Coffee House

People loathe politicians – but do they loathe the political media too?

22 April 2010

One thing’s for certain: the Lib Dems are coming in for greater scrutiny and attention
from the media.  The covers of the Telegraph, Sun, Mail, Express and, yes, The Spectator are testament to that – even if some are less substantial than others.  But the question is: will
this derail the Clegg bandwagon?  And, like Iain Dale, I’m not so sure.

Iain’s point is that some of the coverage is so spiteful that it will "serve to increase his popularity and position in the polls".  He adds that this would be a "sure sign that
the power of the press to influence an election is on the wane".  He’s right, and the theme he identifies is one of the major currents that’s swirling about underneath the surface of this
election campaign.  It might yet turn out to be a tidal shift.  

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The clearest signs of this, so far, have come in the last couple of months.  The Brown bullying, Lord Ascroft and Unite stories electrified the political classes, but did they shift the
polls?  Did they sway hearts and minds?  Not in any clearly discernable way, they didn’t.  And why?  Well, that’s the $64,000 dollar question.  My guess, as I’ve written
before, is that the public regarded them as all too Westminster-centric.  They saw them as
conflicts arranged and prolonged by SpAds, press officers and journalists – rather than something that matters to their everyday lives.

And this is why what happens to Clegg is so interesting from a media perspective.  He may not be the tribune of change that he sells himself as, but people clearly regard him as such. 
And if those same people are left unmoved by all the newspaper coverage, then what does that say about their respect for the traditional media?  Are the column inches simply being
ignored?  Or, worse, are newspapers being lumped in with all those politicians whom voters are so keen to strike out at?

This isn’t to say that the media shouldn’t scrutinise Nick Clegg – far from it.  But there’s a danger that this will be regarded – rightly or wrongly – as poltical journalists protecting their
own.  In the end, the real worry for newspapers and magazines is that they’re all seen as part of an old order – and are treated as such.

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Show comments
  • s pegg

    I do not wish to register but I feel very strongly about the recent sleaze they think can just say sorry and everything is alright but if it was an ordinary person they would be locked up A new government they are all the same


    I was taking an overall view of the thing Peter Hoskin.
    In simple crude terms why should Clegg be given special soft-glove treatment when every other contender for PM is hung out to dry over the smallest statement or blunder.
    Anyway you have a point.
    Apologies if I misrepresented you.

  • Fergus Pickering

    My daughter, who is 26 and not very interested in politics (and therefore typical Libdem foder) happenedto hear Clegg on ‘The World at One’. ‘What a prat!’ she said, ‘Doesn’t know what he’s talking about.’

  • Polly Gamma

    Oldtimer 22/4 4.24pm

    Well Oldtimer I don’t trust the Telegraph either. By slyly dripfeeding revelations they have systemically primed the public into viewing the Liebores to be on a level playing field with all politicians. It borders on treason in my view that they withheld their information expediently let alone that they colluded in general to manoeuvre appropriate scorn and disgust away from the cumulative cock-up that this lot have visited on the country over the last 13 years.

    Since Liebore had been given the privilege of running Parliament for 13 years they should have been utterly vilified for abusing their power and reducing and trashing the institution in the process. Okay all politicians needed to be brought to book about their expenses and there are ways of doing it without the media boosting their readership/viewing figures and turning Parliament into a freak show.

    Therefore in my book the Telegraph journalists are in line for nomination into the sub-human category along with Broondoggle and the rest of the Liebore bozos. In fact more so, because in general the bozos are only following deep ingrained neural pathways engineered by Marxist indoctrination in their early life. The Telegraph (and the majority of the MSM) on the other hand seems to be made up of irresponsible self-serving sell-out merchants acquiescing to a culmination of forces hell bent on trapping the UK in a mire of shite.

  • David Lindsay

    So the fightback by the Tory Press begins. After a week. Week? “Weak”, more like it. What a complete and utter shambles.

  • paulg

    I have no idea what you’re talking about, spiteful? The revelations in the newspapers today were all factual.

    Nazi Nick, as he now calls himself, has questions to answer; especially in light of the fact that he is painting himself whiter than white.

