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Sunday, April 25, 2010

Rows, backlash and assumptions - the media take stock

The expected onslaught against the Liberal Democrats in the Sunday papers has largely failed to happen. Instead, many have put aside the vituperation of Wednesday and Thursday to take stock of the campaign.

This does not mean that there are no juicy insights. The Sunday Telegraph for example, rather predictably turns its sights onto Labour with a story about civil war within the party as they slump in the polls:

As recriminations over Labour's performance grow, with signs that the party has changed its strategy and in future will encourage Mr Brown to meet more "ordinary" voters, Ms Harman, the party's deputy leader, has told cabinet colleagues of her humiliation at the hands of Lord Mandelson, who is running the party's campaign.

It came as senior Labour figures met to devise their response to the Conservatives' plans to offer married couples a tax deduction worth up to £150 a year through a transferable allowance.

A Labour Party spokesman refused to be drawn on the disagreement last night. However, a senior source said: "Harriet said she made a suggestion – only for Peter to tell her to shut up and that he didn't want to hear from her again. She has been virtually invisible ever since."

The Independent on Sunday provides an interesting narrative of what lay behind the vitriolic headlines seeking to smear Clegg and the Liberal Democrats:

A vivid insight into their mindset was offered by David Yelland, former editor of The Sun, who wrote last week of how the paper boycotted the Liberal Democrat's conference every year "for fear of encouraging them". Although a fifth of the country has consistently supported the party, The Sun had a policy of pretending it did not exist. Yelland went on to describe a "great game" played by editors with the other two parties: "The trick is to ally yourself with the winner and win influence or at least the ear of the prime minister." This time, The Sun has very publicly allied itself with Cameron. No wonder Rebekah Brooks and James Murdoch are in a bad mood.

By last Sunday, no doubt in part because Clegg was dominating the news and comment agenda, his poll standing was off the traditional scale. The Mail on Sunday actually had the Lib Dems ahead of both other parties – for the first time, as it put it, in 104 years.

But a furious backlash was beginning and, according to the Lib Dems, it was encouraged and possibly even co-ordinated by the Tory campaign team. They allege that George Osborne summoned right-wing political reporters to briefings last Monday about responding to the Clegg surge.

Whatever the truth of that charge, what followed, building up to the day of the second debate, was pinch-yourself amazing. Like children in a tantrum, reporters and commentators reached for every movable object and hurled it at Clegg and his party.

The Observer though takes a more considered approach to the implications of the Liberal Democrats' surge in the polls and offers some suggestions as to why the backlash fell on stoney ground:

The shared mistake of the increasingly unpopular duopolists was to carry on assuming that power would continue to alternate between the two of them. Labour has had a death-bed conversion to a minimalist version of electoral reform when it could have and should have embraced change from a position of strength in its first term. The Tories went into this election believing that they could secure unfettered power on a minority of the vote simply by repeating that Gordon Brown is rubbish. They believed that fairly minimal modernisation of themselves combined with simplistic slogans about change would restore them to their previous pomp. They took it for granted that David Cameron just had to turn up at the TV debates to win them. These encounters between the leaders have crystallised something that was already apparent before the election had begun: the Tories never clinched it with the country. David Cameron sounds persuasive to those who are already basically persuaded that they are going to vote Conservative. He struggles to net the unconverted. In fact, since the campaign began, he has lost more floating voters than he has gained.

The Tories are paying for coming to this election with a sense of entitlement to power. Labour, too, was arrogantly complacent, odd though that may seem when we are talking about a party with a very unpopular leader who has presided over the worst recession since 1945. Most of Labour's senior ranks expected to lose, but they still assumed that they were entitled to ownership of progressive Britain and could demand its votes for Labour if only on the uninspiring grounds that this would limit the size of a Tory victory. Gordon Brown has found it hard to conceal his bewilderment that he is having to debate with a Lib Dem, never mind that the Lib Dem should be pushing him into third place.

The Conservatives, for all the superficial modernity of their marketing, are staging an essentially traditional form of gridded campaign and finding, just like their friends in the Tory press, that the old playbooks no longer work. The opinion polls gyrate from day to day, but one message from them is clear and consistent. At some collective, unconscious level, the nation has decided that it does not trust either Labour or the Tories to clean up politics if one of them is allowed to govern alone. Nor does it trust either of them to take sole responsibility for the economy, taxation and public services.

