He’s a former PR man himself, and from what we’ve heard recently has been, at times, very close to senior members of the press. But this week the Prime Minister has stated that the relationship between the press and some politicians has become too close.
David Cameron – who is a close friend to former News International CEO Rebekah Brooks – told the Leveson Inquiry that the relationship between the press and politicians had gone “bad” and that relationships were “unhealthy”. Cameron stated that these problems began during the Major government and got worse under Labour: presumably this serves as tacit acceptance that they got no better under his leadership.
People with the stamina to follow this inquiry will have been surprised by just how close politicians have been to senior figures in the press – even, as in the case of Tony Blair and Rupert Murdoch, becoming Godfather to their children. After months and months of testimony, the inquiry is still due to rattle on through July. But with celebrities, businesspeople and politicians past and present all appearing, it’s probable we’ve now seen the crux of the issue emerge: can the press, or indeed journalists, act in an objective way if they become too close?
In our media training courses we state that to succeed as a spokesperson you must be prepared to work hard to cultivate long-term, mutually beneficial relationships. But Blair, Cameron and their ilk have evidently taken this to a ridiculous extreme. In the months and years to come, things may change between journalists and politicians – but even with the Prime Minister’s admission, it seems that untangling these relationships is unlikely to happen any time soon.
Will Edwards is managing director of media training consultancy Bluewood Training