Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Remembering Big Cyril

The latest issue of Total Politics is now out and Sir Cyril Smith is the latest subject in my Where Are They Now? series. The short answer is that he's alive and well and living in the same terraced house in Rochdale which he's lived in for 80 years, but you'll have to click on the link to see the rest.

The mag also has a poll on The Top 100 Political Journalists in Britain on which I feel obliged to pass some comment. I don't want to be too critical, as it was compiled fairly objectively from the votes of politicians, lobby journalists, and the TP Facebook group, but any such poll that places Peter Oborne at 60 and David Hencke at 93 has to be taken with something of a pinch of salt.

It seems the editorial team of Total Politics weren't entirely in agreement with their electorate on this either. In the preamble to the piece, they say: "We found it difficult to understand why neither Andrew Neil nor Ben Brogan made the Top 20. Surely Patrick Hennessy, Nick Watt and Peter Oborne should have been far higher than mid-table mediocrity?"

Leaving aside the odious Mr Pad, who Daily Politics show I find consistently unwatchable on account of his overweening presence, I would second all of that.

The other point I would make about polls listing political journalists is that you are essentially trying to compare very different skills. During my time in the Lobby, Philip Webster of The Times was regarded by many as the greatest story-getter, which on a traditional view of what constitutes journalism would make him the No 1 political journalist. But not even Phil would claim he was the greatest writer, commentator or sketchwriter.

The truth is that while the most highly-rated political journalists tend to have more specialised skills, venture lower down the list and you are more likely to find genuine all-rounders. The Guardian's ace sketchwriter Simon Hoggart (No 14) would be hard-pressed to write a front-page scoop, but the Mail on Sunday's Brendan Carlin (No 73) not only excels at that but wrote a mean parliamentary sketch in his Yorkshire Post days as I recall.

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Anonymous said...

Well done Paul. And not a mention of that vile anti-Cyril campaign by the odious Chris Paul.

Leave an old man alone to enjoy his dotage, I say.

Anonymous said...

I would tell that to the people who used to work at Turner Brothers Asbestos in Rochdale.