Diary: Get involved in politics (stop reading the red tops)
There is an old left myth that working-class people would be more left-wing if they were not brainwashed by the tabloid press.
But the Hansard Society has done what it calls an Audit of Political Engagement, published today, which shows that tabloid readers are wise to what they read.
According to the survey, 70 per cent or more think that tabloids "look for any excuse to tarnish the name of politicians", "focus on negative stories about politics and politicians" and "are more interested in getting a good story than telling the truth". People who do not read tabloids are less uncomplimentary about the quality of political journalism than those who do. Broadsheet newspapers do better on these findings, and television news better still.
The problem, according to the report, is not that people uncritically soak up what they read in the tabloids but that the general negativity leaves them with no sense than it is possible to get involved and make a difference.
Or as the society's director of research, Dr Ruth Fox, puts it: "These findings suggest that the media – particularly the tabloids – do not greatly benefit our democracy from the perspective of nourishing political engagement."
A Tory with a BBC in his bonnet
One source of news that is widely trusted is the BBC. For that very reason, the corporation infuriates certain political types who think that it is emitting the wrong values.
Speaking in the Commons this week, the MP Daniel Kawczynski frankly admitted to being the sort of Tory who reveres almost every established British institution except the BBC.
Indeed, so great is his reverence for monarchy that he advocated that Libya, post-Gaddafi, should send for the heir to the deposed King Idris to be its constitutional monarch.
But he told MPs: "I don't know what it is about (the BBC) that gets my blood pressure rising and gets me so upset and irritated."
He then went on to suggest that he knows what he does not like about the BBC – that it is funded by the TV licence instead of operating in a competitive market, that it did not treat the Queen's Jubilee with sufficient seriousness, that it employs Jeremy Paxman, who humiliated the junior Treasury minister, Chloe Smith, and that its interviewers are respectful to experts, such as people who write, but disrespectful to politicians.
His solution is to scrap the licence fee and flog the BBC to some multinational corporation.
Lords reform delay good for one Dad
When the Government caved in on Tuesday and abandoned the timetable for Lords reform, there was a wave of relief in the household of John Denham, Ed Miliband's parliamentary aide.
Scenting a Government defeat in the offing, the Labour whips were not allowing anyone to be out of London for the crucial vote, which coincided with the day Nottingham University was holding its graduation ceremony for students such as Edward Denham, who has just completed a music course.
Cancelling the vote freed up Dad to rush to Nottingham to see his son ascend the stage in gown and mortar board to receive his degree.
A high-risk way to watch the Games
With the Olympics drawing so close, those who have accommodation to rent and no takers are naturally starting to fret. Hence an email inviting the Diary to publicise "a very special and historic castle available in Dorset, with the benefit of a London Bridge Apartment which can be included in the package (and the possibility to helicopter transfer between the two!)"
This is Pennsylvania Castle, once owned by a lawyer named Stephen Curtis, who got into some very deep water when working for Russian oligarchs.
"If you find me dead, it won't be an accident," he reputedly said, and one day his helicopter crashed on the way to Pennsylvania Castle, and he was killed. So my advice to punters is beware that helicopter link: it is jinxed.
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