Looking for something else on this blog, I read a post from 2018 about political reporting. Reading it, it occurred to me that since then very little has changed in that regard, except possibly for the worse. It struck me that while fox hunting has been banned in Britain, politician hunting has not. Where once there were men in pink coats on horses, with other riders galloping behind, now we have journalists who do not have horses but who are just as forceful when it comes to hue and cry. This may explain why are leaders are less good than they might be: who would put themselves forward in order to be hunted - and, of those who did decide to, who would survive the relentless deliberate goading of journalists, designed not to illicit information but to humiliate and undermine?
This revelation came to me when I was watching some interviews conducted by AF Neil with Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt. The interviews were bruited abroad as absolutely brilliant, but to me they seemed - and they still do - to be absolutely perfect examples of why politics is broken at this time. Instead of asking questions of interest and waiting for answers as they once did, journalists now hector and bully. They lay traps for gotchas and they are ruder than anyone should be. This is considered great journalism, and in the last year there has been the added element of panic stoking, when a genuinely useful journalistic task would have been to engage in analysis of risk and the potential effects across all areas of life of various strategies to deal with it. But that might involve some serious work and complex thinking.
In those interviews in 2018 the examples that struck me as egregious were many. I picked out only two. The first was when Andrew Neil asked Johnson this:"Someone who's worked for you, who knows you well, says you're all flaws and no character. The British people will face huge and unprecedented risk with Boris Johnson as Prime Minister, won't they"
To me, that wasn't actually a question - essentially Neil was hurling an anonymous insult at his interviewee and expecting what? That Johnson would say, "You're right. I'm awful". Or could it be that he just hoped to elicit squeals of joy from admiring journalistic colleagues - "Ooo look at Andy, being butch and showing no respect, that's how we do it these days, spit on the lot of them, while never being prepared ourselves to take on these hellish jobs".
And to Hunt, Neil sneered that his business wasn't as big as those founded by people like Steve Jobs - because, once again, why should you show any respect for anyone who wants to be a member of parliament, even if you, the interviewer, have never set up a company or created new jobs for anyone, or indeed ever tried to do anything constructive, preferring to go into what is no longer a studio but an arena and attempt to tear and rip away any tattered vestiges of respect the public might hope to retain toward their elected representatives.