Life to 21st November 2020
Comedic timing, dyed hair, press freedom and Prime Minister's finally exonerates the Home Secretary
In comedy timing is everything. Get it right and the audience will be rolling in the aisles. Get it wrong and that could spell the end of a career.
The American Presidential election is still managing to emit rumblings and gaseous excretions as the political and constitutional system goes through its own form of chronic IBS. Sadly, there is no political or constitutional equivalent of an anti-spasmodic medicine, preferably ethical, that can be administered.
All we can do is bear witness to the agonies unfolding before us.
A distracting relief from these convulsions appeared on our screens on Thursday evening. Rudy Giuliani was giving a press conference about the legal actions being taken out in the name of the President to try and flip results through claims of rigging and fraud. The entire impact of what he was saying was reduced to the level of a, I was going to say “comedy of errors” but that would do a disservice to Shakespeare, farcical tragedy when what appeared to be black hair dye leached past his ears and down his cheeks.
A Grecian tragedy?
What I found disconcerting was how questions from the assembled press corps to provide evidence to back up their claims of fraud and rigging were dismissed by a spokesperson on the podium with:
“Your question is fundamentally flawed when you’re asking where’s the evidence.”
That is what journalists are meant to do; ask questions.
Regardless of which side of the Presidential Election argument any of us sit on that answer is frightening. The reason for finding that comment so is that currently America languishes in 45th place in the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) league of national press freedoms. Ironically or coincidentally the present POTUS is the 45th to hold that office. If that statement or comment were to become policy then all of us are in a very bad place. 45th could become 46th, 47th and on so a downward trajectory could begin.
The media is not perfect but that does not mean that it should be prevented from asking questions of those in power to hold them to account. 45th is not a good place to be for a country that is supposed to be one of the cradles of western democracy. The RSF comment is “…the United States is no longer a champion of press freedom at home or abroad”.
Britain, the home of the Magna Carta, is not much better in 35th place and the strap line accompanying its analysis states “As the UK champions global media freedom, domestic trends remain cause for concern.”
After the recount of votes in the state of Georgia I wonder if POTUS still has “Georgia on his mind”?
The British Prime Minister has been sitting on a report from an enquiry undertaken to investigate alleged bullying by the current Home Secretary (Priti Patel) perpetrated on her departmental civil servants at the Home Office. The provisional report from this enquiry was completed in the summer of 2020 and has been in the PM’s “to do” file since. Its conclusions were that the Home Secretary had broken the ministerial code which states “harassing, bullying or other inappropriate or discriminating behaviour’ will not be tolerated”.
Against the tide of expectation that the Home Secretary would lose her job or be given a public reprimand, the Prime Minister exonerated her. He stated he “does not believe Priti Patel is a bully”. He obviously hoped that that would be the end of the story and we can all "move on".
“Move on” worries me when it is said by politicians. It is signalling “that was a bit of a foul up which is causing lots of embarrassment so can we bury it as soon as possible”.
Within 24 hours of the PM’s exoneration a leak appeared in the media that the PM had, while considering the report, asked the civil servant who wrote it to “water it down”.
Leaks from high office have three root causes. First, is to deliberately leak something to appears in the media and conditions the public so that when the subject becomes law or policy it does not arrive in the headlines as a big shock. Second reason for leaks is to use it as a way of sounding out public opinion on something. And finally the third reason is an expression of disloyalty or disagreement with whatever is being leaked from within the echelons of high office. That, the third reason, is why I believe this particular leak started to permeate the media.
Somehow, I don’t think we will obsequiously “move on” as both the PM, Home Secretary and other Cabinet members forming a defensive wall around her would like us to. The PM, Home Secretary and accusations of bullying going to be the story over this rather than macro-economics, BREXIT and COVID. That is until the shadows surrounding this episode are overcome by the light of honesty and transparency; I forlornly hope.
The PM could not have chosen a better day to pronounce his judgement on this issue as Friday 20th November 2020. It was the last day of “Anti Bullying Week”.
Perfect timing PM. You should have been on the stage.