Friday, April 08, 2005

Behold The Might of Andrew Marr and Ben Macintyre

My fellow Militant Moderate, Ken, wrote an article a while ago pondering that the most powerful man in British politics was Andrew Marr, such was the influence of media commentators in shaping public perceptions of competence and seriousness. Hence, the most important person for the Tories to convince them were no longer an IDS-era joke was the Marr himself.

As the election campaign unfolds, I think Ken is right.

This morning, I ate my Muller red cherry bio-yoghurt over a piece by Ben Macintyre, in today’s Times. (Unfortunately, the yoghurt also went over the report, but that’s probably a tangental anecdote). The jist of the piece was that Labour’s spin doctors and ominously nicknamed “handlers” are being particularly nasty to the media in this campaign, and that that is synonymous with an American-style exclusion of real people from a campaign, so there can be no unscripted interventions. It’s intriguing that the exclusion of ‘real people’ and media access is conflated in this way. The incident which sparked this piece appears to have been the unveiling of two Labour election posters at Billingsgate Market, and our intrepid Macintyre’s suspisions that hacks were purposefully mislead as to which of the two markets it was going to be at; he and one other journalist were the only newspaper representatives to make it there. The Labour party’s cruelty was completed by the refusal of Messrs. Blair and Brown to answer questions, and:

"As I left, Mr Marr was still arguing furiously with Dave Hill, Mr Blair’s communications director."

After a morning’s work, I sat down in front of today’s (tragically short) half-hour edition of the Daily Politics with a chicken tikka baguette. (A tikka-Guardian incident ensued on similar lines to the yoghurt-Times incident four hours earlier, but I’ll spare you the details). The programme’s feature on who has had a good week and who has had a bad one, included footage from the Billingsgate Market photocall yesterday. It formed part of the lovely Daisy Samson’s evidence for Tony having had an awful week, complete with a frustrated Andrew Marr trying to get a question to the Prime Minister and his Chancellor.

I can’t help but get the feeling that the Billingsgate Market poster launch hasn’t had the coverage Labour would have liked simply because the press are annoyed. It was often joked that the Millennium Dome’s poor reaction partly rested on the fact that the newspaper editors were one group suffering hold-ups on the tube when they headed to its opening night. One often wonders if the quality of drinks and nibbles laid on at candidates’ launch parties for their party’s leadership has any correlation with hacks’ responses.

In a similar vein, I can’t help but wonder if the much-reported upturn in Tory confidence and competence is not just a change in the media’s attitude, that they have finally been convinced to take Michael Howard seriously, and hence now we are all told that we are, and so we do.

So far, then, I have probably produced the typical blog post on the bias and corruption of he traditional media. The problem is, I don’t think I’m a very genuine blogger, because I don’t feel particularly morally outraged at this state of affairs. It seems an abstract and objective fact, rather than an outrage to democracy. I wonder if that’s because, deep down, I actually have a great deal more affection for Andrew Marr, the Today team and Daisy Samson (particularly Daisy Samson) than for many politicians? This isn’t so much true of print commentators, but TV and radio pundits inspire warmth and friendship, in me at least. This must even be true of sharp-fanged torturers such as Paxman (we all affectionately know him as ‘Paxo’) and John Humphrys. Our media commentators come over as particularly kindly and inspirational teachers, who understand that we need to be educated but reassure us that we shouldn’t worry, as they’ll set us straight.

On May 5th? I’ll be voting for whomever Andrew Marr hints is the most impressive.