Exposes of NHS Tourism and the Government's Short-Sighted Drugs Policy, as Well as the Launch of a National Referendum: Old-Fashioned Campaigning Journalism Is Back in Fashion. (Watching Brief)

Article excerpt

After the 2001 election, the BBC agonised over the future of its political coverage, searching for a way of engaging those people who had turned away both from the ballot box and from the box in the corner. A solution was found--Jeremy Vine's The Politics Show replaced John Humphrys's On the Record-- and the search began for a new yoof show.

For all its open-necked modernity, The Politics Show has proved itself to be a slick and hard-edged hour of strait-laced politics in a lavender setting. Yoof, however, was abandoned in favour of the wider under-45 audience and Weekend with Rod Liddle and Kate Silverton was born (given the first show, many would say stillborn). It is now halfway through a planned six-week run. I did the show last week, and can say it needs more time -- and deserves it.

I have been a fan of Liddle's since my days working for William Hague, when he was the editor of the Today programme. I suspect a lot of the criticism he is now getting is born of envy. Front-of-house journalists hate seeing a backroom boy catapulting on to the little screen.

Weekend got off to a very bad start, but there is a kind of Bogart-and-Bacall chemistry between the cleverly shambolic Liddle and the cool and classy Silverton. Surely, with about [pounds sterling]2.6bn of our money to play with, the BBC should give this ugly duckling a chance.

Whether it's the Baghdad bounce in their step or the palpable lack of an effective opposition, our newspapers have rediscovered their campaigning zeal. It was no surprise that the rightwing press would fight the new European constitution tooth and nail, but the Daily Mail campaign, culminating in the paper's own national referendum on 12 June -- on whether there should be a referendum -- is a classic and rare case of a paper putting its money where its mouth is.

The Guardian's series on the criminal justice system kicked off with a damning indictment of the way the government is treating, or rather failing to treat, the drug users who commit an estimated 7.5 million crimes in Britain each year. Hot on its heels was the paper's investigation into the chaos that has become the education system. Meanwhile, Harriet Sergeant's investigation into NHS tourism in the Daily Telegraph proved so irresistible the Mail ran it three days later.

The Times has had a remarkable run of education stories -- from the 3,000 teachers facing the axe to the humiliating failure of Tony Blair's [pounds sterling]800m flagship policy for lifting inner-city schools. …