something which, if we are not careful, is going to lead to few people ever wanting to go into politics. If the media automatically assume that a politician is up to no good because they are seen lunching with someone who is in business, we are on a very slippery slope indeed. Peter Oborne wants our politics cleansed, and he is absolutely right to want that. So do most of us. The challenge for politicians is to gradually restore trust to our politics. But the challenge for journalists is to avoid writing stories which impute wrongdoing when there is absolutely no evidence. All that does is feed the present public appetite for any story which appears to suggest that all politicians are crooks.

Later in his diary column Peter has a go at Parliament for "sabotaging" what he describes as the "flawed but sadly necessary" Parliamentary Standards Bill. The PSB was a hastily drafted Bill with more holes in it than Rab C Nesbitt's underpants. Far from sabotaging it, MPs removed one of the dafter parts of it and sought to amend others. It's called parliamentary scrutiny. Sadly some of the other dafter elements of it remained intact because the government used its majority to force it through. When you make law in haste, you may be sure that you will be able to repent at leisure. Let's hope the House of Lords amends it in a positive way so the Bill can achieve what it means to - a cleaner, more transparent system, under which MPs can perform their parliamentary duties in a way we can all approve of.

Please don't interpret this as me having a go at Peter Oborne. As I say, he is man and a journalist I have the utmost respect for. I just think in this column, he is wrong. But that doesn't stop me recommending his Dispatches documentary tomorrow night on Channel 4 at 8pm, called THE CHILDREN BRITAIN BETRAYED. It's a film abour child homicide. Did you know that one child a week in Britain is killed by one of its parents? No, me neither.


Anonymous said...

Blimey. Dale in 'Nothing to see here, move on' shocker. You could knock me down with a feather.

Dick the Prick said...

The availability of decent Yorkshire Worsteds these days is pathetic. Rawnsley's getting loads of abuse today - to be fair, it's nearly holiday time. I tried to do a media round-up on Friday and I had real difficulty - err... bugger all's going on except we're even more skint!

BBC have ran a none story for the last 5 days and they get more than Peaches by loooooooaads. Tmrw's prog could be interesting but sounds like a few stiff G&T's may be needed.

Hamish said...

'Stories likes this illustrate something which, if we are not careful, is going to lead to few people ever wanting to go into politics.'

'we are on a very slippery slope indeed.'

'The challenge for politicians is to gradually restore trust to our politics.'
NO. The challenge is to abolish Parliamentary democracy in favour of true democracy.
In an informed society, we don't need others to represent us.
Politicians, like clerks and compositors before them, are fighting a rear-guard action against being made redundant.

Laban said...

"Did you know that one child a week in Britain is killed by one of its parents?"

No, I think you'll find the correct figure is about 4,000. That's England and Wales only.

Thatsnews said...

Oborne is not as smart so he likes to think.

Also, has The Guardian been caught by a Ten Downing Street Black ops ploy?
Mirror attacks, Brown, Guardian's phone tap story was it made up?

Plenty said...

Well said Iain. Mainstream journos often have a go at bloggers for making up stuff. The ball is also on the other foot. Also would like to ask what's Hamish's alternative to parliamentary democracy?

Stevo Bevo said...

Well said, Iain. I couldn't believe in that article that Oborne was touting the ending of parliamentary immunity for words spoken by MPs as a badly needed reform.

Stevo Bevo said...

***"Did you know that one child a week in Britain is killed by one of its parents?"***

Well, that puts Torchwood into perspective.

Stevo Bevo said...

***"Did you know that one child a week in Britain is killed by one of its parents?"***

Well, that puts Torchwood into perspective.

killaunty said...

July 12, 2009 4:44 PM

nice one laban. :)

Bird said...

I wouldn't go so far as to accuse Oborne of being a piss-artist, but he swings rather wildly from Brown to Cameron worship.
I suppose it's difficult to come up with fresh and controversial copy every week.

johnny funnie-munnie said...

Perhaps Caring is a principled supporter of whichever party is in power.

Given Caring's history, including the uncertain provenance of his fortune, and given Gideon's track record with dodgy geezers, Oborne has reason to wonder what on earth the shadow chancellor thinks he is doing.

Lemsip iPod said...

Peter O'borne is a pseudo-conservative ninny (hmm, who does that remind u of?):

"Yes, history will likely judge him [Brown!!!]a failure - but at least he's an honest one" - 20th June 2008

"But he is not nearly as bad a prime minister as people say."
"You have to look deep to discover the virtues of Gordon Brown, but they are at least genuine."
"The stench of sleaze which never left Downing Street throughout the Blair years has gone."


Anonymous said...

