‘Beige, soggy’ Welsh media not tough enough in scrutinising Welsh Government says ex Boris Johnson comms chief
The “beige, soggy” Welsh media is too “cosy” and not tough enough in scrutinising the Welsh Government, Boris Johnson’s ex-Director of Communications has said.
Guto Harri, who has formerly worked for the BBC and S4C, was called to give evidence to the Welsh Affairs Committee Commons Select Committee today.
He was asked by Delyn MP Rob Roberts whether journalism in Wales was too partial towards some political parties.
“Journalism in Wales could be a lot more muscular,” Guto Harri responded. “It should make politicians feel uncomfortable.
“I’ve just been on the receiving end of arguably the most brutal press and media in the world here in London. But it’s right. And the Prime Minister I served has always been very, very clear that he wants a robust press.
“A strong, robust, independent press that is prepared to kick you and hold you to account is part of a driver in our democracy to taking better decisions.
“I’m not sure that the press and media in Cardiff and across Wales is sufficiently robust and questioning in holding the administration in Cardiff to account as they should.
“They are not remotely as tough as the press and media are here holding this Conservative government to account.”
The Welsh Affairs Committee chair, MP Stephen Crabb, asked Guto Harri why he thought the Welsh media did not scrutinise the Welsh Government to the same extent as the UK media scrutinised the UK Government.
“In London, there is a strong newspaper section,” Guto Harri answered. “There are very distinguished editors but they tend to not be shy about their views. And not be shy about putting forward their views of the world.
“We don’t have much of an independent press in Wales. I think WalesOnline are heroically doing their best, there are still some local papers, there are Welsh publications – Golwg, that the whole world heard about when I got my job in No 10.
“Barn is an excellent magazine, without naming all of them. They do their best.
“But there isn’t a Spectator, for a start. There isn’t a Telegraph. There isn’t a Mail. There isn’t any of that to condition the landscape.
“And then what you do have is a very, very dominant public service media presence which is now really well-resourced. I was part of a tiny team covering this place before power was devolved, and there were four or five of us. There are now vast numbers of people covering the Welsh Senedd, as there should be.
“But there seems to be a slightly beige, soggy consensus about it. How often do you hear the challenge that one in five people in Wales are on NHS waiting lists? That educational standards were so bad at one point that they stopped measuring them?
“That there was one FTSE 100 in Wales when power was devolved and there is still one FTSE100 in Wales.
“That child poverty was supposed to be the top priority for a Labour-led administration and years down the line, Mark Drakeford had to admit on Y Byd yn ei Le that it remains a shocking indictment of poor administration in Cardiff.
“So I think that a robust press that was a little less cozy, a little harder hitting, dare I say it a little bit more of that feistiness that they bring to Westminster politics, applied to Cardiff, would do everyone a word of good.”
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