Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Royal Yacht Britannia: What the "Newspaper of the Year" misses out

Were The Age a good newspaper, one could argue on its articles. But very often they aren’t their own articles, but copy&paste stuff from elsewhere. Take the last two news items on the Royal Yacht Britannia: Pay for your own yacht, PM tells Queen (17th January 2012 by Bloomberg, AAP ) and Royal yacht plan hits choppy seas (18th January 2012, Gregory Katz puzzled it together from agency material [AP] and a New York Times article) ) Funny that The Age’s mast head claims to be "Newspaper of the year". That may be so, but it does not say, that The Age is a serious newspaper – it tells you more about how bad other Australian daily newspapers must be.

So, concerning the Royal Yacht Britannia and a possible replacement to mark the Queen‘s Diamond Jubilee, The Age was only too happy to re-print the negative attitudes of Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, Labour Party MP Tom Watson and even Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron whose "spokesman, Steve Field, said it would not be appropriate for public funds to be spent on a new yacht during times of economic hardship. But he said the government would be supportive of private efforts to provide a new ship for the queen".

What The Age did not see – or did not want to see – was that the question of a Royal Yacht has more of a political aspect and does involve the Royal Family only marginally. British Education Secretary Michael Gove had written his letter to Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who is overseeing jubilee celebrations, in December. Why was it leaked to The Guardian this month? And who did leak it? With what purpose? The Daily Telegraph claimed, a source from PM Cameron’s office said it was the “perceived wisdom” that the letter was leaked by Mr Huhne, the Liberal Democrat Energy Secretary. The leaked document was used to attack the Conservatives for allegedly planning to "waste taxpayers’ money". It later emerged that the letter was the last in a series of missives between Cabinet colleagues – with the earlier correspondence making it quite clear that no public money was involved.

Mr Huhne was only copied in to the final letter, a copy of which was leaked to The Guardian and appears to have been misinterpreted. The Energy Secretary was previously exposed for leaking information about another Cabinet colleague to the same newspaper. One senior Conservative source said: “The whole leak, and its timing was very odd. This was something that came up in the autumn – ministers are interested in helping to replace the yacht but there will be no public money.

That’s what happens in a coalition government, where two parties try to keep their profile up and to please their supporters. A nice opportunity for publicity searcher Huhne to present himself again in shining light. The BBC wrote on him in May 2011:
No-one could accuse Chris Huhne of lacking ambition.

Within months of arriving in Parliament in 2005, the Lib Dem MP for Eastleigh was challenging for the leadership of his party, after the resignation of Charles Kennedy. ... He shot to the top of the leadership betting after a series of outspoken attacks on the Conservatives in the run-up to the referendum on changing the voting system.
And what about the Labour MP Tom Watson who shot to fame by telling The Guardian: "When school budgets are being slashed, parents will be wondering how Gove came even to suggest this idea"? He had not hesitations to claim taxpayers money for his London flat , which was exposed in what is known at the “expenses scandal” of the British Parliament in 2009. The BBC reported:
Claim: The two Labour ministers have claimed more than £100,000 for a shared London flat since May 2005, according to the Telegraph. The ministers each claimed for their share of the legal costs involved in purchasing the property and then later for the fees to buy the freehold. Neither minister has yet responded.

Response: Neither has yet responded. Tom Watson stood down as a minister on 5 June, saying the the "pressure on my young family has been painful" during his time in office.
It seems, he could leave his "young family" and return to the Commons and give silly press statements.

Most observers agree that it would be a good idea to have a swimming ambassador that could be used not only for the Royal Family, but for other purposes as well, as in 1982, when the Royal Yacht Britannia was used as a hospital ship in the Falklands War.

The British government would be supportive of private efforts to provide a new ship for the queen, was reported from PM Cameron. Certainly, the sum of £60 million ($A89.73 million) necessary to build a Royal Yacht, could be raised by private donations, however, details of who will be approached to provide money is likely to prove controversial within Whitehall amid fears the project may be dominated by wealthy Russian and Middle Eastern backers. These nouveaux riches will certainly be all too helpful to support the idea, if it gives them an entry ticket to the British society.

All these points that give a more complete picture of the matter, cannot be found in The Age. Newspaper of the Year? Which year was that?

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