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Friday, July 08, 2011

Nick Clegg and Rupert Murdoch

An old Guardian comment is free column from former Sun Editor, David Yelland sets Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg apart from the politicians in their dealings with Rupert Murdoch. Unfortunately, it is not because Nick is more virtuous than the others just that back before the General Election he was less important:

Make no mistake, if the Liberal Democrats actually won the election – or held the balance of power – it would be the first time in decades that Murdoch was locked out of British politics. In so many ways, a vote for the Lib Dems is a vote against Murdoch and the media elite.

I can say this with some authority because in my five years editing the Sun I did not once meet a Lib Dem leader, even though I met Tony Blair, William Hague and Iain Duncan Smith on countless occasions. (Full disclosure: I have since met Nick Clegg.)

I remember in my first year asking if we staffed the Liberal Democrat conference. I was interested because as a student I'd been a founder member of the SDP. I was told we did not. We did not send a single reporter for fear of encouraging them.

So while we sent a team of five, plus assorted senior staff, to both the Tory and Labour conferences, we sent nobody to the Lib Dems. And while successive News International chiefs have held parties at both those conferences, they have never to my knowledge even attended a Lib Dem conference.

It gets even worse. While it would be wrong to say the Lib Dems were banned from Murdoch's papers (indeed, the Times has a good record in this area), I would say from personal experience that they are often banned – except where the news is critical. They are the invisible party, purposely edged off the paper's pages and ignored. But it is worse than that, because it is not just the Murdoch press that is guilty of this. The fact is that much of the print press in this country is entirely partisan and always has been. All proprietors and editors are part of the "great game". The trick is to ally yourself with the winner and win influence or at least the ear of the prime minister.

The consequence of this has been that the middle party has been ignored, simply because it was assumed it would never win power. After all, why court a powerless party?

So it isn't that we have been paranoid about the media ignoring us, they really were. Heve things really changed since we went into government? I am not so sure.
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