Rather than Peter Oborne, I am far more interested in a response to your mate, Simon Heffer's, article here;

Because I think that Dave, 'the heir to Blair's response to the Andy Coulson scandal, is that he is demonstrating that he must never be PM.

We have had it right up to here with spivs.

Never again in any colour!


Anonymous said...

"Did Peter Oborne consider that George Osborne might possibly be meeting Mr Caring to learn about textiles and the sector's contribution to the British economy?"

Are you having a giraffe?

Anonymous said...

Great well written piece Iain.

Also loving the discussion on 'an orgasm a day keeps the doctor away' on TrueBlueBlood.

iain whats your view on the new NHS leaflet? promoting sex or taking sex education in the right direction?

Chris Paul said...

Mmmm. The Tory narrative used to be that rather than being a Labour supporter Mr Caring was a man who simply wanted a K or a P for cash, and make it snappy. Was that wrong then Iain? And is it wrong now?

Whatever the answer to that Osborne is a prat and a liability for the Tories. Good! His house buying and funding and allowance claiming is all over the place. He blames/credits his wife. His "office of GOO" funding was kept off his register of interests with a hooky exchange of emails supposedly getting him off the hook. And of course there's the Deripaska/Rothschild yaching floating in the marina of public opinion.

Oborne is someone who shoots his mouth off quite a lot. Not sure if he's not out of control at times. But Oborne on Osborne may be spot on in this case.

What is he up to?

And back to Oborne ... his last outing on TV was pants. Again, out of control. Let's hope this one is at least several notches better than that rubbish.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps Oborne read this:

"One of Labour's biggest financial donors, rag trade tycoon turned restaurateur Richard Caring, has switched allegiance. Earlier this week the millionaire donated £70,000 to the Conservative party in the form of an auction gift.

One of Britian's richest men, Richard Caring is worth an estimated £450m. He made his fortune supplying clothes to high street shops, and now his portfolio includes well-known London haunts such as The Ivy, Le Caprice, Soho House and Annabel's. During the 2005 general election he lent Labour £2m to help pay for their campaign, a loan which is still outstanding.

However, he is understood to have had a series of private meetings with David Cameron, and to be poised to back the Tories for the next general election - a public, as well as a financially punitive snub for Gordon Brown's government.

This week he donated a gift of an exclusive evening out at one of his venues as a prize to be auctioned at the Conservative's Black and White Ball. It sold for £70,000 which will be declared as a donation when the register of political party gifts is published in the spring."

Cicero said...

Iain- this is not "a politician" this is George Osbourne. You already know why he is a liability. When the ticking bomb inevitably goes off, you, naturally, will be "shocked" and "disbeleiving", but come on- a classic example of astonishingly bad judgement of DC- and although it will be da*ned hard to prove, you also know what Coulson must have done- and why keeping him on just marks the Tories as Mandy mark II.

Newmania said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Newmania said...

...Thank you for your speech from moral high ground Cicero a high ground afloat on a sea of money that was actually stolen . Ooops .

For a Party of government (not the Liberal Party ) the business of being connected with interests, and yet not beholden to them is a difficult loan , (I mean line) , which New Labour crossed in spectacular fashion . Gordon Brown was running New Labour election campaign at the time and we are asked to believe he knew nothing of the multiple criminality ( cash for peerages ) which financed his activities . Similarly he was too naïve to know what Mc Bride would get up to have I never run a scurrilous negative briefing campaign in his saintly life . Perish the thought

Coulson worked for a Company whose practices were questionable both before and after his tenure . Should that means he is forever barred from working ? I think that’s going to far but whatever your conclusion the Conservatuve Party have done nothing wrong and neither has Couson in their employ .

What Peter Oborne is up to hatching plots from celebrity sightings worthy of Heat magazine I cannot imagine .His “ Rise of Poltical Lying “, however , has never been a more necessary read for anyone wishing to decode Brown’s lies on the fiscal catastrophe he has unleashed on this ,as yet anaesthetised, country.

Very fair post Iain .

chris said...

If you want to learn something about the British textile industry then Richard Caring is not your man. All his goods are imported from the Far East where the workers are paid peanuts whilst he scoops the pot. At the same time tens of thousands of British textile workers have lost their jobs.

If Osbourne wants to hob knob with the likes of Caring he is a bigger berk than I thought he was.

Kevin Davis said...

Could it have anything to do with the fact that Peter Osborne (George's Father) is the millionaire owner of a textile company called Osborne and Little? He might just be a family/business friend? I gather GO had dinner with Madam Huffington - does it mean anything?

Journo's have a wonderful knack of making lots out of nothing when they have got nothing positive to write about!