The Press

The rise and rise of the unattributed quote

From the Observer 28 July 2002

There are times when politics approaches blood sport. All last week, before his sudden decision to resign, poor Henry McLeish looked like a hunted fox, increasingly terrified by the baying of the media pack.

The press, of course, was perfectly within its rights to pursue the matter tenaciously. McLeish and his advisers signally failed to deal with it promptly, openly and fully. But some aspects of the media pursuit left me feeling uneasy.

By chance, the evening before the resignation, I was at Stirling University to hear Alan Rusbridger, editor of the Guardian, deliver the third Hetherington Memorial Lecture. Rusbridger’s theme was political language. He demonstrated how an open discourse between media and politicians has become virtually impossible. Indeed, the relationship has become an arid kind of game in which the politicians stonewall their inquisitors.