R.F.Wilson reports from London: This horsemeat scandal, which is not really a proper scandal, has been dominating the front pages and news headlines for the past week or so. And it all looks very dodgy, if you ask me.
The thing that got me thinking that there’s something fishy about it, if ‘fishy’ is the right word here, was when I heard that the Food Standards Agency, the FSA, is not investigating any health risks but is looking into ‘problems with labelling’. And yet, the police have already been called in and Prime Minister David Cameron has weighed into this controversy and the government is saying that it is going to investigate the situation ‘relentlessly’. Even though we are talking about the presence of horsemeat in some of the processed meat products that have labels on them saying: ‘Beef’. Yet, to listen to some scribblers and talking heads on the box, we are dealing here with a problem of apocalyptic proportions and it needs to be covered just as ‘relentlessly’ as it should be investigated. It’s smacks of Tony Blair’s years so much that I needed to pinch myself.
Pardon me for being sceptical about this ‘huge scandal’, but how does it compare to the sorry state of the British economy that is still falling apart, bankers getting away with murder or licensed lenders ripping off millions with interest rates that could make illegal loan sharks blush? In fact, while the front pages and news headlines on the box screamed about the horsemeat scandal the Bank of England quietly informed the nation that the inflation rate is going to stay high in the country, and even go up, and that the British people would need to tighten their belts even further for the next three years at least. Bank of England Governor, Sir Mervyn King, who has his own outlook on the economy that somehow seems to be always proven wrong in the end , cushioned the effect of the bad inflation figures by claiming that Britain is actually ‘entering a recovery’, but has not been lucky on the inflation front. Even more amazingly, officials from the bank have started hinting that in light of the bad forecasts on inflation it would probably be sensible to launch another round of quantitative easing, a programme that benefits the banks and no one else and actually fuels inflation even further.
Some economic la-la land , eh? But it all stays off the front pages. It’s no big deal really compared to the horsemeat scandal.
The funny thing about it is that no one really knows what all the fuss is about. If the health of the nation was not in danger then why make a drama out of a crisis? And it was then that somebody came up with the idea that some horses receive injections for arthritis and it could have had an impact on the consumers. The news didn’t really make a big splash but at least added some edge for a day or two to the coverage.
Then someone managed to trace some of the beef that was ‘contaminated’ by horsemeat to Romania, a country where half of the economy is run by the mob which has its own ways of doing business. Accusations started flying that the Romanians were ‘poisoning’ unsuspecting consumers in Britain with horsemeat. Some were even hinting that donkey meat could have been added to beef as well. The story was getting even more confusing, especially as lots of meat produce like salami sausages and others actually contain horse and donkey meat, to add that special taste to them.
But what about Mali, you may wonder, how come it has vanished from the first pages and the headlines? Well, it so happens that the situation in Mali, where French and British troops are helping the local military junta to stay on top of things, is not that great. Unexpectedly for all, the Muslim jihadists put up serious resistance and did not run off as everyone expected them to do. So Mali is not the sort of news that would be good to talk about.
Meanwhile the horsemeat scandal runs on. Especially as the recent vote on gay marriage did not really pass all that convincingly in the House of Commons, considering that lots of people outside Westminster are not at all keen on the idea of the gay lobby pushing through this revision of the basic concept of marriage. Pollsters can claim as much as they want that gay marriage is supported by most people in Britain but it’s not like that exactly. So a scandal that has the potential to grow and run for weeks is just what is needed to keep the issue of gay marriage off the front pages for a while.
Wonderful stuff, journalistic instincts. These lads and lasses sure have a feel for really big stories.