It was never just going to be about the story: when the Guardian revealed that London’s formerly very occasional Mayor Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson and his partner Carrie Symonds had become embroiled in a late night Domestic of no known maximum volume, with a laptop and several plates becoming collateral damage after Bozza had spilled his red wine all over Ms Symonds’ sofa, there had to be spin.
That this had to be was down not only to the hyper-partisan nature of politics right now, but also the seriously bad timing, with Bozza front runner to become Prime Minister after a run-off vote of Tory Party members against underdog (but very rich and well-connected underdog) Jeremy Hunt (the former Culture Secretary).
So who was up for a little spin? Who would make that pointless gesture? As if you need to ask: today’s less than dynamic duo stars two of the most unappealing right-wing media grovelsmiths known to humankind, and one of those is the loathsome Toby Young. “If you think your neighbour’s in danger, then knocking on her door and, when you get no response, calling the police is acting responsibly. But recording the row and then contacting the @guardian and handing the paper the tape? That has zilch to do with protecting your neighbour” he whined, forgetting how his fellow hacks do business.
It got worse: “Not long ago, members of the Left were concerned about the surveillance state. Now, they press their ears to the wall and turn on their tape recorders when they hear their Tory neighbours arguing and contact the @guardian. They’re a pound shop version of the Stasi”. They have tape recorders! Break out the Grundig 4-track!
This, though, was clearly the approved line, as the deeply unpleasant Allison Pearson, who claims to work at the increasingly desperate and downmarket Telegraph, demonstrated in no style at all: “Recording a lover’s tiff through a wall to discredit someone didn’t used to be a ‘story'. It was what happened in East Germany under Erich Honecher”. Pity she can’t spell Honecker. But she wasn’t finished yet - thanks to the BBC.
As the Guardian’s Peter Walker observed, “Alison Pearson on R4 is arguing that the neighbours who reported the Boris Johnson domestic incident to police should be publicly identified so people can know their politics and views on Brexit … These are utterly baffling times”. Why? Would Bozza and Carrie’s Domestic have a different soundtrack if the neighbours were Brexiteers? Would the laptop have remained unsmashed?
And as for Ms Pearson’s “Stasi” claim, Dan Waddell had something to say about that: “Given she’s spent her life in an industry which has covertly recorded, bugged, hacked, blagged, hired PIs to follow, surveil and obtain info unlawfully for decades, this is an interesting claim to make”. Including, whisper it quietly, the Telegraph.
Former Labour MP Jacqui Smith had heard enough of Ms Pearson. “Bit weird to hear the same Tories & media commentators who encouraged and paid my neighbours to monitor my whereabouts 10 years ago now arguing that neighbours should keep quiet even if they suspect violence and harm”. And James O’Brien smelt hypocrisy.
“She just had her own published words removed from the Telegraph website in case they damaged her daughter’s chances on a TV talent show. But private individuals who report suspected domestic violence should be publicly examined. Wow. How do these people end up so twisted?” Partisanship. Desperation. And an overbearing sense of entitlement.
The neighbours that Ms Pearson is so keen to have outed did the right thing in recording the Domestic: the recording may have been needed as evidence later. Having made that recording, there is a clear public interest in the story being made public: this is the man who would be PM. Those in the press who desperately snipe “Stasi” never raised a finger when phone hacking was at its zenith. They had no problem with blagging.
But good of Toby Young and Allison Pearson to let us know that, somewhere along the line, they have discovered their consciences. Even if they plugged them in wrong.
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