Five months of mainstream media election coverage


…and even the politics obsessives like me find this a depressing scenario

Matt Frei of Channel 4 News is spot on at 4m37s

…and then goes for the jugular at 5m00s

An utterly depressing political exchange which felt like both sides had been coached in how to get their ‘lines to take’ into the footage. In my opinion.

Labour and Conservatives retreating to their safe zones at a national level?

Monday’s ‘news’ was depressing in terms of how controlled and stage-managed it was. Labour going after the Tories on the NHS, and the Tories going after Labour on the economy. Lots of shouting across the airwaves, lots of talking about how ‘orrible the other lot were, little discussion & exposition of the policies they are standing on. None of the parties so far have been able to communicate a vision of what life might be like in 2020. A positive vision, a sound strategy and consistent, co-ordinated credible policies on how to make this happen. Too much to ask for?

The thing is, tactically both Labour and Conservatives are content at a national level for this level of debate. Talk to activists on both sides and they’ll say compared to the Lib Dems, at least the other side are principled and as adversaries you know where they are. Thus they are easier to target. ‘Ideological shape-shifters’ was how one local Labour activist described their Lib Dem opponents to me. Harder now though for the Lib Dems because they’ve got the record of being in coalition tied to them. The Tories won’t want to let them get away with: “Well, things would have been even worse if it was the Tories alone in government!” while Labour understandably will be saying “All of this bad stuff happened because you went into coalition!”

Labour’s troubles north of the border

I was astonished to see this from the newly elected leader of Scottish Labour – calling for a mansion tax to pay for Scottish nurses and quote: ‘over and above anything the SNP promise.’

Two issues with this. The first is that they have framed a policy with a massive reference to their political opponents. Rather than having a ballpark figure of the number of medical personnel needed, they’ve said: SNP+1000. So if the SNP for a laugh say: “We’ll have infinity nurses!” …exactly.

The second issue is Murphy framing the funding for this as being one drawn from London. Tactically he can say that because the SNP want independence, they can’t campaign for this extra funding. But it doesn’t make things easier for Labour activists in London faced with a “You’d give our money to Scotland!” message that the London-based media will have a field day with. Even though policy-wise such a tax only hits those with properties valued at £2million.

The result? Policy-wise Labour looks disunited because of the public disagreements. It also gives the impression of a lack of co-ordination and a lack of strategy. Not what you want just before an election.

“What about the other parties?”

In the context of Cambridgeshire, me and Richard Taylor, a fellow community reporter discussed this with Chris Mann on BBC Cambridgeshire. Have a listen below.

There was much more that both of us wanted to say. In Cambridgeshire, any upsets I think will be at council seat level, with UKIP gaining more seats in the north of the county and possibly the Greens with one or two in Cambridge City and the south. The big unknown is where the Greens and UKIP will be taking votes from – assuming they do. Will voters that backed them at the European elections in Cambridge (over 12,000 in total for the Greens & UKIP, at roughly 7,000 & 5,000 each) return to the main three, or are they sufficiently weak vs-a-vs Greens & UKIP for them to stick with their 2014 voting pattern?

TV trying out new things in this election

Newsnight’s Emily Maitlis is trying out joining running clubs, asking members about politics in the process of joining them on their runs.

This I like because there’s a shared activity – one that you have to be passionate about to do it. Getting up early in the morning when it’s cold and wet takes a lot of motivation. Rather than approaching people in the awkward arena of a town centre, she’s embedding herself in community groups who happen to be doing something that she’s passionate about (outside journalism) as well.

Anglia TV are also trying out engaging with schools. (See here). This is something I’m going to see if Shape Your Place can help with too.

Sophy Ridge of Sky has also made a list of things politicians should avoid in this campaign – see here. This sort of links to David Dimbleby’s superb lecture on the future of the political interview. It’s a long lecture but worth watching in full.

So all of this along with the social media commentary I’ve observed is that even the mainstream media are getting sick of the current state of play. It remains to be seen whether something gives (and if so, what) with the way things are. My guess is that it won’t be something major, but rather something seemingly innocuous that sets things off.

We live in interesting times…


One thought on “Five months of mainstream media election coverage

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s