The Rambles of Neil Monnery

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The Telegraph shoot themselves (and subsequently all of us) in the foot over their Stings.

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The exciting revelations in both The Telegraph and subsequently via Robert Peston of BBC News fame have shuddered me to my core. I cannot believe that MPs have opinions and whats more – members of the coalition might not agree with everything that the coalition is doing. I mean seriously. Whodda thunk it?

In all seriousness the most newsworthy aspect of this whole sting wasn’t what anyone said but what The Telegraph did – or to be more accurate – didn’t do. They published what they said was the full transcript of the conversation between Vince Cable and two undercover reporters posing as constituents. Within hours it came to light that they had in fact published part of it and left out what was the most interesting and newsworthy part.

Vince Cable’s opinion of Rupert Murdoch and his media empire having too much influence are inline with what The Telegraph think and this story was meant to portray him in a bad light. Therefore they didn’t run with it. They wanted an anti-Murdoch guy in charge and whilst they wanted to damage his name – they also wanted him to still preside over the Sky/BSkyB deal as having Cable make the judgment gave them a better chance of getting the outcome that they wanted. This showed outrageous bias and poor judgment by the Editors of the newspaper.

They quite clearly and purposely lied to their readers by claiming to publish the full transcript when they did not. I’m surprised they haven’t gotten more stick from the blogosphere for this.

As for what Vince said and what other MPs have said in other powerful stings – well it is really either newsworthy or in the Public Interest? As most will know I am a Journalist by trade so I can see it from both sides. The only thing remotely newsworthy was the Murdoch information – and that is only newsworthy or in the Public Interest if you believe that Vince Cable would make a judgment not based on facts but based on his own bias. That is not something I can answer for everyone but I’d like to think he could have an opinion but reach a decision based on facts.

For example I have sat on two jury’s and on the second jury everyone around the table thought the defendant was guilty. Every single one of us. However the evidence wasn’t there and the prosecution put together a case riddled with holes and therefore relatively quickly we were able to acquit. It was the right decision based on the facts we were presented with but reading between the lines – and then when the judge told us of his prior record we all looked at each other and just knew but we had made the right decision.

So if people on a jury can put away their gut feeling and look at the case – 12 good men and women (although one girl was sitting in the jury room reading a magazine whilst we were discussing a serious sexual assault case against a minor – yeah – a great example of being a citizen there) if we can make a judgment based on facts then surely so can Vince Cable. I do not believe his bias would overrule the facts. Others may (and without a doubt will) disagree.

So is the fact that Vince Cable has an opinion on something newsworthy or in the Public Interest?

Some people I’ve read today think that as they are elected by us they should all be completely honest and say everything they think in public. The only way you could ever do that is by having all MPs mic’ed up at all times allowing them to have zero privacy. I think I’ll pass on that one. Just a small infraction of an MPs Civil Liberties & Human Rights there.

The upshot of this story is MPs will be less open and forthright with their constituents in case they are being recorded. They’ll raise their walls and be more guarded. If you can’t be open and honest with people who have elected you then there is a problem – but it is a problem The Telegraph has helped create. There isn’t a way round it either. MPs now know that anything off the public record might in fact be on the public record and will act accordingly and I think this is a sad state of affairs.

Had they recorded an MP saying that they were using their position of power to break laws then it is newsworthy. A bit like the wikileaks stuff – the leaks that say the USA don’t like another country – who cares. The leaks that say people in Kashmir are being tortured and having their Human Rights abused – now that is newsworthy.

The question to The Telegraph is clearly ‘Was it all worth it?’ and in my opinion the answer is a resounding ‘No’. They have instead of exposing an MP as having opinions put out a stark warning to all MPs to be more private and secretive and that is not good for our society.

Thanks a bunch.

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Written by neilmonnery

December 23rd, 2010 at 6:33 pm

Posted in Politics

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