Kudos to The Times, which splashed today with a picture of Polish mourning. It was the only British daily to do so. The others disgraced themselves, using their front pages to trail ‘exclusives’ of the Labour Party manifesto, which has been heavily leaked and will anyway be public knowledge before noon. The small matter of a stricken nation orphaned of leadership is relegated to the lower reaches and the inside pages.
Most shameless is the Guardian which fills its front page with a picture of the young Germaine Greer, who dredges ‘exclusively’ in her column the distant memory of a fling she once had with the film director Federico Fellini. Greer wants us to know that she wore no underwear at their first meeting. I know that ladies of her age have a habit of forgetting things, but she seems to have suffered premature Alzheimer symptoms, if the piece is to be believed.
Why the Guardian duty editor thought this revelation more significant than a nation in mourning is pretty obvious. He – I cannot imagine it was a she – thought it would sell more copies on the newsstands than ‘a faraway country about which we know little’, in Neville Chamberlain’s infamous 1938 betrayal phrase.
But is that really the case? Up to a million Polish citizens live in Britain and millions more of us share their lives and concerns. Most British people remember that we once went to war for Poland. None of these readers will have wanted Ms Greer’s seedy memories thrust in their faces on this day of mourning. Nor will many ever consider buying the tabloid Guardian again.
On Sunday, the British press virtually ignored a cataclysmic event. On Monday, they mock it with trivia. These are dreadful symptoms of an industry that has lost its bearings.