Yesterday's men? Don't worry, they'll soon be back in the news

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The Independent Online
WE'RE NOT going to have another piece about Paul Gascoigne today, I hope?

No. Paul Gascoigne is yesterday's news. Yesterday's news is here today and gone tomorrow.

And gone for ever?

Certainly not. Yesterday's news always comes back when you have forgotten all about it. Sometimes it comes back as "Where Are They Now?" Sometimes it comes back as material for quizzes. Sometimes it only comes back as an obituary. But it always comes back. Have you ever noticed the way Myra Hindley returns endlessly to the headlines? Or Edwina Currie?

Yes. But there never seems to be any good reason for their hitting the news again.

There isn't. It is simply a case of yesterday's news coming back again, even if nothing has happened to cause it. Yesterday's news, whether it is news about Lord Lucan or the Great Train Robbery, always comes back like Halley's Comet.

It's certainly true that news fades. The other day I saw a heading in, I think, "The Spectator", saying "Michael Howard reviews Gitta Sereny's book on Mary Bell", and I thought to myself: Heavens above! How quickly we forget names that were once in the news!

Quite. Last year Michael Howard was reviled by all, and now he is forgotten. Except by The Spectator, of course. The last issue of The Spectator I saw, there was a full page article by Michael Howard's wife. Expect pieces by the Howard children any day now.

No, not Michael Howard - I was really thinking of Mary Bell. A week or two ago she was national enemy No 1, for making money out of a murder. Now she is forgotten again. Can things change so quickly?

They can in tabloid time. Tabloid time is different from real time. It moves much faster. It is governed by boredom. When people get bored, time moves on.

When the readers get bored, you mean?

No. When the editor gets bored. But with Mary Bell, it was sightly different. She was being execrated for taking money for talking about a crime. A couple of days later all the tabloids were falling over each other in an effort to pour money on two nurses who had committed murders. Even the tabloids could see there was an element of hypocrisy here, so they back-pedalled on Mary Bell.

Murderers? But the nurses said they were innocent.

Sure. So did O J Simpson. So did Louise Woodward. So does everyone charged with murder. But don't forget that the nurses were found guilty in a court of law.

Yes - a Saudi court of law!

You think they would have fared any better here? In the country which gave justice to the Birmingham Six? Which behaved so well over Stephen Lawrence?

Yes, but...

Where Michael Howard spent half his time releasing and pardoning people who had been in prison most of their lives?

I thought you said that Michael Howard was out of the news? That's twice we've mentioned him!

Ah, but Michael Howard is only in the news because of Ann Widdecombe! Ann Widdecombe became famous when she dished Michael Howard's chances of becoming Tory leader. She was in the news again this week when she was promoted to the Tory front bench, prompting papers to ask, "How Will Anne and Michael Get On at the Same Table?". Another shining example of papers asking questions to which they have no answer. It's also a shining example of newspapers treating politics as soap opera, as if Widdecombe was only famous for disliking Howard. Most journalists can only understand or explain politics when it is presented as a soap.


A lot of newsprint is expended on the supposed rivalry between Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, between Ann Widdecombe and Michael Howard, between Thatcher and everyone, between Ted Heath and everyone else, on Peter Mandelson and Alastair Campbell, on Robin Cook and the F O

Yes. And?

And nobody except the journalists gives a toss. It really bores the public rigid. It is the one great example of editors getting it wrong. Because THEY are mesmerised by politics as soap opera, they think the public will be as well. Do YOU think anyone remotely cares how Ann Widdecombe and Michael Howard behave towards each other? In the real world?

You're asking me? A reader? A question?

You're right. I shouldn't have. Sorry.

Not at all.