I was up in Bolton for a mental health conference yesterday, then out at a dinner, and so missed all the news all day and by the time I got in, I just wanted to get to bed.
But I was aware that yesterday a very important political leader had made a very important speech on a very important issue, so I thought I’d better take a bit of time this morning to look at a paper and catch up.
I counted on the Financial Times, unusual in continuing to be a good old-fashioned newspaper which gives you the news fairly straight, and then signposts to a variety of comment pieces in different parts of the paper.
But this morning, I was disappointed. I read from cover to cover, and the major speech did not even get a mention. How could this be? We are talking about one of the most important political leaders on our landscape. Surely what he says is important? But no, not a word.
In so far as there was coverage of an important speech by an important leader on an important subject, it was all left to President Obama and Afghanistan. Important, granted.
But what about Dave and his conkers?
If the polls are correct, we are talking about our future Prime Minister here. Surely when he speaks, we should listen, and the media have a duty to report?
Is the FT saying that amid all the coverage of Afghanistan, Dubai, the looming pre-budget report and all the other national and international issues currently on the agenda, they cannot find a single pesky paragraph to tell us what Dave was saying in his hugely important ‘elf’n’safety’ speech yesterday?
I mean, this was the big one. Teachers make kids wear goggles to play conkers. Apparently. Trainee hairdressers can’t have scissors in case they cut themselves. Supposedly. Public sector workers don’t help mothers lift prams upstairs because they’re not insured. Or so it said in one of the papers Dave read in the back of his car one day … I mean, stands to reason, dunnit?
Sensible Tories are asking themselves – why, when the economy has been battered, public spending is under threat, the expenses scandal engulfed politics, ‘when ‘time for a change’ is such a potent force, when GB’s personal ratings have been low, when support for the conflict in Afghanistan appears to have fallen, and the profile of the Iraq war has risen, they are not out of sight?
The answer is that nobody really understands what direction they want to take the country in. We hear their complaints about Labour. But we have no real sense of their own vision for the future. He has been there four years but we still don’t really know. And that leaves people thinking he doesn’t really know.
So on a day when he could have contributed to the debate on Afghanistan, on the global economy, on the national economy pre-PBR, he comes out with a lot of vacuous nonsense cobbled together with a few Daily Mail cuttings, whose accuracy given the source cannot be taken for granted. A few dubious exceptions are used to illustrate what he likes to put over as a general picture. But no matter the favourable coverage he may have generated in one or two quarters, it is all adding to the sense that he has a problem with serious opinion. Yesterday he added to it.