Watching brief - Amanda Platell calls a penny a pound
Paula Radcliffe spends a pound, my personal polling experience, and why Euan Blair's girlfriend need
Jon Snow of Channel 4 News is a worthy recipient of Bafta's prestigious Richard Dimbleby Award. He is a clever, assiduous, colourful character in a world of pseudo broadcasters who are big on style but short on hard work and intellect.
Yet I utterly disagree with his comments that, in political interviews, a "lack of deference has gone too far. It is right to be rigorous, but not cynical."
In a perfect world, Jon, inhabited by honest politicians, you'd be right. In the world we occupy, however, the very concept of collective responsibility upon which our parliamentary system is based means that politicians read from a script, not from their hearts or their principles.
Under those inherent restrictions, and with the hideous level of control and spin under new Labour, the interviewer is justified in using every legitimate technique at his or her disposal to get to the truth.
Talking of plain speaking, why is it that newspapers which regularly use the word "f***", without the asterisks, or graphically describe any kind of deviant sex that footballers can dream up, come over all faint when trying
to describe a person's bodily functions?
When the runner Paula Radcliffe stopped during the London Marathon, she did not, as was widely reported, spend a penny - she spent a pound. But you'd never know it from the papers. The Sun had her running into "a wee spot of bother", the Express "a call of nature", the Independent "an unscheduled toilet stop". The Times, even in its leader, could only manage for her to "relieve herself".
The Mirror was braver, admitting that she'd "had to go to the loo", but it was still left slightly ambiguous as to whether she did, in tabloid speak, a number one or a number two. If a person is so obsessed with winning that they're prepared to defecate in the street in front of six million Brits watching at home, the papers should call it what it is.
It is not just the political parties we should judge in this election, but the polling companies. The ridiculously disparate poll findings at the end of week two of campaigning, which showed ICM calling a ten-point difference between Labour and the Tories, Populus nine points, Communicate Research six points and YouGov one point, bring the entire polling business into question, if not disrepute. Next election, the broadcasters should place a ban on giving any coverage to the pollsters that have got it so badly wrong this time. Yet it is little wonder the results are so variant. Last week, I became the first person I have ever known to be polled.
The girl on the phone sped through the questions so quickly I didn't have time to think, and she could hardly speak English - not an issue generally, but something of a handicap in this instance. She reminded me of the last time I called 118 118 and requested the number for Malaysia Airlines, only to be asked six times before I understood what the chap was saying: "And how would we be spelling Malaysia, madam?"
Each Sunday now, I watch Breakfast With Frost with a sinking heart, a bit like enduring the final weeks of a doomed relationship, knowing the time is fast approaching when he will no longer be there. Come the election, and Sir David Frost will leave our Sunday screens, although for the life of me I still can't understand why. He's no spring chicken, but he is arguably the best-connected and most highly regarded TV political interviewer in the UK. And has the BBC forgotten that we are an ageing population? We don't need young guns to make our politics interesting.
The ink was barely dry on the marriage certificate before Camilla Parker Bowles showed her true colours. At short notice, she cancelled a hospital visit to osteoporosis sufferers. As her PR people keep reminding us, it is a disease dear to her heart, because her mother suffered terribly and died of it.
Yet not dear enough, it seems, for her to honour a long-planned visit. Is it that she has suffered acute panic attacks as reported, or could it be that the family member mentioned in this column last week who described Mrs PB as "the laziest woman to have been born in England in the 20th century" was right after all?
Euan Blair's "close friend" Luciana Berger must have been taking notes from her future mother-in-law: whining on about intrusion into her private life, yet relying upon her unique relationship to No 10 to get as much publicity as she can. "I don't talk about my personal life . . . It should not be relevant," said the Prime Minister's son's guileless girlfriend.
Get real, Lucy. Despite the validity or otherwise of Ms Berger's case, there is no way this otherwise unremarkable 23-year-old's views on immigration would have appeared on the front page of the Sunday Telegraph if she hadn't been so close to a Blair.
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