My friend Tony used to box when we were teenagers. He used to say that the trainer’s job was to convince each boxer that on entering the ring he would beat the other man, however uneven the fight. Well, John “two jabs” Prescott went a full twenty minutes with John “the slayer” Humphrys this morning over the recent allegations, and the old bruiser from Hull won it on points.His best blow was a counterpunch to Humphrys’ assertion that as Deputy Prime Minister, he Prescott had become ‘a figure of fun’. Prescott then noted that Humphrys himself had become ‘a figure of fun’ and accused him of behaving at times as though he were the Deputy Prime Minister himself. He then followed through with a reference to Humphrys’ demand for compensation when the details a private after dinner speech he gave were leaked to the public last September.
This has been a two pronged attack. As Iain Dale (for the prosecution) correctly points out though, Prescott did not answer the question of whether he had had affairs other than the one with his diary secretary Tracey Temple. It certainly doesn’t throw a very pleasant light on the DPP, but it’s not the killer blow the Casino affair would have been if either bloggers or the BBC had landed a clean blow.
Prescott is emphatic that he had no part in the decision making process re the Casino. And, as yet, there is no paper trail connecting him with such. No doubt the FOI resquests will be hurtling into his beleaguered department to see if there were any live connections, but without an insider lead that can be like looking for a needle in a haystack.
Although his career is further bruised, he is likely to remain free to continue in (what’s left of his) office. However the interesting thing from a blogger’s point of view is that the BBC has dared get so close to the controversial end of the blogosphere. Dale makes no bones that he is an activist intent on inflicting legitimate damage on political opponents. If he does get to land a square blow on his opponent, the big media (as evidenced in today’s Independent) will be quick to snap it up.
It’s getting to be a tough new world where previously invulnerable private elites cannot expect the discretion of ‘friendly’ journalists in the pre-internet era – Dale’s point about the former Lib Dem leader’s drink problem is a case in point. The official media gatekeepers no longer have sole possession of the key. This is something that some of our own political parties have been slow to learn the lessons of.
And yet bloggers too need to be careful that when they throw a heavy punch that they actually land the blow. Otherwise the suspicion of cynicism rather than healthy scepticism will creep into the space. And that’s something that can grow inwards as much as towards the intended target.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty