“Some journalists tend to think rather a lot of themselves, imagining that what they say and write shakes the political establishment” wrote Roy Greenslade of the serially clueless Tim Montgomerie recently. Greenslade is one of the few commentators to have, like me, seen through Monty’s faux, overhyped pundit expertise.
He concluded his appraisal “you have to admire the man for rising from nowhere to become a media ‘star.’ Then again, you have to wonder at journalists for giving him so much unwarranted attention”. Then, it was Monty leaving the Tory Party in a huff over its stand on the EU. Now, he is again being feted, because he has launched, along with some others, a brave new website called Unherd.
Unherd comes hard on the heels of Monty’s failed The Good Right, which was an attempt to put a human face on the Tories in particular, to campaign for social justice. The project fizzled out, not least because most of his pals out there on the right couldn’t give a crap about those at the bottom of the pile, save to use beggars for kicking practice.
And Zelo Street regulars will need no reminding of Monty’s ultimate wrong call, when in response to the news of phone hacking at the Murdoch Screws, he claimed “This is about revenge, not phone taps”, and said the story was a Labour attempt to get payback for Damian McBride. The Screws was being run as a borderline criminal enterprise, and was later closed down as part of the Murdoch’s original failed bid to takeover 100% of Sky.
Still, on he goes, seemingly following in the footsteps of the likes of Piers Morgan, and failing upwards: now he is launching Unherd. And sadly, what is being produced there does not inspire confidence. Take, for instance, Monty’s article “Biased. Negative. Remote. News industry gets low marks from Brits and Americans”. This is no more than the recycling of old news where the UK is concerned.
Two months ago, Press Gazette reported on the EBU’s research on trust in written press, and showed Britain at the bottom of the pile on a lousy -51 trust score. But Monty’s worst howler is to suggest that the news industry - in which he has been a willing participant for several years, unlike those of us out in the New Media world - is somehow “not working”.
To enable him to progress his inquiries, he has turned to the kinds of people in, er, the same industry he is investigating and criticising. Terms like Pointless Waste Of Time And Space do not adequately describe this poor, yet predictable, move. Nor does employing the dubious talents of Doug Murray the K to pass adverse comment on reporting of terror attacks. And then there is the controversy over who is paying the bills.
Unherd has offices in The Shard; no slumming it in the cheaper and less well appointed parts of the capital for Monty. Rumours are circulating that Paul Marshall, a Brexit backer who bunged Vote Leave £200,000, has opened his wallet for the cause. Just how independent can Unherd be, if it’s dependent on hedge fund bosses for its existence?
A few “names” have agreed to talk to Unherd. Others have agreed to contribute, in order to generate More And Bigger Paycheques For Themselves Personally Now. But the result is a mish-mash that is as confusing as it is pointless. Nevertheless, I wish Unherd well, and look forward to celebrating its first birthday. If there is one.