I have enjoyed reading the reaction in the UK media following Eddie Mair’s typically relaxed laceration of The Man Who Would Be King on Newsnight at the weekend. Mair, for me, as someone who listens to a lot of radio, has been one of the best radio journalist in the UK since I used to listen to him years ago on Good Morning Scotland on BBC Radio Scotland. Talk of him finally making a move onto television news is both welcome and sad, since he will be undoubtedly excellent on the screen (as Newsnight showed) but will be missed from radio if he comes to neglect that medium.
But amidst all the chatter about Mair’s performance and Johnston’s dismal showing, I couldn’t help notice one telling phrase used by Leo Benedictus in his Guardian appraisal of Mair on Monday 25th March.
Born and brought up in Dundee, state-educated, the son of a lorry driver and a nurse, he was as obvious a broadcasting prodigy as you could ever find.
It was ‘state-educated’ that caught my eye. Here in Scotland, we would simply call Mair ‘educated’. That Benedictus thinks it important to add the qualifier tells us so much about the condition of English education.