And in other news this week…
Politicians on both sides of the British referendum debate have been shooting themselves in the foot with gusto.
At the start of the week we had the latest ‘toe-shoot’ from Boris Johnson. Fresh from the diplomatic triumph of suggesting that President Obama’s Kenyan heritage explained his criticisms of the ‘Leave’ campaign, Boris did his very own rendition of John Cleese’s ‘Don’t mention the war’ sketch when he likened the federalist aims of many in Brussels to the Nazi’s desire to rule the world. Alas the Boris version lacked Cleese’s comic timing. He also forgot to poke fun at himself in the process. But never let it be said that Boris is anything less than prolific – he has managed to insult three continents and the commonwealth in the space of two weeks.
Not to be outdone on the wartime analogies, Jean-Claude Juncker yesterday characterised the ‘Leave’ campaign as ‘deserters’. From Duncan Robinson’s piece in Friday’s FT:
“The president of the European Commission has warned British voters ahead of next month’s referendum on EU membership that “deserters will not be welcomed back with open arms”…
…“This is not a threat, but our relationship will no longer be as it is today,” said Mr. Juncker. “The UK will have to get used to being regarded as a third-party state.”
In order to remind everyone just how much the European Commission has bent over backwards to accommodate the UK, the article went on to explain:
“Brussels has shelved potentially controversial proposals — even delaying the introduction of new environmental standards on kettles and toasters — in order not to upset British voters”
Personally I find this legislative sacrifice deeply moving, and must reply in verse:
There was an old pol called Juncker
Who couldn’t help dropping a clunker
He said, “This isn’t a threat
But I’ll wager a bet
You’ll be shot if you dare leave the bunker”
For Jean-Claude is a man of high mettle
Who’ll not rest ‘til the matter is settled
'Cos he loves us the most
He cried: “Hold back on the toast…
And for God's sake go slow on the kettle”
Finally, in a piece late Friday night entitled ‘Life imitates satire in latest Brexit sparring’, Chris Giles pointed out the following:
“Staring out of the current cover of Private Eye, David Cameron suggests that a British exit from the EU might cause another world war. The response from George Osborne is: “Or even worse, house prices might fall!”
In an extraordinary case of life imitating satire, the chancellor has now warned that house prices “will be hit by at least 10 per cent in the profound economic shock” of a British exit”
He goes on to debunk the 'crookery' in Mr. Osborne’s claims. This is a refreshing piece, because in it, Mr Giles goes against the FT’s official grain by criticising his own ‘side’ – I.E. he is behaving like a real journalist. I wrote the following in response:
Sadly, there is nothing unusual about a politician spinning information, exaggerating consequences or just plain lying through his or her teeth. Even more sadly, in my view, neither is there anything unusual about the media doing the same thing in support of their causes and cronies.
What is increasingly unusual is for a mainstream journalist to call them on it, when doing so goes against the position of the paper on a particular issue. You did that after a series of 'war on cash' articles, which the FT is clearly in favour of, when you took on the tosh being peddled by Andy Haldane...and you are doing it again now. Albeit it is slightly different in this case because you have personally argued for a 'remain' vote - that in itself makes it more impressive and more useful...because importantly...the principle of going against the grain in order to 'call out the crap' is the same.
The range and severity of global issues we face is not going to be dialled down anytime soon, and in my view there has been far too much 'party line' reporting over issues such as Russia, Ukraine, Syria, the migrant crisis, the referendum, central bank monetary policy, and the rise of populist politicians around the world. Blind defence of the status quo, or indeed of any position, is not going to help.
So thank you Mr. Giles, and well done for being a ‘real journalist’ rather than a mouthpiece for politicians and compliant editorial policy. I hope you rub off on your colleagues; some of who seem to have lost the journalistic plot recently, if indeed they ever had it.
And that was the other news…Saturday 21st May 2016...a good weekend to all…MarkGB