Monday, 14 May 2012

Boris - he only needs one name...

It is often said that the height of fame is when you’re known by just one name. You can say the name and immediately everybody will know who you’re referring to, even if it’s not actually unique to that person.

Think Rhianna. Think Beyonce. Think Adele. Or think of Pele (and think what would have happened if he didn’t use that name as his real name is actually Edson Arantes do Nascimento – and imagine that written on the back of his shirt.

The Material Girl - she only needs one name  
Of course you may argue that it’s easy to adopt such a monicker if you’re in sport or entertainment but surely nobody in public or civic life would be so well known that just one name (particularly if it’s a Christian name) is enough to identify them.

But you’d be wrong. For last week while most of the country went to the polls to vote for relatively anonymous figures Londoners were able to choose their favourite from the exciting ‘Boris v Ken’ show.

For yes, the battle to become London Mayor pitted the blonde haired bumbling Boris Johnson against the hardbitten genial Ken Livingstone in a battle that seemed to have far more glamour and personality than any of the equally important political battles in, say, Rotherham or Romford.

What's in a name?
The fact that Boris won the vote – which went against the tide of Conservative failures elsewhere – is because he has managed to cross the divide of party politics and actually engage people who just have an opinion of him rather than what he believes in. I mentioned his name casually to a die-hard Labour supporter relative on Monday for instance and he burst into laughter and said how much he liked Boris. It’s the first time I’ve ever heard him say he liked anybody from the Conservative Party and that’s because Boris has done that rare thing that all politicians dream of – he has become a bigger figure than the party he represents.

Of course politics is a serious business and the defeated Ken said, ruefully, that the vote wasn’t about who would be the best presenter for Have I Got News For You (which even he agreed Boris would be) but for a serious political office. But what Ken and others must realise is that in a political landscape where only 30 per cent of people even bothered to get out to vote in those aforementioned elections, the desperate lack of personality amongst most politicians is something which is a turn off to people who live in the sort of entertainment and celebrity-led world inhabited by some of the other one-name-only folk such as Cher, Bono and Sting.

Of course not everybody who can get away with just one name uses their Christian one. They may be as far apart musically as it’s possible to be but both Liberace and Morrissey both presumably have Christian names but you’d have to be in a musical section of a quiz to be able to find out what they may be.

So, clearly the way to get yourself noticed and to get your ‘name’ out there is to make that name as short as possible. So this is Sam signing off. Or should that be Holliday. Or should that even be James (which is my real name but that’s a totally different story. . .)

Liberace - and his first name is???

It's the media killing the media . . ..

This apperared in the Bath Chronicle on May 3 in the middle of the Leveson inquiry. It provoked at least one hostile letter... 

Ladies and gentlemen here is the news. And it is all about the news.


For, yes, once more all week we have all been bombarded with stories, interviews and debate about the press, Rupert Murdoch, phone hacking and the role that newspapers play in this country.

And, despite the fact that this is my industry and one I have been proud to serve for nearly 30 years, I am sick to death of all this coverage and can’t help wondering just what the millions of people who aren’t remotely connected to the media industry make of it all.

For this is the media eating itself.

And it is not a pretty sight.

Now don’t get me wrong. What the News Of The World did in terms of phone hacking was a terrible thing but it was something that bore no relation to the honest, integrity-led journalism produced by the vast majority of our newspapers nationally and (even more so) locally.

That paper simply went far too far and adopted a ‘get-the-story-at-all- costs’ policy that was probably inevitably going to lead to a dramatic fall at one point. But I doubt if any of us could imagine just how big that fall would be for the paper that paid the ultimate price. And let us not forget the closure of the News Of The World was a self-imposed act at the end of a sensational turn of events.

As a result of all that it was only proper that a serious debate about ethics and journalism should follow and I for one felt that was the right thing to do.

However, the relentless day-to-day coverage of that debate ever since smacks of serious overkill.

So many important things have happened in the world in recent days but many issues are being drowned by some media outlets poring over every word and every nuance of everyone involved in the current media inquiries to try and bring newspaper people (and the odd Government minister) down.

Sometimes it just looks like media luvvies relishing the chance to comment about the thing they ‘luv’ the most – themselves, the media.

All of this newspaper-bashing is in serious danger of making us all feel (wrongly) that the free, written press we should all cherish is rotten from top to bottom.




Newspapers – especially local ones – are still a force for good in my opinion. We fight for our communities, reflect the cheers (as well as the tears) of our communities and provide a forum for debate and comment, all in (for local papers at least) a totally non-partisan independent context.

But I fear we are all in danger of forgetting that due to the wider media’s OTT, self-indulgent obsession with all things Murdoch.

Some politicians would love nothing better than to strangle press freedom as a belated revenge for the MPs expenses scandal being (brilliantly) exposed by The Daily Telegraph. The media itself is playing into their hands. And boring us all silly at the same time.