Sunday, June 08, 2008

Declaring an Interest - Or Not

Jo Revill is the Observer's Whitehall Editor. But in three weeks she starts a new job, as Special Advisor to Health Secretary Alan Johnson. She's well qualified for the post as she spent several years as Health Editor for The Observer. She used to be their environment correspondent too. Indeed, she is an excellent and well respected journalist. However, today she has written three stories for The Observer which should be in the comment pages, rather than news, as they are so blatantly cheerleading for her future employers. Her front page story on Caroline Spelman starts with the lurid words...
David Cameron was fighting to save the Tories' reputation last night...the demise of Spelman would be a major blow to the party's image and its leader.

Not even her worst enemy has suggested she would have to resign. Later on page 8 she does a bit of cheerleading for 42 days concentrating on the fact that the Telegraph's ICM poll says the public support 42 days. Nothing wrong with that, but not a mention of the fact that the very same poll puts Labour on its worst ever poll rating. Strange that. It merely says Labour the trail Conservatives badly in the general popularity ratings. Wouldn't Observer readers actually like to know the figures? 42-26-21. I reckon that's newsworthy, don't you?

There then follows a two page spread headline How Sleaze Came Back to Haunt the Tories. Again, nothing wrong with that, but wouldn't you have thought there might be a mention somewhere in the piece of similar or worse allegations that have been made against politicians from other parties? Clearly not.

If I got a new job, say with the BBC, and then spent the next few weeks writing stories about how terrible ITV was, don't you think people might find that just the teensiest bit odd?

It's called 'declaring an interest'. It clearly must apply to politicians, but why do journalists think it doesn't apply to them?

UPDATE: And as if for good measure, later in the paper there's an article by....cue drum roll ... Alan Johnson!

33 comments:

auntie Flo' said...

Exactly.

Jo Revill, you are behaving as sleazily and hypocritically as the politicians you rightly criticise.

In failing to declare your interest and producing one sided reports you lose all credibility.

Anonymous said...

Iain, Having spent the past few weeks reading the EXCELLENT 'Flat Earth News' by Nick Davies, nothing, and I mean NOTHING would now surprise me about a paper I once trusted, the Observer.

Some of their behaviour under Roger Alton was absolutely shameful, and I would have hoped the new broom would sweep clean.

Trumpeter Lanfried said...

The Observer is a very silly newspaper. As the great Molesworth used to say, 'I diskard it.'

Anonymous said...

Thank goodness not many people read The Observer, and therefore miss such nonsense. Journalism such as Revill's brings the profession into disrepute - happily the public see through it, but it just reminds me how desperate the lefties are. This kind of nonsense is just as bad as a politician on the make. And as for Spelman, she's a delightful lady and very honest with it. Any journalist who has dealt with her will know that, but for The Observe, (Not Very)Independent and Mirror is a welcome opportunity to throw mud.

Brown loves a tipple said...

Let's have a look at her track record: uncritical of PFI overpayments and poor quality contracts, thinks NHS direct has been a good use of resources, and that the answer to all the NHS's problems is 'more computers'. Yes, she should fit in with New Labour's mismanagement structure very well indeed.

Anonymous said...

Very thoughtful and informative post Iain...I think some people should follow your lead.Martin.

Ockham said...

"Not even her worst enemy has suggested she would have to resign"

Like Dizzy, for exmaple?

http://dizzythinks.net/2008/06/whether-shes-guilty-doesnt-matter.html

Man in a Shed said...

What makes a journalist qualified to be a special advisor ?

marty mcfly said...

Well, this is a very legitimate post of its true Jo is going to take up a political post for the Labour Government.

I had heard differently, that she was going to become a civil servant director of communications.

I hope you have checked your facts, because if its the latter she is behaving entirely appropriately and this is a VERY VERY misleading story.

So whats the answer?

Anonymous said...

It always amuses me how sanctimonious journalists are about corruption, greed and conflicts of interest amongst politicians, when bribes etc grease so many of their own stories.

Want a good write up for your designer label - give freebies for the fashion editor and staff. I seem to recall when Dior launched a new perfume they flew (first class)fashion writers to a chateaux in France where they were wined and dined luxuriously for a weekend - and went away with thousands of pounds of designer gifts.

As a Councillor I have to declare any gift or hospitality over £25 - only once tested on this when given a hanging basket by a constituent. I rushed round to Hombase and to my relief found the baskets were being sold for £16.99! Saved a lot of paperwork.

Chris Paul said...

Really Iain. Analysis of all three stories is wrong. Check the equivalents in other organs and see if they meet your "spurious asides" test for validity. Overall the paper has covered these points. It is silly to expect every little piece of the jigsaw that is a national sunday paper to be "balanced" - as long as the whole is balanced, by its own standards and known proclivities, there can be no cause for complaint.

Chris Paul said...

PS Even Dizzy is calling for her to go. Guido obviously. She took the job with words of anti-sleaze and cannot wriggle out of this even if all things considered this is not the greatest mistake ever. But it is greater than Wendy Alexander's or Alan Johnson's or even Peter Hain's actually. None of these gained financially from their errors.

Toby said...

//Not even her worst enemy has suggested she would have to resign.//

It would seem to me that, despite her valiant attempt to limit the damage by going on the offensive, there remain two contradictory versions of events, and it depends on which is the truth as to whether she should resign. If the nanny was mainly a secretary, then fine (but stupid on Ms Spellman's part), but if the converse is true then she has to go.

