FT writers compete for ‘most complacent’ title
As activists, campaigners and most people in the global south demand a new global economic and financial settlement, the west’s business media are alive with the sound of staggering complacency and self-centredness and nowhere is that clearer than in Friday’s blogs from the FT’s Brussels and Foreign affairs editors, Tony Barber and Gideon Rachman.
I’ve just got back from visits to Nanjing and Singapore, and I am struck by how the UK media have reported the global financial crisis as if the Eastern financial crisis of 1998/9 never happened (in the spirit of the old headline: ‘disaster abroad, not many dead’). The FT even printed a headline last week (“Britain faces worst recession since 1990s”) that managed to use the words “worst” and “recession” in a way which completely undermined both expressions, since the early 1990s saw the last recession Britain faced. Perhaps “Britain’s recession is worst since last one” would have been too obviously banal.
Anyhow, Tony Barber expresses astonishment that the French, German and Italian left haven’t sprung to electoral victory since the economic crisis began, ‘like they did in the 1930s’, and like Obama has, FDR-like, in the US.
One is inclined to utter a Homeric “D’oh!” One problem with Tony’s comment is that it requires an election to win an electoral victory. He does have the good grace to accept that Gordon Brown “is recovering in the polls” as if slashing an opponent’s lead from over 20% to under 10% in a month is really easy!
But he ignores the fact that the European left did not soar in the polls within days of the Great Crash. It took a World War and 15 years – does Tony Barber really not know this, or does he not mind displaying faux ignorance so publically?
Mind you, at least his sin is only to appear ignorant. Gideon Rachman seems rather proud, for a journalist, of eschewing the real world for the claret-swilling elite in his fearless pursuit of the facts.
He stresses how vital it is to share vintage port over the cheese course with diplomats and politicians if you want to find out what’s really going on in the Middle East peace process and the Doha Development Round trade talks.
I’ve been to these country-house colloquia myself, and of course I love them to bits. I prefer Wilton Park to the Ditchley venue that Gideon cites, but that may be because last time I was at Ditchley I had to suffer the indignity of having my workshop report sung in the bar by Shadow Cabinet member David Willets to a piano accompaniment (the tune was “Waltzing Matilda”) by the then Director General of the OECD (I’m not making this up – how could you?)
But I do rather feel that I find out more about the Middle East from my Palestinian mate Fathi whose door got kicked down by Israeli goons who thought his son was a member of Hamas last time he went to a conference. And I think I learn more about world trade when I hear that the cleverest man in South Africa, Ebrahim, has been found collapsed at his work from the stress of dealing with tens of thousands of textile worker redundancies so that China can replace Lesotho as the cheapest place to buy tee-shirts.
I think Gideon Rachman needs to get out more, and Tony Barber needs to read up.
This continues my series of being rude about journalists whose reports I usually find both witty and wise (ie who pander to both my taste and politics). It shows no signs of abating.