I am beginning to get worried (again) about the coverage of our political conferences. This is mainly based on watching the BBC’s conference coverage (Daily Politics etc.) and Channel 4 News. I am afraid that I have almost given up on the print media.
The “other” parties
Coverage of the conferences of the Ulster Parties, the Nationalists, The Green Party and UKIP has been next to invisible. This is a pity, but not surprising.
The Liberal Democrats
Why is it such a shock-horror that Liberals vote against Coalition policy? I would be worried if they endorsed each element of the program. If the Conservative Conference were given the chance, I’m sure they would vote against elements of Coalition policy.
So why the endless questioning of whether front bench spokesmen were embarrassed by the vote on Gove’s education policy? Is the sole purpose of the coverage to embarrass politicians or to explore what the party is all about?
Likewise, why the speculation over whether there will be an electoral pact or even a merger before the next election? How many governing coalitions have actually lead to mergers?
The questioning is mischief-making, time-wasting and not even very entertaining.
The questioning as to when the leading members of the Lib Dems had their Damascene conversion to “deep cuts” is an interesting one. But the question was just endlessly repeated and the consistent answer that “The European Finance Ministers meeting the week-end after the election” should have been probed. Andrew Neil could have called up Stephanie Flanders or Robert Peston and asked them if that response stood up – instead he (over and over again) expressed horror that a politician changes their position when the world changes.
The Labour Party
Oh Dear, but I suppose a Leadership Election does give ammunition for mischief-making! Sad though that it (and the fall out that the media itself seems to be almost creating) is dominating the coverage.
So the bookies favourite did not win – big deal. But the winner came through with majority support across the electoral college – all in accordance with the workings of AV and the rules of the electoral college (which is inevitable when you are trying to elect a leader of a Movement as well as of a Party and a Parliamentary Group).
The Labour Party’s electoral arrangements are more transparent than the Conservatives (and the Tory’s system* also allows the Party to elect someone who does not have the support of the majority of the MPs, but again they are electing a leader both of the Party in the Country and of the Parliamentary Group), but does that justify then endless questioning of an entirely proper result? * and the Lib Dems.
And then the speculation about David Miliband and his position. It’s easy; he narrowly failed to win a post he has wanted for years – he must have been (and still be) gutted. He does not have to make a decision about his future until nominations for the shadow cabinet election close tomorrow. He could not make an immediate snap decision – that would look like rashness and would be interpreted as either leaving in a sulk, or staying to undermine his brother. And now, following his brother’s “Leader’s speech”, he has gone home – I don’t blame him.
What else has Labour been doing since Saturday? I would like to know. I would even like to know more about what people think about the “Leader’s speech” – beyond the fact that “David is upset because Ed said the Iraq war was wrong”. (Newsnight was better here.)
Will the Conservatives get similarly asinine coverage? I don’t want the BBC in particular to appear biased by giving sensible coverage to the Tories, but on the other hand I would like to see proper coverage and examination of what the Tories are up to with our economy. Where do they think growth will come from – or do they think it is unimportant; if so why? Do they have any comprehension how the very poor will cope – when their supporters can spend on a single restaurant meal (without drinks), what a family might have to live on for a week? Do they really think that you cannot control bankers’ remuneration – and if so what are the consequences – or do they not care? Or will Andrew Neil (the worst offender) spend his time trying to get Tories to repeat some of the ruder things they said about the Liberals during the election? Both Coalition parties have admitted that they both said a few things during the election that they regret. They are trying to be adult – perhaps the media should be as well. Move on.
But I won’t hold my breath – I might pass out.