Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Twisted by the Telegraph: Miriam Gonzalez Durantez

There are many good reasons I'd never buy the Telegraph. First there was the way it made incorrect insinuations about people I care about during the MPs' expenses scandal.

Then there was the not very small manner of sending undercover reporters to Lib Dem ministers' surgeries which led to a complaint to the Press Complaints Commission being upheld:

The Commission considered that there was an important dislocation here between the prima facie evidence and the method used to test it. It was notable, for example, that the newspaper was relying upon off-the-record comments from Conservative ministers on the subject of the Coalition to justify covert recordings of Liberal Democrats on the same subject. Those Ministers were being asked, in theCommission’s view, to comment on a series of policy issues with the evident intent of establishing on which subject they might say something newsworthy.Certainly, the level of subterfuge was – contrary to the newspaper’s assertion – high. The Commission wished to make it clear that recording individuals using clandestine listening devices without their knowledge was particularly serious and intrusive, requiring a strong public interest defence. Secretly recording a public servant pursuing legitimate public business was without question a serious matter.On this occasion, the Commission was not convinced that the public interest was such as to justify proportionately this level of subterfuge. 
So their journalistic practice has been found wanting for me on too many occasions now, but it's those little poisonous touches they add in whenever they write about Nick Clegg and his family that really make me mad.

Today, the paper reports, not even on a story of its own making, but on an interview Miriam Gonzalez Durantez, Nick's wife, gave to Grazia magazine. I shall nip out and buy it later because it looks interesting. I think what's really clear from the interview is that the three Clegg children grow up in a house where both parents bend over backwards to put them first, making sure that the family spends time together and that there's always a parent on hand at those crucial times of day. But what's the first line of the Telegraph's report?
The Deputy Prime Minister’s wife, Miriam Gonzalez Durantez, has painted a chaotic picture of life at home.
The basis for this is that Nick apparently sometimes nips home after attending early morning meetings to do the school run.

Frankly, if that's chaos, bring it on! There should be more of it about.

One of the things I really love about Miriam is the way she lets rip when confronted with chauvinistic insinuations that she should be some kind of Stepford Wife whose sole function is to support her husband. Asked about how the family coped with the pressure of Nick's job, she replied in her customary forthright manner:

“I always get very surprised when I’m asked this question because, you know, I have three children, I have a busy career and I have a very busy husband. Yet my husband has three children, he has a much busier career than I have, and he has a busy wife.“Nobody would ask him how he balances everything. For some reason there is a kind of assumption in your question that it is my role to balance it,” 

 I am doubly grateful to her - firstly, by blowing this sort of sexist rubbish out of the water so eloquently, and secondly for providing the sort of equal partnership, real life environment all male politicians should live in, she makes life a bit better for women everywhere.

The snidiness of the Telegraph's report does it no credit - but it's no surprise. In the related stories at the bottom of the article, there's one about Nick Clegg not being a member of his local tennis club.   The reason for that is that he's not applied to join. Yet the paper devotes several paragraphs to a total non story, even resorting to quoting the club's head coach from 10 years ago.

There was no mention at all of Nick ever asking for his kids to join this club, yet there's a lengthy quote from this coach in which he, shall we say, conveys the idea that children are as welcome on the courts as rats are in my bed.

I suppose I'd worry the day that the Telegraph wrote something nice about Nick or his family, but the quality of their reporting is sub-tabloid in standard - a shame for a paper with such an illustrious history going back more than 150 years.

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