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National media should not be smearing the world of property

Paul Finch
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Truth and fairness fly out of the window when the hacks start a witch-hunt, says Paul Finch

Last week, national newspapers lined up to try to find evidence of bad male behaviour at MIPIM, despatching reporters from London with a predetermined story to ‘back up’. Some aggressive questioning failed to produce much, so a bizarre revelation was conjured up by The Guardian: ‘The organisers of MIPIM, the property industry’s annual “champagne, yachts and fun” bash in Cannes, have … reminded the 25,000 attendees that “under no circumstances does MIPIM register prostitutes”.’

Whoever said MIPIM did register prostitutes? Does anyone really think that sex workers would pay 1,500 euros to access the Palais des Festivals and ply their trade in full view of thousands of delegates, not to mention security staff? You don’t expect this sort of stuff from The Guardian, even though it is now a tabloid. (Ladies of the night were active, incidentally, because their trade is not illegal. It has nothing to do with MIPIM, except that non-locals supplement the scene when there are festivals in town.)

Daily Mail hacks failed to find any sex stories to write about, and confined themselves to attacking local authorities, who dared to attend MIPIM in order to seek funding and developers for regeneration projects.

Daily Mail hacks failed to find any sex stories to write about, and confined themselves to attacking local authorities

For example, the Mail heroically exposed how Leicestershire County Council splashed out a massive £1,211.69 – at a time when the county is increasing council tax by 6 per cent. No wonder it is such a gigantic increase when such out-of-control expenditure (not) is being incurred overseas.

Of course, if a council seeks private funding for its MIPIM presence, the media presents this as proving that councillors and officials are in the pocket of the sponsors, one level up from personal corruption.

From observation, local authority delegates work extremely hard, attend meetings morning, noon and night, and network very effectively. They are perfectly entitled to enjoy what Cannes has to offer, or as the Mail likes to describe it, ‘a champagne jolly on the Riviera’.

Pim17 0569

Pim17 0569

The obsessive nature of what has begun to pass for balanced reporting in some quarters begins to have an effect on its over-generalised targets, which is that they cease to believe what the media is saying about them, and then cease to believe what is being reported about anything else. At this point, people with a very vested interest smear all media with the ‘fake news’ tab: but once you condone smears you have to live with the consequences.

Witch-hunts, however worthy any motive might originally have been, mean that decent people get damaged along the way. The next thing is that you are required to ‘prove’ you are not a groper or something worse by wearing a stupid badge – as though that means anything at all. After all, if you are a bad person, you will by definition not mind lying about your true nature and wear the badge with bogus pride.

Before the zealot brigade starts pouring ordure, let me make it clear that I have no interest in condoning improper behaviour by men, individually or collectively. I of course agree that there is a huge gender imbalance in property and construction.

My concern is what happens if truth and fairness fly out of the window. Harvey Soning, the 72-year-old founder of the now-disbanded Presidents Club, has raised tens of millions for charity over the years and has been accused of nothing personally, but smeared by association. If a tiny minority of oafs behave badly, it does not mean their values are shared, or their behaviour endorsed, by the vast majority of men in the world of property or, for that matter, architecture. At MIPIM or anywhere else.

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