Monday 4 June 2007

A class struggle disguised as news

The facts lost to the story

Having advised the newsagents on my way to work to have a copy of the Daily Telegraph available, I am still surprised that the tillers, two ladies and a gentleman still do not know the cover price of the paper which is 3 Euros and conveniently down from 3.60 Euros when I was a more regular reader of the paper, years ago.

I do like the way the paper is edited and the writing style, and though it is a paper that leans quite to the right; if not the organ of the Conservative Party in some ways.

Sometimes, it does take on a rather sensationalist tone as it delves into the kind of muck that tabloids wallow in, and when it appears to take up a cause, be assured that it is probably for the privileged or some interesting publicity seeking people pretending to be up with the Jones'.

One typical example comes to mind, years ago when a developer in London's Mayfair - a rather exclusive real estate location - wanted to redevelop some old property. They had persuaded, enticed or threatened all the occupying tenants off the property but one who stubbornly refused to play ball.

The Telegraph launched into a sob story of a old-aged pensioner being turfed out of her residence having stayed there for almost 25 years, she was 71.

Reading further, we find that she was once a stock broker, she drove a red Ferrari and had been offered quite generous alternatives which she stubbornly refused.

Old-aged she was, pensioner quite probably, but not your common pensioner once you peer into the detail.

Big, bluff and full of fun

So, today, a news story appears with a young happy family - husband, wife, 14-year daughter and toddler - typical happy family in the English countryside. Ah! There is a land dispute; in fact, a boundary dispute covering the whole expanse of 6 feet by 2 feet - 12 square feet - that equates to a humongous 1.11483 square metres.

There are greater disputes in the world, but this little piece of England has had the police interviewing the father-in-law of the Leader of the Opposition - David Cameron - for attempted assault as he tried to get the neighbour off his property.

The principal in this matter is Sir Reginald, 8th Baronet Sheffield (61) who sports a bow-tie with a most eccentric appearance - one record says he is big, bluff and full of fun - the archetypical English country baronet [I think that says just about enough in a very nuanced way] - he has had his press, no doubt.

The neighbour however is Mr. Kilmartin a 45-year old man with who has a pacemaker and serious blood pressure problems. He had his blood pressure taken the day after the event and it was through the roof - he should know to take things a bit easy and not get too worked up.

Too inferior, so inferior

Sir Reginald in his first encounter with the Mr. Kilmartin had advised him to speak to the Estate Manager and walked away, then later returned probably a bit annoyed that he was still chatting to the secretary, grabbed Mr. Kilmartin by the shoulder demanded that he get off the property.

Mr. Kilmartin recalls that he was in a state of shock, that is understandable if you also have a ticker, and then one thing Sir Reginald would not get away with was the fact that he made Mr. Kilmartin feel like an inferior citizen - in his words - "He was so degrading, that's what hurts the most".

It would appear Mr. Kilmartin was not aware of the baronet's eccentricity or how to approach an old school baronet - part of the intemperate exchange involved a retort by Mr. Kilmartin - "What's your problem?" - Hardly toff talk.

Now tell me class is not ingrained in the English society, not to talk of the fact that the baronetcy was created for the illegitimate son of the John Sheffield, 1st Duke of Buckingham and Normanby in 1755 - such is the colourful, vibrant and interesting history of aristocracy - adultery, infidelity, illegitimate children and sometimes in-breeding - Shocking!

Even though Lady Diana Spencer was born into an aristocratic family, as HRH Princess of Wales she never really got into appreciating the aristocratic encumbrance of sharing your husband with courtesans - in this case, it was Camilla Parker-Bowles, then married and with children too, something Camilla's husband - Brigadier Andrew Parker-Bolwes handled with integrity (as an officer) and dignity (as a loyal subject) to the common saying - The man who gave life and wife to king and country.

Utter waste of resources and time

But how did the police get involved so much so that the Crown Prosecution Service had to expend taxpayers' money to come to the conclusion that no further action is required? Mr. Kilmartin must have felt all the more degraded that he had to make a public show of this; so a bit of an embarrassment is necessary to teach Sir Reginald a lesson - he is the father-in-law of the Leader of the Opposition who is busy having to wade through the storm of ditching the building of new grammar schools for the a more contemporary infrastructure spearheaded by Tony Blair's Labour Party.

Sneaky, surreptitious and unsportly

In fact, the Daily Telegraph has been giving so much oxygen to opponents of this new Conservative policy that this event in the English Countryside just presented another rotten opportunity to paint David Cameron and now his extended family in very bad light.

They might think it is newsworthy - come on - grown up men cannot resolve a dispute on a matter that is hardly half the size of my bed and this takes up over a quarter of a broadsheet newspaper page?

So, the Kilmartin family presents themselves for a photo opportunity to accompany a finely placed pique of a story that the Telegraph has surreptitiously exploited for ulterior purposes, even I cannot imagine rags like the Sun or the News of the World playing this kind of game. Suffice it to say; even the sophisticated can descend to the basest instincts.

One is definitely not impressed, no, not at all. Though this is not enough to ditch the Daily Telegraph, at least for now.

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