Press not pressing much - so thank God for Robbie
Central Office of Information spokeswoman to Mr Robinson this afternoon:" You have got to remain impartial as a journalist and not overstep the mark."
Mr Robinson:"The function of a newspaper in a democracy is to act as a sort of chronic opposition to the reigning quacks." In other words, impartiality in a situation like this is nonsense. She's come here, she's "listened", she's going back and nothing will change."
"She's come here and gone back and nothing will change"
Robbie Robinson, journalist after Margaret Beckett's press conference at Gisburn (Yorkshire Dales) June 25thAt the press conference Robbie Robinson was allowed one question. He prefaced it as follows:
"Blood tests on animals in the Forest of Dean have saved those animals. The British scientists working in the USA - because Blair won't listen to them - know that vaccination does work. We know that this slaughter policy is based on EU and marketing rules not disease control.....
...Therefore my question is - not, why are you not vaccinating instead of slaughtering - but WHEN are you going to stop this needless, hugely expensive death machine, whcih is breaking laws, is as brutal as war and has no humanity or compassion? When are you going to stop it and teach farmers how to vaccinate their animals against this disease?
Margaret Beckett: I'm not sure that's a question.....
Robbie Robinson:(interrupting) It IS a question! It's WHEN ARE YOU GOING TO STOP - AND VACCINATE?
Margaret Beckett: What's happening is nothing to do with EU policy...
At this point the meeting was being hurriedly broken up...
Robbie Robinson: (everyone getting up to go).. It IS to do with the EU...and we need to stop the killing and vaccinate now!
A fellow journalist came up to Mr Robinson and said, "Be very careful Robbie! You could lose your job..!
A woman for the Central Office of Information said to him," You have got to remain impartial as a journalist and not overstep the mark."
Mr Robinson's comment (hear this in the Yorkshire accent):.."Do you want to know my maxim as a journalist? It comes from the 1940's writer H.L. Mencken - "The function of a newspaper in a democracy is to act as a sort of chronic opposition to the reigning quacks." In other words, impartiality in a situation like this is nonsense. She's come here, she's "listened", she's going back and nothing will change."
The most hardened cynic might well marvel at the clichés that issued forth from the Ministerial mouth today in Gisburn - a place full of sadness and anger, and of extraordinary scenes of solidarity of purpose from the local population --
"I am taking on board local concerns"....
" lots more investment in the countryside"...
"the people in charge on the ground have been heroic"
..and most of all..
"from short-term help they (the government) are planning for the future and for prosperity in the long term"
But what does any of that mean? Orwell would tell you. Indeed Matthew Parris just has. I recall to mind the article Matthew Parris wrote in The Times on June 23rd:
A verbal virus that kills all meaning.
They all sound like the kind of thing decent people are in favour of; they all evince a positive response. But after scrutiny they all require that the witness be summoned back into the witness box to answer further questions. Hitler had values; Marx had core values; the Taleban have family values; lunatic asylums overflow with people with beliefs; Stalin was a stickler for standards; Robespierre did not lack ideals; Pol Pot had vision; Chairman Mao had a mission; Sir Oswald Mosley cannot be accused of lacking a sense of duty. Unless those who rely on such language can elaborate, we are left with category-headings but nothing to fill the space beneath.
What can Margaret Beckett answer to the other questions that would have "lacked impartiality"? Such questions as: why was a teacher who displayed photographic evidence of the live cow being strangled at Skipton at the public meeting on 23rd June quietly hustled away to the police station where the photograph was taken from him? Why is he now in so much fear? APOLOGY: *
Why, in her stage managed interview with the BBC today at which no protestors were allowed to be visible, did she say, "the so-called great cull has not happened" when, as everyone in the area knows only too well, the cull started in Burnsall on the very day of the election and had been quietly going on in Thorpe, and in Craicoe for days before?
How is it that we KNOW that Swaledale, Derbyshire and Lincolnshire are next - in spite of the fact that there have been no outbreaks there? (Slaughtermen at the packed local hotel are not always discreet when in their cups.)
APOLOGY: JUNE 27 I have just received information that the person concerned was merely spoken to, having behaved with less than the courtesy and straight dealing that is expected from supporters. The police in this instance were probably justified. The reason he wont speak about the incident is now perhaps more apparent. My apologies for this misreporting. However, the photograph (although not belonging to the individual above) was genuine and seen by many people. Mary Critchley