    Unfortunately for some people they don’t like it when become rough. But as Nazi Nick plays dirty, smearing the conservative party, disrespects our history and culture.: We want the questions asked.

    If it all gets too much for you and Iain Dale I suggest you take up yoga or Zen Buddhism; I find it very relaxing: just sit in a quiet place and choose some incantation- in regards to the lib dems, I favour “Yamaha wo tsubusu”. You and Iain Dale can have my chant if you want.

  • oldtimer

    I do not loathe the political media. It is merely necessary to spot the spin from the informed, and often intelligent, comment.

    The Daily Telegraph did a great public service in exposing the expenses scandal. They have drawn attention to Clegg as he set himself up as different, unlike the other two parties. Yet from reading the account of his political career, and how some LibDem MPs are charging their office rent to the taxpayer, they ar in the mire up to their eyeballs as much as the other two parties. This cannot be dismissed as a smear. Furthermore, having read his remarks re the UK and Nazis, I find his comments utterly reprehensible.

  • teledu

    Well said Woody.

  • Le Roi Des Voleurs

    I think the article makes some good points, the media can and will still have influence on voting intentions, but I think rather than the westminster-centric idea I think the public are just bored to death with all the negative stuff, and the additional problem with that is that the parties and media don’t seem to realise.

  • S Ferguson

    People purchase and consume media that conforms to views they already hold. Only political junkies consume from many sources. The BBC’s take on this is that an attack is underway, with Nick Robinson trying to portray Clegg as some kind of underdog beset by a jealous establishment. I doubt this will take hold though since Clegg is as evidently useless as the other two choices.

  • Woody

    The answer to your question is YES, but then you already knew that, hence the question. I haven’t bought a newspaper for months.
    I think you can trace everything back to New Labour’s win in 1997. The sycophantic, suppine press never scrutinised New Labour the way they should have done. If they had, I don’t believe politicis would be in half the mess it is today but you got caught up in all the spin, deceit and bullying. Even now no-one is putting the boot into New Labour (even Andrew Rawnsley who knew what was coming still looked shell-shocked but managed to survive – just).
    Even now Mandelson, Campbell, Balls, Whelan are getting away with it and yet journalists must have enough on these men to bury them 10 feet under.
    I think it’s right to question Nick Clegg over his expenses and scrutinise their policies but the personal smears just won’t work and will backfire.

  • Dick of Doncaster

    Richard of York said:-”I fully expect that the newspaper sales will continue to decline (anyone seen any under 30’s carrying one in the street?) to the point they all become free like the standard.”
    Which newspapers are standard?

  • Pete Hoskin

    Publius: I often put in clarifying sentences because – without them, and in the heated and passionate world of blog comments – people sometimes miscontrue what you’re trying to say.

    Hence the above. I thought I’d just stress that I don’t think extra scrutiny of Clegg is a bad thing – but JONNY seems to have jumped to that conclusion anyway.

    As for my political views, I’m sorry that they’re not clear to you. I’d like to think that across 2000+ blog posts and articles for The Spectator, it would be clear which political figures, ideas and ideologies I like and dislike. I discuss them frequently with other folk – both CoffeeHousers and not – and they seem to know what I’m about.

    Anyway, given your more or less frequent comments attacking me, it seems like my stuff frustrates you for some reason. For that, again, I apologise. I’m always available on phoskin @ to listen to reason, or to deal with any issues, complaints, suggestions or otherwise.

  • Noa Zrk

    Political journalists have an essential role to play in the political and democratic process. If the Fourth Estate doesn’t at least seek to lead the critique who will?
    The question is really about how well and objectively it performs this role. In the view of much of the public the answer is not very. For whatever reason, owner, editorial, peer or other pressure, the requisite objectively and coverage of politics is inherantly left of centre. As a result much reporting precludes rather than promotes comprehensive public debate.

    Thanks to Austin Barry @ 2:04pm for an excellent nature note!

  • Osred

    April 22nd, 2010 2:18pm

    Love ‘Prince of Puke’

  • heath j

    agree with Richard of York – first time ever.

