The Iron Lady is no more

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The Iron Lady. A woman who did not turn. Tributes have been paid to Lady Thatcher after the announcement of her death, aged 87. She had suffered a stroke.

A divisive individual, she brought about anger in the North of England with the closure of mines. The privitasion of many sectors, including the railway industry proved to be a legacy (good or bad) which is still felt today. Her leadership during the Falklands War is something which is significant when considering her impact.

Thatcher was an individual who did not take hurt or offence from the newspaper headlines and her strong-minded approach is something which could have brought about parts of her downfall. An uncompromising approach to the economy and straight view of privatising industry are some of the factors have caused intense debate. In recent years, suffering from illness, Margaret Thatcher was rarely seen in public. The last time she was seen was in Downing Street during the leadership of Gordon Brown.

She was pushed out of office by her colleagues in 1991 – the longest-serving and the first and currently only female British Prime Minister. Her policies and personality divided opinion. As today’s commentators have insisted, there may have been disagreement over her policies, but there is respect for a politician who has had such an impact.

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Miliband brother quits parliament.

Brotherly Love: The Milibands split from politics.

Brotherly Love: The Milibands split from politics.

Former Foreign Secretary David Miliband has quit parliament to begin a new life and career in New York. Miliband who was famously pipped to the post by his brother, Ed, for the Labour Party leadership contest, said that “After a great deal of thought I’ve decided to accept the position of President and CEO of the International Rescue Committee (IRC)”.

So what effect will this have on both brothers? Ed Miliband always insisted the door was open for his brother to be a part of his shadow cabinet, however David did not take up the offer, suggesting he would be a part of a “soap opera” within politics. Considering if he stayed on the back benches of the Labour party, Mr Miliband (D) said he would not be able to fulfil his role and interest in politics and serving the people of the United Kingdom and his constituents of South Shields. Clearly a very difficult decision where David Miliband has been caught in a no win situation. Quitting as an MP and taking on new challenges is probably the only way forward.

For Ed Miliband, his full concentration can now be on leading his party and preparing for the 2015 General Election, without the knowledge he would be hampering his brother’s political chances. For both brothers, however, there is the news that they are to split and reside on either side of the Atlantic. I’m sure this would be a difficult decision for any family, regardless of career and figure in the political world. What the long-term effect will be on both brothers will be will become clearer in the coming months and years.

Will David Miliband return from the United States and will Ed Miliband feel politically lost without his brother supporting him? Either way, todays decision is, as some commentators have suggested, “a touch of love”. The David Miliband exit is to allow his brother to develop further as a leader and for the greater good of his party. Former colleagues of Miliband including Lord Mandelson have hinted he could return to politics in the future; Former Prime Minister Tony Blair said he hoped it was “time out and not time over“.

PROFILE: Sir Trevor McDonald

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He is quite possibly the most recognisable face in British television news. The word ‘retirement’ is not one to be used when it comes to Sir Trevor McDonald. There are many people who inspire me when it comes to journalism and a career in the media. Sir Trevor is at the top of that list.

McDonald made history by becoming the first black newsreader in the UK, presenting with Independent Television News –ITN. His career, though, began in Trinidad during the 1960’s before producing programmes for BBC Radio. It wasn’t until the early 1970’s that Trevor became a general news reporter for ITN, later becoming a sports correspondent and further developing as an expert in international politics.

When it came to presenting news programmes, Sir Trevor worked for a short time with Channel 4 News, before working on the Early Evening News and ultimately presenting the flagship News at Ten and weekday late news between the late 1980’s and 2005. Ask anybody about their first thoughts when they think of News at Ten and Sir Trevor McDonald will be a part of that.
In 2005, Sir Trevor retired for the first time, however continued to host Tonight with Trevor McDonald, a weekly documentary series investigating an individual news and current affairs topic every week. However, in 2008, the return of the News to ten o’clock also saw the then 68 year old return to prime time news, before his second retirement within the year.

Following his retirement from news altogether, Sir Trevor ventured into documentary making with productions including The Secret Caribbean and The Mighty Mississippi. His courteous attitude and genuine passion for other people’s cultures and views provided a real insight into parts of the world through different eyes. The most recent project Trevor has worked on was a ratings success for ITV.

Inside Death Row was broadcast in January 2013 and followed Sir Trevor McDonald investigating the so called “death row” in the United States – a high detention security prison with the most violent inmates on the waiting list for the death penalty. In interviews beforehand, McDonald, now 73, stated how he disagreed with the death penalty, yet the documentary was an eye opening and insightful look at a system unfamiliar in Britain. The way in which McDonald conducted himself in his interviews with prison inmates and staff did, to some extent, show how he felt toward the system, however the genuine interest and passion for investigative journalism also counter balanced with allowing the inmates and staff to have their say. It was the genuine character of Sir Trevor McDonald which provided the success for ITV, a reliable and enthusiastic journalist, providing an unbiased and open minded approach to other world systems.

As a professional and as a man, Sir Trevor McDonald, was and still remains a heartbeat of British news. His famous tone of voice, powerful and instantly recognisable, has sometimes been the butt of jokes. He has interviewed figures including heads of states, including presidents, prime ministers and ordinary people at the centre of extraordinary news. His passionate, caring and professional approach comes across in a way that shows Sir Trevor to be worthy of his knighthood for services to broadcasting. A genuine thirst for news and journalism is what Sir Trevor stands for and his career and character is one to aspire to.

‘Breaking News’ – The snow is back.

ITV News presenters Mary Nightingale and Alastair Stewart bring us the latest on the snow.

ITV News presenters Mary Nightingale and Alastair Stewart bring us the latest on the snow.

British news has once again been dominated by the old trouble maker herself, the weather. Again. But is it really necessary for this same old story about travel disruption, power cuts and how we are coping in the “freezing conditions” to have the worthy of nearly half the air time of an evening news bulletin? I think not.

There is a clear argument for the reports on the weather, keeping viewers informed with any disruption to their travels and whether or not their kid’s school is closed. But surely this kind of news can be kept for a short update within a local news bulletin. News of how many schools have been closed in Wales and Northern Ireland is most irrelevant to a viewer in Newcastle. There is an art of recycling when it comes to weather news reports. The standard procedure applies as follows: Top headline about snow; travel disruption because of the snow; how people have been “battling the elements”; a warning from police not to travel; and of course, the question everyone wants to know – is more on the way? I guarantee if you watch a news bulletin on a ‘snow day’ this procedure or near abouts will be the one that dominates.

When it comes to reporting on the snowy conditions and “treacherous driving conditions”, there is an element of shock. That shock, however, is that the expense of other motorists. For instance, a common report on the travel disruption begins with scenes of motorways around the country which appear dangerous and un-driveable. But then follows the repeated phrase, “a number of accidents…” which then leads into footage of cars off the road, often in ditches, recognising how very dangerous the roads are. Sometimes there will be dramatic footage from a camera phone showing a car, sometimes a bus, sliding in icy surfaces. Very shocking. But then again, why would any driver be so careless to pass through icy conditions and put their own lives at risk? The ordinary viewer, who hasn’t ventured out because of the cold, voices their opinions within the family – “stupid”, “idiot”, “why didn’t they stay at home” – So whilst the reports do highlight the somewhat incompetence of drivers who ignore previous warnings, they highlight the danger on the roads, underlying the message of the danger in the snow and NOT TO TRAVEL..(unless absolutely 100% vital, of course).

Another regular feature which appears on ‘snow day’ news programmes is the art of crossing from the cosy and warm newsroom to the arctic like conditions of the Lake District, Glasgow, Belfast, Buxton, Cornwall and Cardiff (not always used), in the traditional ‘sweep’ around the country to get the wider picture. Mainly so a viewer in the south can comment on how much snow they have had compared to the North. Then follows the ‘Live OB’ – the Outside Broadcast. “Lets cross to Cumbria and get the latest from there…” proclaims the newsreader and then follows one of the single most depressing shots for anyone who wants to be a part of news – one of the country’s brilliant TV journalists, used to battling court room dramas and breaking news, stands freezing, covered in snow and red-faced, in a farmer’s field. There has to be some admiration for these reporters who brave the conditions to bring us the details of what is happening. Although, quite a lot of the time, the closures, conditions and power cuts that are being experienced in Scotland are quite the same to those in Cardiff. It is an endless ‘arctic circle’.

At one time, it used to be a novelty to have a news bulletin dedicated to the ‘chaos’ that the snow has brought. Nowadays, with climate change and differences to our weather patterns, snow is bedding down more regular. Where I live, between Liverpool and Manchester, there have been around four different snowfalls in the past six months! Despite that the same reports and information surface – Don’t travel unless necessary; check with your tour operator; stay indoors; check on your neighbours. Compare that to the United States where snow drifts are vast and we look like a country that can’t cope with the white stuff. The news is supposed to be an operation that provides the latest new news. Although each snowfall is new the news that surrounds it is far from that.

So don’t forget to take care in the snow and of course, in the words of great journalists and presenters, “don’t travel if it’s not essential.”