Not Mid Morning Matters

JD in the Morning, off air…

Tag: ed miliband

If in doubt make it up, just like the papers and bloggers

In the last few days I have had a taste, an amuse bouche as to what it’s like to be the subject of a press story rather than being a commentator on them.

The news of my engagement to Charlotte Leslie ‘broke’ late Wednesday night on-line. First it was on the Bristol Post site followed by The Times 2 article. This second article was the one we did together, where they asked us questions to do the story. No other paper asked us anything.

Why did we do it? The BBC asked me to be overtly open about my relationship with Charlotte, me having told them in early October that it was serious. I had certainly not hidden it. I had been see out many times with Charlotte and told anyone who would listen we were together but the BBC wanted me to let the listeners know, to do a press article and to be open to everyone. Why? Impartiality. To protect the BBC’s impartiality, to protect me from accusations of partiality, to protect the audience and to make sure that I can’t be accused of being partial in the future. So be it and so it was done as I love my job and feared losing it.

What has been interesting in 48 hours since the original article was published is the response and the subsequent reporting in other papers and on-line. It was not what I was expecting in any way. The comments where lovely. Some were nasty but that says more about them than the story. Freedom of speech is a right we all enjoy, so long as it is based in truth. Ed Miliband and Lord Fink may have found this taking to their lawyers on Wednesday afternoon following PMQs.

I am a private person who has a personal life. I am with Charlotte because I love her but I was dreading the reaction to our going public about something very personal. The real prospect of some putting 2+2 and getting 22 was scary.

The fact is that I’m not card-carrying member of any political party, I’m not a union member nor have I ever been one of those who follow one political party or its ideals. I question those who are as I question those who follow a single faith. I have political views and I have faith but I have many questions on both. Those who claim they follow or believe without questions or doubts worry me greatly. They should worry you too. As Billy Connelly once joked ‘never trust anyone with just one book’. What will be interesting in the coming days and weeks will be those who will claim I have ever been politically partial. Find it, prove it and I will happily admit it.

My biggest concern has been the reporting of the story. The original article in The Times was fine, with a few odd points and some odd bending of the facts. The other articles and reports were frankly full of bollocks, not least of which that I am in my 50’s. I was born in 1966, I am currently 48 and will be 49 in October. That makes me in my 40’s. On the face of it a mistake? No. It was a lie to make me older, to make the age difference between me and Charlotte bigger and therefore make her look bad. Disgraceful, partial and just wrong. So much for press accuracy post Leveson.

This was the first time in my life I have been in the papers and they got it wrong, with a partial agenda. Other on-line sites also blogged and wrote some utter tosh too. The result is this. I will never trust what I read in any paper ever again and I urge you to do the same. As for blogs they are fine for thoughts and ideas. Blogs that claim facts with out source and evidence or are partial in any way Please read them with a large pinch of salt at the ready, much like the bible, The Daily Mail or any book by Jeffery Archer.

My politics are mine, my job is to question everything as is my personal persuasion. The fact is I was born on the 2nd October 1966 and I look forward to being 49 later this year, and, if I’m very lucky, married to Charlotte too.

Oh, those Russians…

Summer holidays are about the sun, the sea, getting away from it all or, in the case of Russians, getting away with it. This year I have spent two weeks with my family in the hot African sun, surrounded by Russians both big and small, but very Russian. The following became quite clear from being with them, closely watching them and talking with them.

1. They are locked into the 1980s like a Hazel Dean Greatest Hits collection. (There would be only five songs on that album and if you can name two you win a prize.)

2. They really can drink a lot.

3. They like to take pictures and pose in those pictures, a lot. The sort of poses that would grace the catalogues of the very companies that would sell you the clothes you used to buy in the 1980s.

4. They have money. A lot of money.

The Russians I shared the sun with were not oligarchs who were handed a state-run monopolies by a pissed president to do with what they willed. These are Russians who work for these oligarchs. They are middle class Russians mainly and they are happy, not just because they were on holiday.

When you probed a little deeper, they were happy because they love and are proud of their country and their leader, one V Putin.

The world, geopolitics and the media love a bogie man. Nothing sells a news bulletin or a newspaper more than a bad guy to point at and say ‘it’s his fault’, or ‘her fault’ for that matter. Think of the names that have been used for that very purpose over the last few years; Saddam Hussein, Col Gaddafi, Mohammed Morsi, Jimmy Saville, Sharon Mathews, Maxine Carr, Angela Merkel. The media love the binary world of the old Hollywood Western where the good guys wear the white hats and support their gun slinger against the black hats and their gun slinger.

Vladimir Putin has a very big black hat. He would not be out-of-place in a hollowed out volcano lair, sitting in a high back, black swivel chair. You can picture Putin stroking a white cat while surrounded by Ninjas in orange boiler suits turning nobs and flicking switches, tapping on computers and watching security screens. But it’s not as simple as this Bond image and the media in general is doing a disservice for making it so, much like the coverage of Gaza and the continuing ripples and waves of Sykes-Picot a century on from the fall of the Ottoman Empire.

Take Crimea. Putin has. Bad joke. But Crimea is more Russian that Ukrainian, indeed if you look at the history of the region Crimea is more Russian than Moscow. Is it wrong to cede to the will of the people and take control of what actually wants to be yours? Putin did not seek a war, conflicts or even a spat with the west, but it has done him no harm. Quite the contrary. Putin needs us to be his black hats and we need him and his people to be ours. Putin also needs the west to be strong too in turn make him look and be stronger and he needs the West, especially the EU to buy Russian gas, oil, coal, wheat.

History is replete with lines drawn on a map as a result of war, dividing lands and people. The effects of this from the First World War are still being felt today thanks to the afore-mentioned Sykes-Picot plan for the Middle East.

Putin is a leader, not a manager and the world needs leaders as it does have too many managers. Look at Barrack Obama. The world thought they were getting a leader but they got a manager. Margret Thatcher was a leader, John Major was a manager. Tony Blair was a leader, Gordon Brown was an unmitigated disaster. The jury is out on David Cameron but I think we all know what Ed Miliband will be, and so do his party.

So what has this all go to do with my holiday in the company of Russians? Well they are happy, they have a sense of nation and purpose and, even with their economy going into recession, they are bound together and even if they struggle they will struggle together and be stronger for it. History should teach us that a strong leader, who knows the people and their history needs watching very closely. That leader also needs our respect, our admiration and our caution.

One last thing. Can you think of any other flag of the world that could be turned into a bikini without it causing offence? Well the Union flag and the Stars and Stripes makes an excellent two piece swim wear ensemble. Maybe the flag of Saudi Arabia could be next? Maybe not.

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