  • Publius

    Mr Hoskin writes to JONNY:
    ‘”JONNY: I’m assuming you missed the line where I wrote “This isn’t to say that the media shouldn’t scrutinise Nick Clegg – far from it.”
    There’s nothing I’ve written above which precludes your observations…’

    — Thing is, Mr Hoskin, you always add these get-out clauses to your paltering puff pieces. One tends to ignore them after a while.

    I sometimes wonder whether your constant inability to make clear your political views and say what you really, honestly think is caused by lack of intellectual clarity, or by editorial control, or by mere timidity.

  • Michael Booth

    Yes is the answer to your question. We loath you because you have not held this government or this prime minister (or indeed his predecessor) to account.

  • donpatrico

    If it’s true that the electorate despises the entire population of ‘the Westminster village’ then a slide into proportional representation [PR] would be ironic, as PR shifts power from the electorate to the politicians: power is secured behind closed doors and the decisive sacking of bad governments by their peoples becomes well-nigh impossible. Italy shows how a 5 party stitch up designed to keep the communists out of power has made change harder to effect. No wonder Brown and Mandelson are not averse. And now the UK is sleepwalking towards a deal between the Lib Dems plus one, with no debate. More on this from the Speccy, please.

  • Publius

    All that this mania demonstrates is the continuing intellectual decline of the population. Even political journalism bores the X-Factor/Celebrity generation.

    It is the abandonment of reason in favour of passion. And such abandonment does not lead to some lefty broad-church feelgood consensus, it leads where it has always led — to the Terror.

  • Richard of York

    Politico journo’s fall into two groups…
    1. Cowards
    2. Liars

    Both hated and despised by the public.

    I fully expect that the newspaper sales will continue to decline (anyone seen any under 30’s carrying one in the street?) to the point they all become free like the standard.
    News media on TV will survive on the back of entertainment but 24hr news is already a turn off….Anyone wonder how they would have filled the last week without the volcano?
    Presenters are now becoming hate figures and after the election I think many will disappear.
    People still like the documentry style investigative journalism but too few companies can be bothered to spend the time and effort on them….the subject matter changes too fast. If they spend 3 weeks researching its already become a non story and over spun by the rest of the press.
    Politics has become a blood sport the substitute for bear baiting or dog fights.
    Still it could be worse try living in North Korea.

  • Pete Hoskin

    JohnPage: good example of what I’m talking about. But, thankfully, I think political blogs (populated by political anoraks like myself) have a bit of leeway when it comes to using words like “SpAd”.

  • heath j

    Of course the “meedja” are as hated. they represent the failures of modern society even more than the Westminster politicos (politicians is far too good for the modern lot like the 21 year old Labour candidate they expect me, an old Labour voter, to vote for). So those with time to think go to the blogs, and those without that luxury make an X factor judgment – who has time to read newspapers?

  • National of Simpletons

    Nick Clegg seems to have won a great deal of popularity last week by presenting himself as a sort of Martin Bell-type figure: an outsider, above the vulgar fray of “old school” politics. He also seemed to try to claim that expenses business was nothing to do with his party. He makes key omissions from his official CV and bangs on about Sheffield, slyly trying to portray himself as a man-of-the-people, in contrast, to the “toff’ Cameron.
    The media have every right to expose this deception. And to scrutinize his attitudes and his party’s policies in great detail.
    We’re choosing a government and a Prime Minister here, not the new Doctor Who. It’s not enough to look nice on the telly.
    It might look nice and shiny on the forecourt from a distance, but I think once you’ve kicked the tyres and given the log book the once over this is one even Arthur Daley would feel rather sheepish about palming off on some mug.

  • JohnPage

    They saw them as conflicts arranged and prolonged by SpAds, press officers and journalists – rather than something that matters to their everyday lives.

    Do you realise how ridiculously this reads? How many people in the country do you think know what a SpAd is?

    You reveal just how Westminster centric you are.

  • Fatbloke on tour

    Concert party in the press get Nick Clegg?
    Don’t forget Brillo and the rest of the BBC Tory attack team

    Well what is new, just a case of same old, same old.

