on media

It’s a Brexit bonanza for journalists

Big stories drop like clockwork every day, says Raymond Snoddy A

few certainties can be grasped amid the unprecedented levels of uncertainty – although the

definition of ‘uncertainty’ is racheted up daily.

It is highly unlikely that anyone is going to rush to appoint another journalist as Prime Minister anytime soon.

The former journalist and maybe soon to be former prime minister Boris Johnson has surely seen to that. He has already secured the title of

worst prime minister in living memory and may already be the worst in history, given his arrogance, incompetence, track record of failure and bluster. Yet it is equally clear that this is one of the best of times for journalists and journalism. Has there ever been a time – apart

from wars – when a major story has dropped like clockwork every day, from the prorogation of parliament to removal of the whip from the Tory ‘rebels’ and the resignations of Jo Johnson and Amber Rudd to the trips to the highest courts of Scotland and England where that prorogation was found to be unlawful? The reporting of the decision by the top Scottish judges that Johnson behaved illegally and misled the Queen at Balmoral was a foretaste, demonstrating the deep divisions in the press. To the Scotsman, the members of Scotland’s highest civil court were Heroes of the People, in a dig at the Daily Mail’s notorious description of English High Court judges as Enemies of the People. The Mail contented itself with a

ruthless exposure of the background of the three judges of Scotland’s highest civil court from liking the French and jazz too much to cutting the length of murderers’ life sentences. Yet there has been a change of tone, if not tune, by the Brexit- supporting press. Primal loyalties have not shifted, nor

has the analysis of the impact of No Deal on their readers improved, but much of the inflammatory language has been quietly dropped. The term Enemies of the People has gone missing and the 21 Tory rebels were not denounced as either traitors or saboteurs. Instead, they were merely pilloried

as ‘remainers’, which many of them were, as if that were abuse enough. Too little, too late, you might say but

it is at least a modest improvement in how some of the most serious issues facing the UK are now being discussed. While the verdict of the Supreme

Court was greeted with outrage by the Brexit press, the violent language of the past was not repeated. The Daily Express questioned what

was lawful about denying 17.4 million Brexit voters but inside concluded: “Shocked… but we must respect the rule of law.” The Daily Mail actually carried ‘for’

and ‘against’ opinion pieces and contented itself with quoting ‘Boris blasts’ and Reeg-Mogg talk of a ‘constitutional coup’. The Sun was reduced to reflecting the anger of its readers against what was deemed a ‘supreme folly’. Tame stuff really. Meanwhile, the press and broadcasters have been doing their job in revealing much of the mendacity

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that passes for contemporary politics. It was the Leave-supporting Sunday Times that leaked the Yellowhammer analysis with its warnings of shortages of fresh food and medicines and price increases in the ‘reasonable worst case scenario’. It was the pro Brexit Daily Telegraph

that exposed the fact that Number 10 adviser Dominic Cummings had called the supposed negotiations with Brussels ‘a sham’. Matt Frei, Channel 4’s European

editor, went one step further by revealing that no proposals of any kind had been received in Europe from the Johnson government. And the BBC’s Andrew Marr revealed Michael Gove’s equivocation on whether the legislation to block a no deal Brexit would be obeyed. Brexit is the story that just gives and

gives and will continue to do so for many months to come. Will there be an early general

election or a second referendum and, if so, what order will they come in? What is also clear is that politicians

Politicians who mislead the public will not be forgiven. Nor will journalists who write black is white as we enter a period of reality

who continue to mislead the public will not easily be forgiven. Nor will journalists who happily

write that black is white when we are about to enter a period of reality when all will be able to observe from personal experience what was scare-mongering and what was not.

No one can predict at the moment

whether the crucial historic date for leaving the European Union will be October 31 – unlikely – or January 31 or sometime never. But you can be absolutely sure that there will be endless unprecedented stories to come.

theJournalist | 19

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