Number 10: The mad house that’s gone silent
By DANIEL SILLETT
Sit down with a cup of coffee and just have a think about this. Have you heard any updates on how Rishi’s doing in Number 10? Do you know what policies he’s planning? Have you forgotten he is Prime Minister now? I wouldn’t be surprised if you had.
The thing is, the media has produced the square root of zero reports on what Rishi’s up to. By contrast, when Liz Truss was at the helm, there was a new torrent of media abuse on every single one of the 45 days she was in office. The same can be said of Boris who, since Covid struck, was forever on the front pages for one reason or another.
Speaking of Boris, the ex-PM has actually got more airtime than the current PM. Because the only political stories you’ll hear about at the moment involve Boris apparently planning to betray Rishi and make a comeback to Downing Street. In other words, the only political news stories right now are those that belong in a book of Aesop’s Fables.
And here lies the problem with the British media. They only bother to tell you about something when it’s gone wrong.
There are two reasons for this, I feel. The first is obvious: bad news sells. And the second is interrelated: British people like complaining. So, combined, all the newspapers will only tell you about the bad stuff because who wants to know that a chicken crossed the road safely this morning? You’d only read the news article if it got hit by a bus and caused a ten-car pile-up.
Returning to Rishi, the only news story about him that I can recall in some three months as Prime Minister is making maths compulsory for A-level students. And the only traction that got was mainly through memes on Instagram. Because giving people maths in a cost of living crisis is like giving a cancer patient a wet paper towel.
Aside from this guff, however, Rishi has been so out of the news that I actually would have forgotten politics existed altogether if I didn’t study it at university.
In truth, this is rather refreshing. Ever since Brexit in 2016, politics has dominated the British news for all of the wrong reasons. We’ve rattled through David Cameron, Jeremy Corbyn, the EU referendum, Theresa May-bot, Donald Tusk, Boris Johnson, the Covid experts, Priti Patel, Suella Braverman, Liz Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng. To name just a few.
It’s been all immigrants, big red buses, illegal parties, wet lettuces, Brexit, Brexit, and Brexit for the past 7 years. So to hear about some other important things – like, I don’t know, massive earthquake damage in Turkey and Syria – has been quite good. Not great, because nobody wants to see human suffering. But good in the sense of relieving the suffocation of watching ridiculous politicians shout at each other across the House of Commons.
Despite this blessed relief, all of this does illuminate a significant problem with the British media – particularly in politics. Because, if the only political information people receive is another scandal or government crisis, is it any wonder that political apathy is at an all-time high? Is it a surprise that people hate politicians when the only side of them they actually see is the scandalous, rule-breaking, useless buffoon portrait?
And this is a problem because not all politicians are like that. In fact, not even the ones who are frequently accused of being like that are like that at all. I know this because I have been lucky enough to work with some of them. And, actually, the vast majority of politicians are angels of the earth. You have to be, if you’re going to work what is essentially a 7-day week for people who will consistently loathe you by virtue of being a politician.
You hear nothing of this in the news. When Parliament isn’t sitting, our country’s leaders are on holiday, yell the media. They’re not. They’re working hard in their constituencies, improving the lives of local people. But they still all get tarnished with the same toxic brush.
Unfortunately, in these circumstances, this leads me to the conclusion that no news is good news. The fact nobody knows what Rishi Sunak is doing is a good thing. Because the only time you’ll know what Rishi is up to is when he messes up.
You can’t even assume that the reason nobody seems to know his whereabouts is because he’s gone off-grid to have some thinking time in the Bahamas. You can be sure that, if this was the case, we’d have ‘Sunny Jim’ and ‘crisis, what crisis?’ all over again.
In fact, the only off-the-grid spot that Rishi seems to have hibernated to is his equivalent of an old-age pensioner retiring to ‘the garden shed’. In other words, your Prime Minister is beavering away in his office. Which is why you never hear anything. Because that’s all incredibly boring in an era where TikTok has shortened our attention spans to a tenth of a second and where we’re trained to seek out bad news. A man working hard in an office is less interesting than watching paint dry.
So, until you see a ‘BREAKING NEWS’ headline plastered across the whole world and his wife, just peacefully assume that he’s doing a good job. The loudmouths in the media won’t ever tell you that part of the story.
Image: Flickr / HM Treasury