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We should all have a right to privacy

Comment by students at King Edward VI School, Bury St Edmunds ANL-151025-114649001
Comment by students at King Edward VI School, Bury St Edmunds ANL-151025-114649001

For a long time the UK media had nothing better to discuss than the private life of Jeremy Corbyn. Before that, there were swirling allegations concerning a leading cabinet minister and a certain farmyard animal. And now we have the issue of the Panama Papers.

Over the last week we have seen the Prime Minister bat away numerous allegations of hypocrisy as well as turning the other cheek to a number of snide comments, including Frank Skinner’s ‘Dodgy Dave’.

Are we really seeing British politics at its best?

A large number of news outlets seem to be printing the issues that make a story over the issues that change the world. Is any of it relevant, or does it just lead to a nation obsessed with political gossip?

To take an example: are the private lives of politicians really any of our business?

When Mr Corbyn became Labour leader, it was natural that there would be a bit of digging into his past. While trying to excavate skeletons in the Corbyn closet, they instead found it stacked to the brim with homemade jam and manhole covers. This is not quite what the investigative journalists were looking for, but they still managed to force a headline out of it.

But does this knowledge make us any more politically informed? Surely it just serves as an insult to democracy. I see Corbyn as a breath of fresh air in British politics and all the marmalade on the planet wouldn’t change that.

Another distraction from mainstream politics came in the form of accusations made against David Cameron, in relation to his association with the Bullingdon Club. Once again, the media forgot about real politics and started to jump to conclusions.

We can observe a similar phenomenon in more recent times with the Panama Papers. The negative stigma attached with offshore banking led to #resigncameron trending on Twitter, even though there was no definitive proof that any member of the Cameron family have acted wrongly.

We see that these largely speculative stories divert attention from real political affairs. They tend to create tidal waves of unjustified comment that only harms the reputation of Parliament.

The media has always played a key role in informing voters, but it appears that the way certain individuals are now forming their opinions about political figures and parties is changing.

Maybe we are supposed to formulate political decisions based upon anything other than politics, such as making the choice to vote Labour because you are a fellow jam fanatic.

Perhaps it is normal for newspapers to avoid giving headlines to the more dull parts of politics. But given that the majority of these headline-grabbing private affairs have no real bearing on the way a politician would act in their role, surely the press has no right to speculate on them.

In the end, whether a politician or not, we should all have the basic right to privacy. And concentrating a bit more on the real political issues wouldn’t hurt either.

-- Patrick Gembis is a student at King Edward VI School, Bury St Edmunds


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