Peter Oborne is afflicted by severely limited vision.
With a fanfare and drumroll and a shout of ‘Frauds!’ Oborne, a former associate editor of the Spectator, resigned as chief political correspondent of the Telegraph newspaper, that comforter of right-wing myths and orthodoxy. He makes quite a song and dance about it.
On the surface it’s quite a courageous thing to chuck up a well salaried and pensioned job in the media. I should know. I did it once. You are left with a heavy feeling of having excommunicated yourself, cast yourself out, adrift from colleagues in a sea of uncertainty.
Though the Telegraph refutes his every assertion he is hailed as a defender of democracy by his newspaper associates, a journalist of principle and independence, (keep an eye on the word independence) and a noble maverick. In this instance maverick does not mean a loose cannon, but rather the Lone Ranger hunting down villains and leaving them tied to the sheriff’s hitching post, justice Texan style.
He is also described by his friends as, “a very clever, very angry teddy bear.” Fascinating. I had no idea teddy bears belonged to political parties. No goose stepping Steiff bears for me. And while I am at it, why was that bear named ‘Paddington’? What was wrong with ‘Waverley’? (Or ‘Glasgow Central?’ – yours, Jimmy Gorbals.)
Why the attenuated surname? Oborne, political writer for Tgraph. Is it really O’Borne, or was he Osborne before a hundred per cent spiffily Cambridge and a hint of landed gentry?
Cheap sarcasm aside, Oborne claims owners of the Telegraph, the reclusive Barclay Brothers, put pressure on the editors to suffocate the story of HSBC corruption, to reduce it to a brief column Page 5, when other newspapers have it front page, centre pages, and main editorial. They did it, he avers, to protect HSBC advertising revenue. The HSBC has since ‘paused’ its advertising bookings, as it has for the Guardian newspaper. I learn they borrowed a £250 million loan from the bank to prop up their ailing courier company, ‘Yodel.’ Another example of big bizzi-ness at work, in da protection racket. So get wise, guys. Oborne is greatly discomfited by the relationship. (Englishmen are never ‘troubled’.)
“With the collapse in standards has come a most sinister development. It has long been axiomatic in quality British journalism that the advertising department and editorial should be kept rigorously apart. There is a great deal of evidence that, at the Telegraph, this distinction has collapsed.”
“We all do it!” guffawed the nation’s editors.
He goes on in some detail to show how senior colleagues allegedly colluded in side-lining a major story in order to protect their advertising revenue, HSBC money laundering.
“I researched the newspaper’s coverage of HSBC. I learnt that Harry Wilson, the admirable banking correspondent of the Telegraph, had published an online story about HSBC based on a report from a Hong Kong analyst who had claimed there was a ‘black hole’ in the HSBC accounts. This story was swiftly removed from the Telegraph website, even though there were no legal problems. When I asked HSBC whether the bank had complained about Wilson’s article, or played any role in the decision to remove it, the bank declined to comment. The story itself, however, is no longer available on the website, as anybody trying to follow through the link can discover. Mr Wilson rather bravely raised this issue publicly at the ‘town hall meeting’ when Jason Seiken introduced himself to staff. He has since left the paper.”
The story and his resignation hit front pages and Oborne got imbued with missionary zeal. Today he demands the resignation of the Telegraph’s editor and abject grovelling from the newspaper’s owners.
“Mr Murdoch MacLennan must quit. I don’t want to sound bitter or anything, but in my personal opinion there is no way the Telegraph can be saved under his leadership. And there are huge questions about the Barclays. They need to show that they love the paper, that they understand it, and … explain how standards have slipped so sharply.”
Other things miff Oborne such as sub editors confusing the Earl of Essex with the Duke of Essex, and deer hunting with deer stalking. How ghastly, Jeeves. Not quite, sir. Deer stalking is deer hunting by euphemism!
The real tragedy for Oborne is that he cannot see democracy and openness and honesty existing beyond the hallowed portals of a chronically purblind newspaper. That blinkered outlook comes as no surprise. He admired Thatcher, and thinks Ed Miliband the most accomplished opposition leader since the Second World War. Then again, Cameron would make a one-legged, one-armed lumberjack look as if prime minister material.
