Sunday 21 July 2019

Radio: Ireland and Britain are not so polls apart

Blunt: Vincent Browne on 'Breakfast' at Newstalk
Blunt: Vincent Browne on 'Breakfast' at Newstalk

Eilis O'Hanlon

It's hard to say which was more disturbing - George Hook telling the nation about washing his "pits" and "down below" areas during a discussion on Monday's Right Hook about hygiene habits, or Vincent Browne using the acronym "OMG" during one of his now regular radio ads highlighting available job vacancies. George, probably, by a whisker, but it was still bizarre to hear TV3's political pundit dip into "yoofspeak".

Browne told Ivan Yates on Newstalk Breakfast on Thursday that he gives the money he receives from doing those ads to Concern, which at least makes the awkward cringeworthiness of the enterprise slightly more bearable for listeners. He was certainly scornful of journalists who earn any income outside their primary trade, saying that they shouldn't be "profiting from private ventures". As he said bluntly to Yates: "It's insidious, and you should stop."

Ivan didn't want an argument about ethics at that time of the morning, but Browne persisted: "We can have a very short conversation about your ethical standards. Chris, does he have any?" he joked to Ivan's Breakfast co-host.

Well, I say 'joked', but there had definitely been an edge to the entire interview before then, as Browne refused to engage Yates on his own terms, and seemed to get it into his head that the former Fine Gael minister was underestimating the extent to which people were struggling financially.

The imminent general election in Britain has also started to make its presence felt on Irish radio, though sometimes it's hard to tell the difference between the two countries. When Channel Four's Michael Crick declared on Wednesday's Today With Sean O'Rourke that "Labour's support among working-class people is haemorrhaging", listeners could have been forgiven for thinking that they were actually discussing Irish politics.

On Tuesday, BBC Radio 4's The Long View looked back at the UK election of 1929 as a reminder that nothing much changes. At that time, the Tories went to the polls as the "Safety First" candidates who could save the country from the scourge of socialism. With Today FM's Last Word asking last week whether the water protests are turning nasty, that could well be the story of the next election here, too.

The programme even quoted a letter to the Times from a reader complaining at the sight of "our towns and villages plastered once again with unsightly posters" which remain hanging up, "dirty and torn for weeks and often months to come". That sounds depressingly familiar, alright.

Last week's Thinking Allowed on the same station hosted a refreshingly civilised, non-confrontational discussion with philosopher Roger Scruton on the appeal of conservatism, with a small c.

He freely admitted that dramatic change will always be more sellable than quiet moderation, but noted mordantly that it was a battle between what is "true but boring" and what is "exciting because false". Vincent Browne probably wouldn't have approved, mind you.

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