St Bride's: News

Politicans, hacks and the world of Andrew Marr

marr.jpgAndrew Marr, that quintessential political journalist, whose appearances on the television screen and over the radio waves have become not so much a job, but a way of life, did what everyone connected with this famous old Fleet Street church knew he would this month - he filled it almost to capacity, in a 40-minute lecture to an audience consisting mostly, of well, yes, you guessed it, journalists! (Transcript of lecture)

The occasion was the 2005 Tom Olsen Lecture, which St Bride's had arranged this year with the London Press Club. It proved to be a fascinating, pulsating, witty and thought-provoking evening, at the end of which, his audience gave him a much-deserved, generous and thunderous round of applause.

Standing in front of the High Altar, passers by who did not recognise him could be forgiven for believing that he was an off duty cathedral residentiary canon sermonising to the faithful. Were he to drop his notebook and pencil and leave behind his tape recorder for the pulpit and surplice, Mr Marr has that type of appeal that might, just might, bring back the crowds into the pews.

But that is probably not the world that God has intended for the ubiquitious Mr Marr. Far from it, as his lecture title "Hacks and politicians: are they condemned to sink together?" undoubtedly proved. He talked about truth, morality and trust and how all three affected the democratic process. One would have expected him to be terribly unkind to politicians, but somehow that message did not quite come across. He was kind to the disgraced former Cabinet Minister David Blunkett, and seemed to be saying that the blind Mr Blunkett had had a raw deal. What Mr Marr did admit, however, was something which every person in the land knows only too well - the reputation of policians in this country has rarely been very high.

Journalists have fantastic influence, he declared and in the new online, digital multi-channel world they are going to keep it, but having such influence and power, journalists should learn to use it better. "We should be a little kinder towards human frailty, a little harsher about policy failure, lack of follow-through, because that's what hurts the country more," he told his audience. Many of those present seemed to be muttering "Amen to that."

Mr Marr said that perhaps the truth is that the news management obsession in government is what happens when too many hacks hop the fence into Whitehall and he finished on a strong note:

"We don't do politics well. We have short attention spans. We're easily bored. That's why we are journalists. If we stuck to our jobs and the politicians to their jobs which are in the end more important, perhaps the country would have been a happier, more confident place over the past few years."

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