    The right wing, dog boiling establishment want a coronation and they are not going to allow anything to get in the way of what they want and expect.

    Scratchy and the Tory party campaign has been terrible:

    Attack China
    Gary Barlow
    Smoky Joe and the IMF
    Deficit / Tax cutting flip flop
    £6bill efficiency savings mirage.
    Free schools, the Inclosure Act meets education.

    If any Labour or LD leader had said anything similar they would have been shredded.

    All I can say is thank God he is not Welsh.

  • Gawain

    We seem to loathe everything and everyone at the moment. Perhaps we have just become a loathesome country and people are voting for anything new that would allow them to like themselves and each other again.

  • steve

    Your article is getting very close to the core of the problem, in my opinion. I have posted a couple of times over the last days that I am enjoying this election campaign greatly, since not only are the political parties confused, the media is obviously all over the place.

    And it is obvious that the main stream media are aware of this, as the comments section of the articles is where the real battle is being fought. It is so easy to spot the planted ‘readers comments’ which come from the political parties and political activists. They use the same language all the time and simply do not represent the views of the general public.

    The biggest example I have seen of this tactic was in the ‘global warming emails’ news story. Nearly ALL of the readers comments were so unrealistic as to be laughable.

    And I am still going with a LD 40% plus vote and Labour less than 20%. Tonight, GB will get massacred.

  • Pete Hoskin

    JONNY: I’m assuming you missed the line where I wrote “This isn’t to say that the media shouldn’t scrutinise Nick Clegg – far from it.”

    There’s nothing I’ve written above which precludes your observations…

  • Griff

    The trouble is that when you look at the proprietors of these newspapers, they don’t come up smelling of roses.

    The largest Newspaper group is owned by a US citizen who owns some extreme right wing media channels in the US and has dealings with China which many people would regard as unethical.

    Then there are the owners of the Telegraph and of course the Spectator who reside as tax exiles giving their address as Monoco, France.

    Lord Rothermere, the main shareholder in the Daily Mail is another Non-Dom and the least said about how Richard ‘Diry Des’ Desmond made his millions the better.

    So, do I think these people have the interests of the general public at heart? No, I don’t.

  • Adrian Sells

    Am I alone in being bemused by the whole Cleggmania phenomenon?
    I watched (some) of the first debate and failed to be overwhelmed by any of the leaders. Granted Clegg had most to gain and certainly was all right, but hardly on a par with Churchill. Isn’t the reaction actually the result of the next morning’s media hysteria?
    The press have decided they need to spice up this dull election and have created a Clegg narrative. I am now waiting for them to knock him down further, having built him in up in the first place.
    If it weren’t for the bookies changing their odds, I’d be inclined to discount all the opinion polls and suggest that the whole Clegg affair was just a media confection. In reality I hear of nobody who’s changed his or her mind with regard to their voting intentions; but, then again, maybe I don’t speak to enough floating voters.


    If Cameron or Brown had made that stupid Nazi remark all Hell would have broken loose across the media.
    But with Cleggy – it’s don’t be so nasty.
    When, as of today, the mass media takes a poniard and slices into the overblown bladder of LD hypocrisy, we murmur “oh dear. Oh dear. How very unfair. let’s be nice to the lad.”
    Let’s put it another way. Your article is pathetic Hoskin. How namby-pamby do you want to get?

  • TomTom

    Politics is cheap news and easily scripted. real News costs money and requires travel and analysis. Media in Britain is Soap Opera and deals in stereotypes rather like the old Music Hall.

    MSM is simply Hello Magazine and real news migrated to the Internet with Pajamas Media and other Samizdat outlets

  • Andrew

    I agree that there are points that deserve closer scrutiny just as with any politician, particularly one wishing to become PM. I do believe, though, that this is a deliberate and concerted attempt to undermine Clegg on what will essentially be an election-deciding day.

    These papers have taken stories and spun them up to the absolute limits of credibility for the very purpose of bringing down the Lib Dems. if you dig into the facts behind the stories, and assess the sources for yourself, they amount to very little. I think the story has now become the right-wing negative campaign, and not Clegg himself.

