13 June 2007

Political Reporting c. 17th Century–2007

Political Reporting, that hard-won freedom of the Fourth Estate to expose the lying, warmongering, scandalous, corrupt bastards who lord it over us analyse and comment on parliamentary machinations has today died of its wounds after being savaged in a speech by Tony Blair.

The birth of political reporting is a matter of some dispute between biographers. Some suggest it was born just after the Battle of Hastings, though this claim has not been taken seriously, largely because the alleged political report - the Bayeux Tapestry - only ever had one copy published and that copy was far too big to be carried on the paperboy’s bicycle(1) or to fit through readers' letterboxes(2).

Such matters, along with similar reasons for disputing the claims of Babylonian carvings, Ancient Egyptian obelisks and even Roman wax tablets as evidencing the birth of political reporting, led most experts to conclude that it was the 17th century that saw the birth of Political Reporting as pamphlets and news periodicals began to print balanced and incisive coverage of such stories as the Gunpowder Plot, which generated a plethora of fascinating headlines including “Fawkes offed!” (Ye Sunne), “For Fawkes' Sake!” (Ye Mirrore) and “House Prices Rise Again” (Ye Daily Expresse)

It was not many decades before such pamphlets had grown into regular newspapers. By 1788 The Times was founded, enabling its readers - mere months later - to bemoan the terrible decline in its standards and hark back to how the paper used to be.

It was with the rapid extension of political suffrage during the Victorian era, however, that political reporting reached its height. The public clamoured for more and more news of the day’s events in Westminster and abroad and new and exciting newspapers such as The Daily Telegraph and Eth Monchaster Grauniad sprang up quicker than a five-year-old ascending the interior of a chimney.

This golden age could not last for ever. The inter-war years saw the first signs of a decline in the health of Political Reporting as newspapers began to abandon straight reporting in favour of influencing political events. Leading the charge was The Daily Mail, which first sought to bring down the country's first Labour government in 1924 by the publication of the Zinoviev letter, then sought to bring down democracy itself by supporting Oswald Mosley, Mussolini and Hitler - leading the Government to threaten it with closure ... and insist that the paper's owner Lord Rothermere drop the word “Nazi” from the Mail's “Ideal Nazi Home Exhibition”.

The trend was to worsen down the years. When Australian newspaper tycoon Rupert Murdoch took over The Sun in 1969, Political Reporting took a turn for the worse as politicians began to court the Australian editor in his top secret headquarters deep beneath Earls Court, where he was often to be found, surrounded by a bevy of topless beauties, sitting in a swivel chair, stroking his wombat. The influence of Mr Murdoch's Sun soon became legendary – and with headlines like “Freddie Starr Ate My Hamster” cost Freddie Starr the 1979 general election.

Meanwhile Political Reporting had turned to the television as millions of viewers tuned in to see if Reginald Bosanquet could get through the news without falling off his chair and, later, received a much-needed fillip when young upstart Jeremy Paxman regularly upset politicians by outrageously insisting that they answer the question he’d asked them.

Despite this brief televisual flowering, by the 21st century Political Reporting had reached its nadir. TV newsreaders could only deliver the news whilst walking and talking (a practice which had failed disastrously when attempted with Reginald Bosanquet), the BBC had abandoned the practice of delivering the news whilst wearing dinner jackets in favour of John Humphrys cruising the streets of Westminster in the radio car wearing a hoodie and packing an Uzi and the newspapers themselves refused to report anything at all unless it featured a member of the Royal Family, a pop star, a footballer or an orange-skinned and bawling ex-inhabitant of the Big Brother house. Matters had reached such a parlous state that some people even began to rely upon the internet and political bloggers for accurate and incisive commentary on the political events of the day, leading many to conclude that President George Bush was in fact a chimpanzee, the Labour Party had sold England to a cabal of 12 foot high ant-men who secretly ruled the European Union and that the leading question of the day was Britney Spears's lack of sufficient funds to pay for any underwear.

Thus it was that when, in one of his final speeches as prime minister, Tony Blair raised his voice to drown out the cries of “pot, kettle” and "motes and beams" and accuse the media of hunting like a "feral beast tearing people and reputations to bits", Political Reporting was mortally wounded. Unrelenting, the Prime Minister continued his vicious attack, insisting that his government the deteriorating coverage of political reporting had "sapped the country's confidence and self-belief; it undermines its assessment of itself, its institutions and above all else it reduces our capacity to take the right decisions in the right spirit for our future." Only having delivered himself of this verdict did Mr Blair end his assault, leaving the assembled throng to stare briefly at the corpse before rushing out to stand aimlessly on Westminster Green waiting to deliver a live piece for the 24 hour news.

Political Reporting will be buried at St Alastair Campbell's Church of the Twisted Perception, Westminster. The service will be conducted by the Reverend Reginald Bosanquet who will - it is hoped - not mistake the font for a urinal this time.

(1) which also presented another difficulty in that it had not yet been invented.
(2) which had also irritatingly failed to be invented yet.


Ruthie said...

Brilliant! I love it!

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Congratulations on your Blogpower Award, Dodo! Keep making us laugh, please!