After 23 years with BBC Cymru Wales (BBC CW), and 38 years in journalism when political stories have often been covered, here our Editor Phil Parry looks at how exposing hypocrisy has been a mainstay of his long career, as former Prime Minister Sir John Major criticised the UK Government’s handling of disgraced Owen Paterson’s case as ‘shameful’.
Earlier he described how he was assisted in breaking into the South Wales Echo office car when he was a cub reporter, recalled his early career as a journalist, the importance of experience in the job, and made clear that the‘calls’ to emergency services as well as court cases are central to any media operation.
He has also explored how poorly paid most journalism is when trainee reporters had to live in squalid flats, the vital role of expenses, and about one of his most important stories on the now-scrapped 53 year-old BBC CW TV Current Affairs series, Week In Week Out (WIWO), which won an award even after it was axed, long after his career really took off.
Phil has explained too how crucial it is actually to speak to people, the virtue of speed as well as accuracy, why knowledge of ‘history’ is vital, how certain material was removed from TV Current Affairs programmes when secret cameras had to be used, and some of those he has interviewed.
He has disclosed as well why investigative journalism is needed now more than ever although others have different opinions, how the pandemic played havoc with media schedules, and the importance of the hugely lower average age of some political leaders compared with when he started reporting.
Perhaps the most important job for journalists is to expose hypocrisy, especially when it comes to politicians.
It therefore sticks in the craw to see that the former Prime Minister Sir John Major MP has been, effectively, venerated by much of the mainstream media for criticising as “shameful and wrong” efforts to block the suspension of the Conservative MP, Owen Paterson, who had broken lobbying rules.
These efforts failed and the controversial decision to back Mr Paterson was reversed.
Remember that Sir John ran an administration that was one of the sleaziest since the Second World War, and that Labour won a landslide election in 1997 partly because of it, even as one of his main policy planks was ‘Back to Basics’.
So it falls to me and journalists on my website The Eye to remind people of past facts, because others haven’t.
In 1993 Tim Yeo, the Environment and Countryside minister, was forced to resign after fathering a ‘love child’ with the Tory councillor, Julia Stent.
Mr Yeo had publicly supported the institution of marriage.
In July 1992 David Mellor, the National Heritage Secretary, was exposed after having an extramarital affair with ‘actress’ Antonia de Sanchez.
In 1994 David Ashby, MP, was ‘outed’ by his wife after sleeping with men.
In October 1994 several Conservative MPs were revealed to have taken money from Harrod’s owner Mohamed Al Fayed to ask questions in the House of Commons.
The Tory MPs Graham Riddick, David Tredinnick, Tim Smith and Neil Hamilton were all exposed during the ‘cash for questions’ scandal.
In April 1995 – Defence minister Jonathan Aitken was accused of doing secret deals with Saudi princes.
He denied all accusations, promising to wield the “sword of truth” in libel proceedings against The Guardian newspaper, but was subsequently convicted of perjury and sent to prison anyway.
In December 1996, David Willetts (then a Conservative MP now a peer), had to resign over an investigation into Mr Hamilton that found Mr Willets had lied and rigged evidence about ‘Cash for Questions’.
Sir John himself conducted an affair with one of his own MPs, Edwina Currie, while he was married to his wife, Norma Major.
It’s events like these that make his comments rather hard to take, when he suggests the Boris Johnson administration was “politically corrupt” over its treatment of the House of Commons, and said the attempt to overhaul the standards system was “rather a bad mistake” .
Sir John’s other remarks are also difficult to swallow, such as “There’s a general whiff of ‘we are the masters now’ about their behaviour”, or “It has to stop, it has to stop soon”, as well as “I have been a Conservative all my life, and if I am concerned at how the government is behaving, I suspect lots of other people are as well”.
Along with “It seems to me, as a lifelong Conservative, that much of what they are doing is un-Conservative in its behaviour”.
This is one description. Rank hypocrisy is another…
Tomorrow – why huge criticism from aviation experts was prompted by revelations to politicians that passenger numbers at Wales’s biggest airport plunged more than at any other UK airport, and that the Welsh government was blamed when travel restrictions in other areas were equally severe.
The memories of Phil’s decades long award-winning career in journalism (when major political stories were always covered) as he was gripped by the rare neurological condition Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia (HSP), have been released in the book ‘A GOOD STORY’. Order it now!
Publication of another book, however, was refused, because it was to have included names.