Monday, April 16, 2007

Hughes view

Bob Piper quotes a letter to The Groan from the author of the sadly-defunct Hughes Views.

The power of any government is limited by all manner of forces, such as financial markets, the press, multinationals and trade unions. Many political theoreticians, including reputable journalists, overlook these constraints and assume unrestricted powers.

To anyone who understands the complexities of real politics and the realities of freedom of speech, the answer to Polly's question "why is there no queue of angry cabinet ministers itching to get on to the Today programme to denounce press hypocrisy" is blindingly obvious."

Spot on Mr Hughes. It does leave the hanging question, though, of who should make the first move. Should the press reform itself, or should government do something difficult to change a system that rewards journalists for taking the route of least resistance?

On the one hand, we have a media that has spent most of the years in living memory acting as an agent for the most dramatic political centralisation.

On the other hand, we have a political class that has never formally acquiesced to this shift in power. Indeed, I doubt if there are many politicians who would go on the record as saying that it’s a good thing.

However, history has a way of conferring power on those who can embrace it enthusiastically without making it too obvious. Appeasement is a pre-condition.

This raises the question: Does history have hidden hands that will take this process to its logical conclusion and make all liberal democracies indistinguishable from, say, Mr Putin’s current settlement in Russia?

There is a correct answer to this question. I just don’t know what it is yet.

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