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There is such thing as a stupid question

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Some people seem to make a career of being ashamed (or at least claiming to be ashamed) of their country. Personally I don't feel it - apart from when I see journalists from the BBC, ITV or Sky questioning our political leaders while they are abroad. Then a great wave of revulsion and national shame surges within me.

It happened last weekend when Rishi Sunak was at the G7 summit in Japan. These meetings of the world's leading economies are pretty important affairs, so much so that major media organisations fly journalists out to cover them. But as Sunak and his hosts stood to answer questions about the summit, what did the best sleuths from the BBC and ITV see fit to quiz him about? Why, Suella Braverman and her speeding awareness course.

This scandal that has allegedly shocked even the most hardened Westminster hacks involves the fact that the Home Secretary apparently once drove above the speed limit. This is something no hack, archbishop or leader of the opposition would ever do. As a result the Home Secretary was required to either pay a fine or attend one of those lessons in how not to speed.

It's not as though there is any shortage of actual issues that our Prime Minister could be asked about

Being Home Secretary it could be awkward for Braverman to go to a class with her fellow offenders. This era being what it is, everybody present would probably get out their mobile phones, film her on the naughty step and give the news cycle another day of fascinating headlines. Expecting this, the Home Secretary reportedly asked an aide if she could do the course in a more secluded environment, something which plenty of other high-profile people have apparently already done. That is the story. In its entirety.

Yet Labour are trying to make this into the latest political scandal to rock the government. And the British broadcast media? Well, that media - such as it is - seem to see this country's politics as one great game of just picking off politicians. Perhaps they feel that this gives life, as well as politics, meaning.

Having turfed out a prime minister because of months of 'investigations' into the eating of a cake, they then moved on to the Deputy Prime Minister. Dominic Raab, you will remember, was finally found guilty of bullying (aka criticising) a civil servant and of throwing tomatoes into a bin in a manner that resounded across Whitehall. Back then I warned that this great game of 'Who can we get next?' would soon become the only game in town. Once you get stuck on this boring, priggish, fake-shocked treadmill then there is nothing else to do but move on to the next target, all the time feeling that you are on top of - indeed making - the news.

Rishi Sunak with political journalists on board a government plane as he heads to Japan, 17 May 2023 (Getty Images)

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So when they popped up in Japan the BBC and ITV took the opportunity to ask our Prime Minister - in front of his hosts - about who knew what and when in the great speeding awareness course scandal of 2023. Can you imagine what the Japanese thought, or what the rest of the world's media was thinking? Is everybody as dim and incurious about the world as British broadcast hacks? As it happens, no.

Fox News's excellent White House correspondent, Peter Doocy, used the G7 as an opportunity to ask Joe Biden about America's debt-ceiling crisis. Justin Trudeau was asked whether or not Canada would support the US decision to supply fighter jets to Ukraine. Emmanuel Macron was asked about reports that the Russians had taken Bakhmut. This is what the rest of the world was asking their leaders about: war, peace and the public finances.

At such points I really do put my head in my hands. Of course the hacks from the BBC and ITV who are playing these games would swiftly resile from my allegation that they are parochial. The word would cast horror into their hearts. What worse thing could there be than to be a 'Little Englander'? But this is what these people are, or have become: small-minded, small-visioned and yes, deeply, embarrassingly, parochial.

It is not as though there is any shortages of actual issues that our Prime Minister could be asked about. If I had Sunak in front of me I would have quite a few questions for him. Just off the top of my head I'd love to know what he plans to do about the trillions of pounds of unfunded public sector pensions liabilities. Or about the public finances in general. I'd also love to know his proposals for what to do about the net migration into this country which has tripled since the last election. Or the sustainability of an economy in which above 10 per cent inflation seems to have become the norm. Or what about the issues of housing stock that prevent young people getting on to the property ladder?

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But perhaps these too would seem parochial in the setting of an international conference. Fine - how about asking about the trade deals that the UK needs to do around the world? Or asking why President Biden is so opposed to any UK-US trade deal when one was nearly ready to go under his predecessor? Or asking about what the G7 think are the international trip-wires that might exist in the war in Ukraine? Hell, since you're in Japan, why not ask about security on the Korean peninsula, Taiwan or the viability of decoupling our economies from the Chinese Communist party?

One or all of these would be a good thing to get into. But that isn't what much of the British media is interested in. What the BBC, ITV and certain other factions seem to be doing is playing a partisan political game aimed at wounding the Conservatives in the run-up to the next election. Either that or it is an expression of the most utterly bored and boring political nihilism.

Labour have no answers to any of the questions I've mentioned. The Conservatives have precious few. But the public deserve to know this. Instead the message to us plebs from the broadcast media seems to be: let them eat cake stories. I see they're coming for Boris again now. Well, I'm fed up with it. This isn't political nutrition. It isn't even politics.

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