Saturday, July 28, 2007


The wrong place at the wrong time was the charitable verdict on Conservative Leader David Cameron’s visit to Rwanda as floods swamped his Oxfordshire constituency this week.
Many of his constituents felt a lot less charitable. Some said that he ignored them as he briefly got his feet wet on a stroll down a constituency street prior to his African safari and had simply exploited a photo opportunity to make him appear concerned.
Clobbered into third place in the recent by-elections in Sedgefield and Ealing Southall, his Party trailing nine points behind the Government in the latest Opinion Poll and murmuring about his leadership among his own ranks, Cameron, who likes to be called Dave, must be relieved the ten week long Parliamentary summer recess has arrived and he can head off on holiday to France with his family.
Cameron loyalists try to claim the slump in Poll ratings is simply due to a ‘Brown bounce’ in the wake of Gordon Brown becoming Prime Minister just over four weeks ago.
The truth is a lot worse for both Cameron and the Conservatives.
Elected leader 19 months ago, Cameron was at best a very inferior imitation of Tony Blair – comedians Rory Bremner and Jon Culshaw did Blair so much better.
But Blair’s days of smoke and spin, in which Cameron could just about get by, are over and gone and already seem a long time ago.
Now, as the country heads into harder times and he is up against the deeply serious politician that is Gordon Brown, Cameron not only appears a lightweight PR man but not even a very good PR man.
His Channel 5 interview on Friday, in which he talked about how he faced a crisis in his Christian when his first child was born disabled, smacked of desperation – especially coming from a man who, in defence of his privacy, has repeatedly refused to say whether or not he took drugs as a student.
And while Brown visited the flood-hit zone in Gloucestershire and looked concerned as he asked questions and repeated his thanks to the emergency workers who had saved the Walham power station from breakdown, the best Cameron could manage was a conference link with the affected areas.
Since becoming leader he has not only disowned and alienated the Party’s traditional supporters and shied away from many of the issues which concern them but he has failed to win over ground held by New Labour.
As the recent by-elections clearly showed, when disillusioned and fed up with New Labour, voters turn to the Liberal Democrats and not ‘David Cameron’s Conservatives’ as the Party was styled in Ealing Southall.
Perhaps the saddest thing for Cameron and the Conservatives is that he looks and acts like a relic from the Blair era – a yesterday’s man who has no place or relevance today.
An air of being superior in every way to the rest of human race has surrounded the world of astronauts.
But first one drove hundreds of miles in an attempt to kidnap a love rival and now it’s emerged some astronauts have been sozzled as they soared into space.
Perhaps the pressure under which they work makes them even more fragile and prone to hit the bottle and have emotional problems than the rest of us.
Copyright © Rebecca Hamilton 2007. All Rights Reserved

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Saturday, July 14, 2007


If there was any doubt the BBC has been in danger of becoming the State broadcaster since the Hutton Inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the death of government scientist Dr David Kelly, their promotion of Alistair Campbell’s Diaries wiped it right out this week.
Prostrating itself to plug the book, the Corporation not only devoted three prime time hours to it between Wednesday and Friday on BBC2 but there were further hours of interviews and discussion of it on Sunday AM with Andrew Marr, Newsnight, Newsnight Review, Today on Radio 4 and BBC 24’s Hardtalk.
The admirable John Humphrys apart, the sycophantic interviewers treated Campbell’s Hello style gossipy memoirs as if he had been a leading Cabinet Minister – not an ex hack who was and still is a lot smarter than any of them.
Perhaps the most telling moment in the coverage was when, in answer to an inane question from Hardtalk’s pious seeker after the truth, Stephen Sakur, Campbell replied: ‘I’m here to promote a book.’
What Campbell, a former journalist, understood better than anyone in a notoriously rough trade or the PR business was the envy, paranoia and insecurity which haunts so many journalists and how easy it is to buy, flatter and manipulate a journalist into writing what you want.
Though he got the reputation of being a ‘spinmeister,’ Campbell also understood that ‘objective’ is something of a sham word when used by journalists to describe their work and all publications put their own spin on stories. The difference in how papers report the same story says it all.
Campbell also knew and understood how to exploit the dangerous symbiotic relationship which exists between specialist journalists and those they write about in areas like politics and that many journalists are no longer reporters whose fearless raison d’etre is to represent the public in high places and have instead become members of the Establishment who see their jobs as conduits of its messages.
Though he got the reputation of bullying and threatening journalists, it was only half the story.
Far more powerful and seductive than giving someone a bawling out was Campbell’s ability to arrange an invitation for favoured hacks to dine at Chequers – like Andrew Marr and James Naughtie, the pompous presenter of Radio 4’s Today programme who on air identified himself with the Government during the last General Election campaign.
He says he was not the author of the words of the words ‘ferral beasts’ which Tony Blair used in his parting blast at the media.
Certainly, so far as Campbell is concerned, there are no ferral beasts at the BBC – just a cosy line of pussy cats purring to please him.
Copyright © Rebecca Hamilton 2007. All Rights Reserved

