No matter where I’ve been in Turkey or Ireland over the last couple of weeks, my hotel has had CNN, Sky News and BBC World news. A frenzy of apprehension about Bird flu has been a constant theme on all of them throughout that period. The day we arrived in Ireland, there was a headline story on the BBC about a dead parrot. The newsworthy aspect was that the parrot was suspected of dying from the nasty strain of bird flu and it had recently been imported. It had died in quarantine, so there was no risk to the general public, but it gave media outlets the chance to enjoy making various Monty Python references. I don’t recall seeing as much follow-up coverage – probably because that had become old news by then and the media were on to the next report of dead birds somewhere else.
Another very noticeable story in the British media has been about the contest to elect the new leader of the British Conservative Party. I was more interested in the process than the people, as the Tories allow all their Members of Parliament to vote in a series of elimination ballots, over a period of days, until there are only two contestants left, and then that choice goes to a ballot of the whole party membership over a period of six weeks or so.
I was especially interested in this because the Australian Democrats have always elected our Parliamentary leaders by direct vote of all our party members, and we are regularly derided by the mainstream media in Australia for doing so. It has often been pointed to as an example of political naivety and the length of time it takes to resolve a leadership contest has also been seen as somewhat absurd. To see the main opposition party in the UK doing something rather similar is encouraging.
The frontrunner and media darling for the position is a guy called David Cameron. I have to say I’d never heard of him before, and he is being presented very much as the young, fresh, exciting face of a new generation for the Tories. He has not been in parliament very long, but it seems very likely he will win, as the Tories have been in opposition for a long time and they are keen to have anyone who might be a vote winner, especially with Tony Blair due to retire soon. I must say I really got a feeling that the media just want David Cameron because they figure he will give them more interesting stories to write. I may be wrong, but to me the coverage seems to have ‘shooting star’ written all over it, and I wouldn’t be surprised if his star soars and then burns out very quickly as the media build him up and then torch him. I’d be very surprised if he isn’t elected leader, but I also wouldn’t be surprised if he’s out of the Conservative leadership again before the next British election is even held.