    One other thing that is relevant here, and that is that print media is unleashing something it can’t control and doesn’t understand – social media. The immediate and damning response in the twittersphere to the report today has shown that people aren’t buying what the papers are selling anymore. The political discussion is very slowly changing but the bi-partisan press hasn’t yet caught on and they will get hammered for it.

  • Vulture

    It is no accident ( as an old Marxist would say) that the reptilian Mandelslime was defending his new chum Nick on the World at One today.

    Ignoring Martha Kearney’s repeated squeaks of ‘Why are you third in the polls?’ the Prince of Puke laid into the outrageous Tory press for turning over Nick’s wormy stones.

    And there are plenty of worms : just listen to this multi-millionaire trying to justify putting his cake tins on his exes to young voters on R1 yesterday. Or watch Conservative Home’s attack vid on his other dodgy dealings – he claimed more on exes than either Bruin or Dave. So much for the ‘new politics’. More like the ‘old corruption’.

    Mandelslime’s game – now that Bruin is toast – is to stitch up a deal with Millipede major as PM, Nick C. as Deputy Dawg, Vince Baldemort as Chancellor and himself slithering in to the Foreign Office. It sounds like the nightmare ticket to me.

  • Tiberius

    Perhaps the trouble with the wordsmiths is that they can’t provide the instant gratification of the broadcast media. They also require a bit of effort to read.

    Reading about the ball hitting the back of the net or about a dancing dog on Britain’s Got Talent doesn’t really do it. Why should the drama of politics be any different, at least for the TV watching public (a majority)?

    It should be different because it is obviously more important than sport or entertainment. But thanks to Blair, many (or even most) of the public don’t see it that way.

  • Neil Turner

    “And why?”

    it depends on who is presenting

    This morning I listened to the Today show on R4. They reported the Nick clegg bank account story in such a way as to make it seem like the Tories were muck-raking.

    Driving some 35000 miles pa I listen the BBC a lot. Whilst they imply balanced reporting, they usually let their true felings, and obvious bias, be shown through their “tone”.

    This is subtle but effective biasp

  • John Staines

    The vitriol of the press this morning says a lot more about their agenda than about Nick Clegg’s. I imagine that most people inclined to support the LibDems will see the press behaviour as confirmation of what is wrong with the current political set-up.

  • Ben G

    Yes, especially the Mail.

  • AndyinBrum

    For the mail to make a fuss about anyone else supporting the nazi’s is hypocracy of the highest order

  • toco

    Why on earth shouldn’t Clegg be subject to the same scrutiny and criticism as Brown and Cameron or are the LibDems untouchable?Clegg is an ex lobbyist who knows his way around Westminster and to try and play the smear card just shows he is not fit to move into a higher position.

  • Austin Barry

    A study of the dung beetle (Geotrupidae Latreille) is instructive:

    “Many dung beetles, known as rollers, are noted for rolling dung into spherical balls, which are used as a food source..”

    (i.e. the press.)

    “Other dung beetles, known as tunnelers, bury the dung wherever they find it.”

    (i.e. party members.)

    “A third group, the dwellers, neither roll nor burrow: they simply live in manure.”

    (i.e politicians.)

  • In2minds

    Follow your link to Iain Dale and we see “These Shameful Attacks on Clegg Will Backfire”. So why has Lord Mandy spent all his life spinning? It must work as so many people do it, some get paid too.

  • Dean

    The Mail’s attacks on his ethnic background are disgusting, but amongst the smears there are some serious points that merit a response. It is highly odd, for example, for party donations to have gone to his personal account, even if it was permitted under the rules. If a City professional treated client money in a similar manner, he/she would face enforcement action by the FSA.

    It’s surely also relevant that Clegg thinks the British are obsessed by the Second World War (we aren’t) and that we consider ourselves to be different from continental Europe (clearly we are), and that he regards this as problematic. It matters to me that a potential PM should have a good understanding of British history and the aspects of British culture that make us different and distinctive. And it matters that he/she should not be unduly apologetic about these things.

  • Peter From Maidstone

    The answer to your question is yes. We do loath the political media as much as politicians.

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