With a week and a half to go there is everything to play for. I have never known a General Election like it and would not want to even to begin to predict what will happen next.
The consistent message from the polls seems to be a need for a government formed by the Conservative Party ...

... with the electorate voting to make government a difficult prospect.

Nothing worth while is easy.
You are obviously reading different polls to everyone else. From what I can see they are saying that people do not trust any party to form a majority government.
Peter I've just received the Liberal Democrat leaflet. Can I say as a democrat, I was disappointed to see a picture in the leaflet which portrayed politicians as pigs. Politicians of all parties should rightly in my opinion be criticised if they have been involved in the expenses scandal.From my experience,however, most politicians whatever their political opinions are not in politics to exploit the system.Suggesting that main stream politicians are like pigs with their heads in the trough should be the province of right or left wing extremists and should not be used by a party such as the Liberal Democrats who after all are the heirs to the Liberal tradition in British politics. I really couldn't see men such as Joe Grimond or David Steel sanctioning the use of such an image.
Hi Jeff, I have not seen that leaflet and as far as I am aware it is unique in that no other Liberal Democrat leaflet seeks to do the same thing. Indeed the templates we sent out to candidates sought to convey positive messages about our policies and where they criticised the other parties did so on the basis of their actions and their beliefs rather than getting personal.
Cameron really frustrates me. He continually attacks a 'hung' parliament. Nick Clegg should ask him why then visited Sweden a few years ago to learn how the Swedish Moderate Party took out the Swedish Social Democrats for the first time since the early nineties.

The Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, the Leader of the Moderates (whom Cameron met and wanted to emulate) had to form an Alliance government with the two Liberal Parties and the Christian Democrats.

Sweden has had a rough time of it, just like the rest of Europe but there have people no people on the streets, no civil strife, no crisis.

Clegg should hit him with that next time.

Here is the youtube clip where he admits to being there to learn how the Moderates won the election:

Where you replied ...
"You are obviously reading different polls to everyone else."

Today's front page of the Sunday Times:

Conservative ... 35% (up)
Labour ... 27% (down)
Lib Dem ... 28% (down)

You should have had the Plaid leaflet by now too.

Contents rather bland, they copied the Lib Dem Graph using the European Election results and saying "The lib dems can't win here"

Perhaps the lib dems should have given some specific examples of pigs with their noses in the trough, Elfyn Llwyd professional services regarding tax returns £857.75, Adam Price professional services regarding tax returns £293.75. The Plaidies have come out of the expenses scandal scott free.

Anyone else notice that the Plaid candidate for Ogmore only joined the nationalist within the past few months? Their original candidate was Sian Caiach, a consultant from Carmarthenshire. Search the BBC News site for further details.

Or the Tory candidate is from Seven Oaks in Kent?
On that poll Stonemason, the Tories could not form a government alone.
On that poll Stonemason, the Tories could not form a government alone.

I have no problem with that, its democracy.
The criticism of the home town origin of any candidate in any UK election is not only pathetic but frankly racist. The fact that the Tory candidate for Ogmore is from Kent is pretty irrelevant. I can't ever remember a Tory candidate who was local. Michael Foot was from Devon and Jim Callaghan was from Portsmouth. Lloyd George was born in Manchester and Wigley in Derby. Who cares? What should matter is a person's ability and their policies. In this election ,we can safely forget about the ability of a local candidate to win votes. Even in the 1960s in his famous book the political scientist Jean Blondel argued that a really good local candidate was probably only worth a thousand votes. In the age of TV debates Nick Clegg has shown the importance of the Party leader in ensuring the success of his or her party. I'm sure that already thousands of postal voters have cast their votes on the impression gained from the first two leadership debates and without any idea of the qualities of the local candidate of the party of their choice. In fact to date I've only received the Labour and Liberal Democrat leaflets. If I were a floating voter neither leaflet would have influenced me one bit in how I would cast my vote. In the age of the TV debate the value of the party leaflet has frankly been reduced to fodder for tomorrow's recycling bin I'm afraid.
The Tories have a habbit of parachuting people into unwinable constituencies to see what sort of job they will make of their campaign with a view to moving on to more "achievable" constituencies.

Case in point being Miss Rees-Mogg, stood in Aberafan in 2005, now standing in Somerton & Frome.

I think that even the Tories could find two individuals from the locality to stand in Brigend & Ogmore.

If a small party like UKIP can find someone fairly local (Vale of Glam) then I think the Tories can too.
Voting floaters go Lava-Tory...
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