You can not attempt to sell the notion that the Conservatives are going to roll back the state and then have the Conservative Chair using public money to pay for her childcare needs. You just can't.

Devil's Kitchen said...

"Not even [Spelman's] worst enemy has suggested she would have to resign."

Um...

Actually, I think that Spelman should be prosecuted for fraud and misappropriation of public funds and, when she is found guilty, then she should resign.

DK

Johnny Norfolk said...

But has she ACTUALLY worked in health. Being a commentator is not a qualification.

There are far to many people who have no real idea and she sounds like one of them.

Sally C said...

Seems you have some very silly posters on here rattling on about Caroline Spellman even though her former nanny confirms her stoty [with no decrepencies - anyone who has worked in a 'political' office doing admin does not consider themselves a political employee - they don't even have to say who they vote for let alone be a member of the party].

Very sad indeed. They think people are wondering just how much filing she did 11 years ago whist they watch the dial wizz round at the pertol station.

Have they mentioned the London auditors discovery of the waste [and possible corruption] relating to millions [possibly over a billion] under Ken?
Thought not.

As for the Observer...look at The Guardian's coverage of the Mayoral Election which prompted Mike Smithson [PB.com and a LibDem] to bemoan the content of this 'once great paper' he has purchased for years.

These two points are of course connected. Symtamatic of the desperation and hypocrisy of the left and its disconnection with reality.

Odd isn't it that without the wholehearted support of any paper or news organisation and despite the ravings of the Guardian and the BBC, the British public seem the be turning to Cameron.
So much for the power of the commentariat.

stuart said...

Iain, this is the sort of post I love from you. Knowing the 'behind the scenes' info and linking it all together.

One minor complaint, your poll numbers are wrong. The Tories and Labour are indeed on 42 and 26 respectively, but the Liberal Democrats are on 21%, not the 16% you state.

Lord James Bigglesworth said...

Why would Google run a concurrent ad - Steal Dale's Secrets? Just wondering like.

Ravo said...

With the exception of the FT, every British newspaper constantly mangles news and comment. Papers of the left and right do it ad nauseum - it's one reason why this country's MSM is often so out of touch with the real world.

Anonymous said...

Unless I misread your intent you give the wrong numbers for the poll you berate Ms Revill for ignoring. The figures should surely be 42-26-21? And as a former journalist I can see that these figures have no direct relevance to the article Jo Revill was writing, so that it is not too surprising she omitted them.

Anonymous said...

Man in a Shed said...
"What makes a journalist qualified to be a special advisor"

The same as journalist Nigel Lawson was qualified to be Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Anonymous said...

Man in a shed

What makes a journalist qualified..

What Gordon Brown wants the most is not policy advice but more PR more good stories in the paper.

That is why a journalist is qualified. Though she was doing a pretty good PR job for him where she was.

Browned Off said...

Only desperate bottom-feeders will work for Snotgobbler Brown now, he's soiled goods.

Anonymous said...

Actually, just to correct almost every fact in this post, Jo Revill is taking up a Government comms post. She will work for this government or the next. Its a non-political, civil service position.

Apparetly Iain's "behind-the-scenes" facts are wrong.

Anonymous said...

This government does not do non political comms post. They have not for a long time.Look how quickly they got rid of so many comms officers/ press officers/ spoksmen type civil servants and replaced them with political appointees.(I am still trying to work out how to log on with my name)

canvas said...

David Cameron could blow it if his party starts to remind people of the 'old days'.

DC should come down hard on MPs who misuse taxpayers money - and he should STOP preaching about 'family values' and the importance of 'marriage'. That's not the job of a politician - it's annoying and it's a distraction.

Anonymous said...

Spelman is trivial compared to this little lot.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/politics/conservative/2096020/Half-of-Conservative-Party-MEPs-ignoring-expenses-rules.html

When are we going to get Tory central and Tory blogs calling for their heads. These MEP's are wholly unfit for purpose. As a Tory voter I find such people an embarassment.

Anonymous said...

boo hoo hoo journalists are SO UNFAIR!

Give us a break.

TrevorH said...

Observer and Guardian are pathetic left wing rags - so no surprises about its infantile content. If any Guardian/Observer journalist is going into government then its got to be bad news fopr the taxpayer.

Spellman made a small mistake years ago and corrected it herself without the help of great brains like Guido, Dizzy and the towering intellect that is Chris Paul.

The Spellman story is clearly the BBC's attempt to creat linkage between the MEP scandals (which affect all parties - and no-one is really bothered about) and MPs expenses which everyone is.

Anonymous said...

TrevorH said...
"Spellman made a small mistake years ago and corrected it herself"

Correcting it fully would have involved paying back the money.

She didn't correct it; she just stopped doing it.

Anonymous said...

if they break the rules then take away the whip.

if they break the law send them to prison.

cameron knows what he has to do.

screw the politicians who screw us.

tory boys never grow up said...

In the sprit of openness perhaps Iain may wish to declare if he has any communications with CCHQ on the subject of MEPs/Spellman?

Anonymous said...

Is Jo Revill the same person who was Evening Standard Health Correspondent aboyut 10 years ago?

If so it's an interesting case of gamekeeper turned poacher as she was Public Enemy No 1 in the days of Frank Dobson and his mad Special Advisor Joe McCrea.