No journalist worth his or her salt should rejoice in the downfall of another. There are plenty of commentators in particular that I could name who infuriate me, who have in fact infuriated for me for years, or who I have had real spats with. I would be disappointed if some of them didn’t feel the same about me. One of the reasons I was so overjoyed to be moving to the United States five years ago was to escape the so called ‘Westminster belt way’ of journalists I christened the ‘commentariat’. I hope that I will not be accused of plagiarising when I make that claim, but to the best of my knowledge it was me.
Johann Hari was the wunderkind commentator of The Independent newspaper, in the same way that Siôn Simon had a similar niche at the Daily Telegraph. In my book, both were obnoxious little ‘New’ Labour creeps. Nonetheless, for all of their noxious views and creepy ways, there was no denying that they could write. Hari was particularly frustrating, for not only was he a young fogey who supported the war in Iraq, he was constantly used as an excuse for not letting me have a column in the paper. That said, when I moved back to Britain, I barely gave Hari or Simon for that matter a thought. Siôn Simon had dropped out of journalism and national politics, while I had stopped buying The Independent because I never had time to read it. As a result my blood pressure improved and my stress levels declined. Far better it seemed to read the opinions of those who didn’t need to pretend that they were anything other than Right wing and supported the Conservative Party.
So despite quarter of a century of outright hostility to Rupert Murdoch and his tabloid stable, I was still angry to learn that he had closed the News of the World down altogether – sacking over 200 journalists in the process. In the same way I do not rejoice at the news that Johann Hari, my old bête noire, who I last saw only to vent my spleen over the Iraq War has come a cropper over his only too obvious record of plagiarising other peoples work. To that should also be added his record in making stories up, pinching other people’s stories and attacking those who criticised him by firing off articles under the pseudonym, David Rose. But then if The Independent had retained a few more sub editors, Hari’s escapades may have been terminated a good deal earlier.
No, what I find infuriating is that Hari, having been awarded the George Orwell Prize, has still not had it taken from him. It is one thing to write a whole load of piffle for a British newspaper, in fact these days quite de rigueur. But it is quite another not to have had taken back a prize given in the name of one of the greatest names in British journalism.
It is high time that the George Orwell Prize was taken in house by the newspaper which truly appreciated his great talent and which was his undoubted real home. To which I of course refer to Tribune. And left to Tribune, the Orwell Prize would be awarded to the wheat and not the chaff.