Sunday, November 19, 2017

Philip Hammond's "gaffe" this morning shows what is wrong with political reporting

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What do we want our politicians to be like?

I would rather like it if they were prepared occasionally to raise their eyes from day-to-day politics and talk about the deeper and longer-term questions we face.

That is just what Philip Hammond did this morning:
Mr Hammond was interviewed on the Andrew Marr Show ahead of Wednesday's Budget, where among his announcements he is expected to pave the way for an expansion of driverless cars. 
Challenged on the impact of wider automation on people's jobs, he said Britain had to "embrace change", adding: "I remember 20 years ago we were worrying about what was going to happen to the million shorthand typists in Britain as the personal computer took over. 
"Well, nobody has a shorthand typist these days, but where are all these unemployed people? 
"There are no unemployed people because we have created 3.5m new jobs since 2010."
You may not agree with Hammond's conclusion - we also need to look at the quality and security of those new jobs - but this just the sort of issue we should want our politicians to be addressing,

But what is the BBC's headline on the article?
"Chancellor Philip Hammond's 'no unemployed' remark attacked"
And we are told that:
Labour and the Liberal Democrats both seized on his comment, calling him "out of touch".
Well, the Tories are out of touch and it is hard to resist any opportunity to emphasise that damaging narrative.

But the likely result of such a reaction and such reporting is that politicians go back into their shells and confine themselves to mouthing platitudes like "long-term economic plan".

Is that what we really want?

Incidentally, I find that I wrote this back in 2010:
The BBC is wedded to the idea that politics must be reported in terms of "splits" and "gaffes". It is therefore unable to cope with the sort of discussion you get under healthy cabinet government.

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