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Sunday, July 08, 2007


New Prime Minister Gordon Brown, legendary writer J K Rowling, released BBC hostage Alan Johnston, racing whiz kid Lewis Hamilton and a matching grey dress and coat from M&S’s Autograph range may be straws in a wind of change.
Goodness knows Brown is no leader and a fair degree of childishness has marked his early days as PM. First there was his temper tantrum when the Metropolitan Police followed the correct drill and awoke Home Secretary Jacqui Smith at 3am with news of the attempted London bombing and let him sleep till 6am before informing him.
Brown felt he should have been told first and could become one of those bosses who feel so threatened and insecure they keep reminding staff they’re in charge.
Last week, on his debut at Prime Minister’s Questions, when he was having difficulty answering a simple question from the lightweight butterfly PR man who leads the Conservatives, David Cameron, he pleaded with the Speaker for help.
‘I’ve only been in this job five days,’ Brown whined (actually it was seven) like a child appealing to the teacher because he was being bullied by an older boy.
But, like Rowling, Johnston and Hamilton, Brown has that old-fashioned thing called substance – a solid track record of achievements before he got the top job and prime place in the spotlight.
J K Rowling spent seventeen years creating the Harry Potter novels.
Alan Johnston slogged for years diligently reporting from unenviable postings for the BBC’s World Service – he was in Kabul prior to Gaza – before his release from captivity put him in the global media spotlight.
Unlike Andy Murray, who has been hyped as God’s gift to British tennis but has yet to win a Grand Slam or major championship, Lewis Hamilton has just gone out on to the racing track and won from the start.
The publicity is following him, not announcing what it is hoped he will do one day.
And that’s the point. All four individuals have achieved professional success and their careers are the reverse of the instant fame individuals who hope fame will bring career success.
Though Hamilton takes fame easily in his stride and cheerfully does TV interviews because it goes with the territory, J K Rowling endures it and both Brown and Johnston seem uncomfortable with it – as if it’s getting in the way and diverting them from what they want to do.
Brown continues to struggle to smile and ‘lighten up’ when the TV cameras are around and even last night, back with his family in the green Argyll hills of home, Johnston still appeared slightly embarrassed that he had become the story.
The job this modest man knows and loves is to tell the story and stay in the background and, once he has recovered from his ordeal, hopes to return to doing just that - unlike the ‘dish monkey’ and ‘dish bitch’ reporters who can’t thrust their mugs often enough at the cameras, usually from hotel roofs far from the action of the stories they are supposed to be covering.
And that M&S Autograph outfit? It’s the 1950s since a dress and coat was much in fashion, the days when you had to achieve a lot before you could be famous.
Its appearance in a top popular range just might be a reflection on High Street that people are fed up with the smoke and mirrors personalities of the instant fame brigade and long to look up to individuals who have achieved something in life.
Perhaps real heroes and heroines are on their way back.
It should be no surprise to anyone that a politician, former Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy, was the first person to be caught breaking the new anti-smoking law which he supported in Parliament. Because that’s what politicians so often do – make laws for other people without feeling obliged to honour these laws themselves. The fact that smoking is not illegal in the Houses of Parliament and, despite a voluntary ban, still goes on there says it all. Copyright © Rebecca Hamilton 2007. All Rights Reserved

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