Saturday, August 27, 2011


Is ian Hislop to Blame for Cynicism Towards Politicians?

Martin Kettle in today's paper, suggests cheeky chappie Ian Hislop is themost influential journalist in the country. He asks what:

is Hislop's principal message? Week in and week out, it is that most pretty much all politicians are corrupt, deluded, incompetent, second-rate and hypocritical. Hislop's message is delivered with enviable deftness and wit, and very often it is irresistible. But it is also good-naturedly merciless. And extremely repetitive. There is never any sign that Hislop allows of exceptions; or that he has a political hero; or even, with the occasional honourable mention for Vince Cable, that there are politicians whom he respects. The impression he always gives is that today's politicians are uniformly unworthy of their inheritance, not to be compared with some previous golden age of statesmanlike effectivenes.

I tend to agree with this though reject the suggestion Hislop is most to blame for this widespread attitude. Cynicism towards politicians is healthy up to a point as the alternative, naivety, can be fatal. Democracy is an imperfect system but it is a prize worth rubies compared with someof the alternatives. British politicians have shown themselves to be venal, selfish and dissembling onmany occasions but we have also produced scrupulously honest MPs and ministers who have done their best for their country.

It's all a little reminiscent of the debate provoked by John Lloyd's book, Whatthe Media are Doing to our Politics (2004) which discussed the tendency of the media as a whole, not just Ian Hislop, to demonise politicians ands propogate the idea that ll politicians are lying cheating bastards. My own experience is that most politicians enter politics with a genuine desire to make a difference and most of them maintain that desire for most of their careers. I'm thinking people like Tony Wright and Chris Mullin, (whose wonderful third volume of diariesis just out). It's the awful legacy of th likes of David Chaytor and Elliot Morley that has done so much recent damage.

The fact is politicians are not so very different from any of us-trying to do their best but vulnerable to mistakes and occasionally, to temptation too. And if wwe have no faith in them, we are voting no confidence in our society as a whole and discouraging future generations from shouldering the crucial burden of making our democracy work.

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