The section ominously carried no advertising, but was not headed "advertising supplement". Yet it was paid for by the government's Housing Market Renewal Partnerships - which agreed the synopsis - to boost the controversial Pathfinder housing policy. In return for a large sum of money, the agency was offered pre-sight of the copy to "correct inaccuracies". In effect, it secured sympathetic coverage. None of the writers (nor the Guardian's readers) was told of this, or that their fees were being paid, in effect, by the Blair government. Some were given to understand that they were writing for the Observer.
The supplement was laudatory of the nine Pathfinder housing clearance projects in the Midlands and north. This potential honeypot of £5bn of public money (half an Olympics) was launched in 2003 to "kick-start" the renewal of down-at-heel cities. This admirable ambition was vitiated by the method chosen, to assemble and demolish Victorian inner-city neighbourhoods for sale to private architect/developers. The option of using the money to give repair grants to residents, or confront the horror of clearing postwar housing estates, was not pursued. Developers demand cleared sites, as with the green belt. The Pathfinders' job was to find and clear them.
Friday, March 16, 2007
Column of the day: Simon Jenkins
Congratulations to Simon Jenkins for making a three-course meal of the hand that feeds him. His Guardian column this morning attacks that newspaper for a supplement it carried on Wednesday: