It is an odd day, one day we predict and await, the next day we see how issues are just settled out of media. Now, at times I am all for keeping the media out. Not to put too delicate a point on it, but some members of a group we at times laughingly refer to as ‘people with journalistic integrity’ seems to have a moral view that is only slightly worse than a crack user in Camden. So as I saw that Chuka Umunna was going for the Labour leadership, I took a look at him. I saw just one interview he had just after the elections and I was not impressed. That is not a measurement of anything. You see, when Ed Miliband abdicated, which is a shame in one way, but understandable in another, I expected to see a person equal to the presenting task. Mr Umunna was not it. Now, that is just a first impression. I have no idea about his family, his extended family or anything else, I do not care about them (not meant in a bad way). In my view, it is about the man/woman and his/her political ability. The rest does not matter to me. Doesn’t it seem strange that a person who fights to get on top of things, who works hard to get anywhere, that person should not be measured by anything else but him/her! If I was to be measured by my abusive alcoholic father, I would be a lot better of going to the top of the closest by high building and enjoy the view on the way down (and I do not mean via the stairs or elevator). I am my own man, I fought to get where I got and I did it mostly myself. That is how I would measure Chuka Umunna!
So when it was revealed that he pulled out, I became curious (at https://www.politicshome.com/party-politics/articles/waugh-room/why-chuka-pulled-out). It is this quote “But the 48 hours crystallised his view that he just didn’t want the level of private scrutiny that being a Labour leadership contender, let alone Labour leader or Prime Minister, could entail“, which is fair enough! Or is it?
You see people in high places always had scrutiny, they accept that, but nowadays, the press has taken all of this into a realm that is no longer acceptable. So when you see this quote: “It’s also true that his girlfriend’s elderly grandmother was contacted by the media” in that article, we should consider what level of harassment any person in public office should get, and to what degree their family members are allowed to be shielded from. Remember, this is not the media around the election, this is day 5 after the elections and the pressure is already on. The fact that Chuka is shielding his family from all this for the coming 5 years is understandable but still regrettable.
This reflects back to the beginning. Was my view right? For now, I reckon so! For now he is the starter, the newbie, likely to be prone to all kinds of beginner’s mistakes, but that is what happens in year 0 (as any faction leader would face). Yet, should we accept this? Even as a conservative, I wonder whether the press is now engaging in acts that deprives the British people from proper representation. Is Chuka Umunna the best representation Labour would get? Well, now it seems that the Labour party will never find out, the press seems to have put a stop on that. Let me be frank, as a public figure, Mr Umunna can expect all kinds of exposure, to a limited degree the immediate family too, but the pressure to the extent some people get now it is a lot less acceptable. We get back to the press and how the press is actually abusing its freedom.
Lord Tebbit, former conservative MP for Epping and Chingford once stated: “It’s better to risk the press abusing its freedom than to risk the authorities abusing an unfree press“. In my own way I would add to that, that this might have been true in the days when his lordship was young and innocent, but in today’s society we must truly consider whether the press remains such a force of consideration. The term ‘risk regarding the press abusing its freedom‘ is now with some certainty the issue of ‘the press abusing the rights and freedoms of the people for the need of innuendo and circulation‘. This goes far beyond the old Hacked off issues. From the moment that was settled we saw some articles grovelling, then hyping on how freedom is such a good thing and how the press can regulate itself and that entire matter was not even a month old we got ‘MH370 suicide flight‘, were we ever shown any actual evidence to that? Now it is likely to get worse and many of my readers from the UK have not signed up for their possible political representation to be scrutinised to such a harassing degree. Here I must oppose Ben Bradshaw, MP for Exeter. In the interview in the Guardian, where after only 8 seconds he goes on with ‘but we have a great range of talent out there still hoping to run‘, so the person the conservatives feared the most (me thinks not) is replaced after 8 seconds for the next person. There is something wrong here too. If Chuka Umunna is such a great person, why not fight for him. You see, either Chuka is not that great a politician (fair enough) or this is about the worry on how much limelight labour will get from the press regarding the ‘wrong’ person. That is an immediate threat to the democratic freedom of all. So this is not about NOT looking into a politician, this is about the decent level of privacy the not immediate family is entitled to.
In the Guardian we also see Mary Creagh who was quoted from BBC Radio 4 “Modern politicians with social media, Facebook and emails face pressures even 15 or 20 years ago they did not face … We are expected to be some how superhuman”, is that true, or is there an increasingly skewed action by the press to overexpose whatever is not perfectly spotless and in that manner undo whatever good a politician is trying to do.
In the Daily Mail (I apologise for using a lowly regarded source of information) we see two quotes “Chuka Umunna is the articulate politician who had hoped to make the Labour Party electable again after the humiliations suffered under Gordon Brown and Ed Miliband. But many party workers were worried that this 36-year-old, 6ft-tall, well-dressed former lawyer may be just a little too smooth. The grandson of a British prosecutor at the Nuremberg war trials, Chuka was educated at a private boys’ school, and was a chorister at Southwark Cathedral. His voice can be heard singing the theme tune to the Rowan Atkinson comedy Mr Bean. Mr Umunna thinks nothing of spending £1,200 on bespoke suits from Alexandra Wood, an exclusive Saville Row tailor“.
So why would this be an issue? The terms ‘well-dressed‘ and ‘too smooth‘? The fact that he is the grandson of a former War Crimes prosecutor! That counts! Then there is the Saville Row reference, so this is not about skill, this is about the image that he inherited, the choices he made. Yet this person also decided to give his time to Labour, to champion the workers. He did not become a conservative as rich people seem to be seen as. In addition we get the quote “He was forced to apologise two years ago after it was revealed that he had once commented on a website that London’s nightclubs were ‘full of trash and C-list wannabes’“, so now people must apologise for speaking the truth? Have you seen the trash that comes out of some of these clubs? Smashed, drunk as a skunk and regularly we see how some of these places will have people leaving on all kinds of chemical trips. This is a consequence of binge drinking and slipping 1-2 pills with the white wine. This whilst many of them ladies complain on how they were entitled to VIP treatments in clubs so much better than the one they just crawled out of on all four. So perhaps Chuka Umunna is more than just a little right. Perhaps the press was worried on not having a hold on a person like this and they prefer a person slightly more ‘colourful’ (pardon the pun).
So where will Labour stand? Time will tell. Bren Bradshaw was right in one regard. The Labour party has loads of talent, no one denies that, but they’ve already forgotten that Ed Miliband was plenty talented and to some extent even visionary (in the wrong time as I saw it). So as the second talented member gets pushed off stage, are we seeing the effects of internal power plays and if so, should the press not be held to account for being the tool in all this?
I will let you, the reader mull over those facts and you should come to your own conclusions.