Monday, January 23, 2006

Stop This Tittle-Tattle

The Times this morning reports that Ruth Kelly's grandfather was an IRA officer. So what? Who cares? What on earth is the relevance of this story to anything? There will be many, many other people who have IRA officers lurking in their ancestry, and they don't make the papers. That one of these people happens to be the Education Secretary can only be considered news if "news" amounts to nothing other than gossip.

It's no wonder we have the political apathy we do today. The political media seem to be interested more in spreading gossip than actually engaging with the issues that really do affect people. Did it really help political discourse to disclose last week Tony Blair's grandmother was a Communist graffiti artist? For that matter, what on earth was the use of the hatchet job on Oaten over the weekend? Selling newspapers, maybe. Helping the country become a better place? Certainly not.

As we all know, there are important issues surrounding the Education Department as things stand. There are important school reforms to be discussed - reforms I happen to disagree with, but that aren't without merit and deserve our full and frank attention. There are questions about the direction of university policy - how do we get our top universities funded to a world-class standard? There are questions about the threat of closing down grammar schools in Northern Ireland. There are questions about whether the extra money funnelled into education is propping up a failing system.

That's not what we get from the Times though, is it? No, we get an unimportant story about her family origins that sheds sod all light on nothing in particular. No wonder no-one can be bothered taking an interest in party politics.