Oborne is the same political journalist who on the run-up to Referendum day expended a lot of time and column inches demeaning Scotland’s worth as fit for self-governance.
Here are few selected passages from his observations of English life without Scotland and dear old deer hunting.
“This is not an argument that can readily be made by Englishmen. But Scotland has scores of gifted politicians – among them Brown, Darling, Reid, Gove, Forsyth, Rifkind, Campbell and Kennedy – who can surely make the case that it is a better and more meaningful place as part of the United Kingdom.”
How about those names for a Cadillac of mob gangsters? Oborne is not a man with pronounced insight into character. There is worse to come.
“We have produced something called Britishness. Nobody can exactly say what it means, but all the world knows what it is: tolerance, a sense of fairness and justice, humour, proportion, decency and good manners. I feel certain that Britain’s contribution – its solid, thoughtful, civilising presence at the top tables, the example that is set by the country’s very existence“
Nobody can say what Britishness is; only we English know what it means! Fairness, justice? Manners? Good bloody manners? No mention of the BNP, Jew baiting, foreigner hating, wealth hiding, tax evading, union crushing, welfare napalming, eel strangling English traits … oh, I could go on.
Like almost every other Englishman and woman keen to keep the troublesome Scots in their place, he has to mollify his ingrained racism by first stating his Scottish ancestry. Well, I have a whole boat load of Scottish ancestors – if readers will excuse the phrase – and none caused me to think Scotland an English territory.
“Yesterday I went back to the home of my maternal grandparents. They lived in Colinton, one of the western suburbs of Edinburgh, and I spent a great deal of my childhood there. My grandfather, Commander Alan Brown, had been a naval officer. He served in both world wars, first seeing action as a 16-year-old at the Battle of Jutland, that mighty collision between the British and German high seas fleets in 1916.”
Oh, god, not the disreputable, wholly spurious, barf inducing, ‘our forefathers died to keep the United Kingdom united? ‘ Please, not that.
“After retirement, though, he dedicated himself to Scottish nationalism. This was a minority pursuit (the Scottish National Party did not hold a single parliamentary seat between 1945 and 1967) but this did not deter him; he would go to enormous lengths to avoid travelling to England. When my parents lived abroad he would make complicated roundabout journeys to avoid passing south of the border when coming for Christmas. When I went up to see him, we would visit Scottish castles and battlefields.”
We have confirmation from the mouth of the Telegraph: Scotland is one big theme park for tourists. There is no such thing as trespass in Scottish law, walk where you like, just be careful not to stray onto the Duke’s grund, yas bastirt. Now, ge’ the hell aff, or Ah’ll pepper yer arse wi’ this shotgun! (A great deal of Scotland is owned by dukes, land often won over a game of cards, or stolen from the church, or once upon-a-time common land.)
Oborne, did try his hand at balance. He castigated the Treasury and RBS for crying wolf when they made a false announcement of moving the RBS to London in the event of independence. Yet in the same article he quotes a Livingston businessman weeping into his Irn Bru about forced sackings of his workers and closure of his company because independence would cause Mount Vesuvius to blow its top and cover the British Isles in pizza ash, blacking out the sun, choking our lungs with acrid olives and tasteless cheese. This second reference is just as bogus as the RBS reference.
Finally we get the obligatory patronising doff of a deer stalker cap.
“I would quote William Dalrymple, who has an ancestor who signed the Act of Union: “We’ve run the English very efficiently for 300 years. I see no good reason to stop now.”
Another distant Scottish ancestor. There’s no end of them.
Oborne keeps repeating his accusation in interviews that the Telegraph is perpetuating a kind of fraud on its readers. Oborne or Reborn, whatever you want to be called hereon after, with your tacit support your former employer has been perpetuating lies and huge fibs on the people of Scotland for a very long time, and the English too, in an attempt to have them believe we are a second-rate country without an economy. It is your newspaper that contributed to that fraud. Somehow, for you that was not a cause to resign.
Oborne feels democracy is threatened. “There are great issues here. They go to the heart of our democracy, and can no longer be ignored.” He has no idea what liberty and democracy really mean to a nation. He thinks like Colonel Blimp – his reality is fine, ergo, why do Scots not accept it too? – and that includes showing precisely half-an-inch of handkerchief above the breast pocket!