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  • Lawrence Bailey

Rejecting the scoundrel's last refuge

I'm just back from a short break abroad and so only have a sketchy picture of what’s been going on here.

Even so, I did manage to see some headline news that Brexit talks were well underway and that the UK had already seen it’s initial overtures leaving EU officials unimpressed.

Perhaps I’m missing something but I don’t get how you can actually negotiate a deal anyway when the country, it’s politicians and the business sector all remain at odds over what resembles a good one.

Clearly however you’re not supposed to question the validity of this process. Indeed, government minister Andrea Leadsom urged the BBC to provide more ‘patriotic’ accounts of events in Brussels.

I don't want to overreact to what was a cringingly poor stab at leaning on public broadcasters - but I am bothered that this level of ineptitude came from someone who was briefly considered a serious Downing Street contender.

The 18th century diarist Samuel Johnson reckoned patriotism to be “the last refuge of the scoundrel”. On that occasion Johnson, an arch tory, was aiming his bile at William Pitt, who led the Whigs and the government.

History depicts Pitt as a war-mongering imperialist who took the nation into global scuffles that confounded the French but also doubled the national debt, which in turn led to the loss of the American colonies.

I suppose there are a few tempting modern-day comparisons of foreign misadventure to be made here but I really can’t be bothered.

As for Ms Leadsom, she clearly fails to grasp that very few of us punters appreciate being told that we’re all in this together by someone who’s notion of patriotism, according to an article published in the Guardian, has been to make a packet in the city through lucrative offshore connections.

Maybe she can explain to workers instead how the principle of 'taking back control' fits in with corporate beasts like Tesco giving ministers 45 minutes notice before announcing 1100 job-loses from a Cardiff call centre.

I much prefer the view of American author and environmentalist Edward Abbey who wrote: “A patriot must always be ready to defend his country against his government”.

Amen to that.


Tablets versus tabloids

Like I said, I missed the Queen’s Speech yet from what I gather the only ‘big’ story was that Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn didn’t genuflect or something when Her Majesty made an appearance.

As much as Corbyn has made the unexpected transition from electoral liability to undoubted asset, it’s clear that newspaper proprietors remain as unwilling to acknowledge this phenomena as the pollsters who insist their figures were right and that it was voters who failed to fall into line.

As a former local editor observed sagely a while back, newspapers tend to reflect the prejudices already held by those who buy them. The same goes for social media where the default approach is to reinforce opinion rather than form it.

So, are the press finished as influential big guns? Horizons have extended beyond the Clapham omnibus but it's the medium rather than the message that is undoubtedly changing – and therefore the readership. Discuss.

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