Tim Blair


New Criterion



Monday, February 09, 2004
IF YOU WERE A FINANCIAL JOURNALIST who failed to declare that you owned shares in a company you were writing about, you would find few to defend you.

Political commentators have no such problem. I'm not just talking about party affiliations or ideological slants, although it would be useful if journalists did declare how they voted at the last few elections.

Now that commentary has replaced reportage as the main business of journalists it is time to lift our standards of disclosure.

I'm talking about the self-interest journalists have in the spin they've already published.

Take Mr Rod Liddle, one of the Spectator's livelier writers, who doesn't give the impression he's about to call Jeeves for his brandy.

As some kind of Tory, Liddle has the obvious partisan bias. The Spectator generally is so desperate for an occasion to put the boot into Prime Minister Blair, perhaps because its own Parliamentary attack dogs are toothless, that on Iraq it has often sounded more like our Labor left or the current Democrat Presidential hopefuls.

On top of that he has commentator's self-interest.

In August last year Liddle thought the Gilligan-BBC story grounds for Blair's resignation. So how do you think he was going to react to the Hutton findings? Support the umpire, like a good Tory?

Rod Liddle says that Lord Hutton gave the government the benefit of the doubt, sometimes to the point of appearing either hopelessly naive or a visitor from a kinder, gentler planet.

He's entitled to his point of view, but he should have told his readers that last August he was a hoplessly partisan optimist from planet Tory, and jumped so far to his conclusion he's now suspended like Wile E Coyote over the abyss of his own error?

Those who make the news, politicians and journalist-commentators, should be accountable.