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Priti Patel

The media is poisoning politics

Charlotte Graham/WPA Pool/Getty

We always see the worst in our politicians, says Matthew Syed in The Sunday Times. “Tony Blair? The butcher who took us into Iraq. Gordon Brown? The sucker who sold gold on the cheap. George W Bush? The president with the IQ of a chimp.” What about the flip side? Bush saved millions of lives through his malaria initiative in Africa. Blair saw through the Northern Ireland peace process. Brown’s handling of the credit crunch had a great and lasting effect. And Theresa May – “the clown who messed up Brexit” – introduced laws to stamp out modern slavery.  

We are poisoning our political system, resorting to “lazy character attacks” and reducing nuances to “parodies”. During the doctors’ strike Jeremy Hunt asked me to Whitehall for advice on patient safety. We discussed life-saving reforms as protesters cried “F*** Jeremy Hunt” on the streets below. Afterwards I spoke to the protesters, who said Hunt was trying to weaken the NHS and kill off vulnerable patients. This is the health secretary who secured the NHS’s largest funding increase. And with Priti Patel we indulge in “a tsunami of nastiness” with hysterical attacks and cartoons that, to many, are racist. Priyamvada Gopal, a professor at Cambridge, has labelled her a product of “cultural eugenics”. Boris, too, was condemned as a “eugenicist” for failing to lock down sooner during the pandemic. How to deal with this novel crisis was of course “blindingly obvious” to us “armchair Abraham Lincolns”. We should give our politicians more credit. After all, it was us who put them there.