Local media election diary: Side profiles, scary cartoons, genteel insults and playing with Periscope

Spin doctors spend a lot of money, and political parties waste a lot of money, trying to perfect an image for their leaders which doesn’t make people recoil in horror.

So I imagine this front page of the Oxford Mail went down really well with the news fixers of Westminster:

oxford mail scary

According to the Mail:

A COUPLE who accidentally shot to global fame for drawing their own World Cup sticker book with colouring pencils are at it again.

Only this time Alex and Sian Pratchett are penning Panini-style portraits to accompany the biggest contest in the country – the General Election.

But with their subjects “overpaid” and “not doing proper jobs”, the Pratchetts joked that the two projects are not all that different.

So that’s a damning assessment and portraits not easily forgotten. Double win.

You called me what?

Name-calling in politics is commonplace. During elections even more so. The gloves, if they were ever on, come off and, at times, libel laws appear to be overlooked too.

In Peterborough, however, there appears to be a more genteel approach to politics, if the front page of the Peterborough Telegraph is anything to go by:


It’s not often something intended as a political insult from a rival will be taken as a compliment by the person it’s aimed at, but it’s fair to say that ‘stirrer’ is one of the nicer things to have been said about Nigel Farage of late.

Coventry appears to be a sensitive place too

It probably wouldn’t make a game of ‘cliche bingo’, but the phrase ‘up for the fight’ is one you hear reasonably often from election candidates.

(In the case of Ed Miliband, it’d probably be followed by a cringe-worthy ‘hell yes’ if his interview with Jeremy Paxman is anything to go by.

But one election candidate took the fighting spirit a little too far and got into a verbal joust with a local pun landlord while out distributing leaflets.

Reports the Coventry Telegraph:

Sitting councillor Dan Howells resigned his candidacy for the Whoberley ward over the weekend as the party prepared possible disciplinary action following a heated argument with the landlord of the Minstrel Boy pub, in Allesley Park.

The altercation started after he left his car in the pub’s car park as he leafleted in the surrounding area.

A complaint was later made to the Labour Party and it was alleged that during the argument Mr Howells used foul and abusive language towards the landlord – although Mr Howells strongly denies that accusation in his resignation letter seen by the Telegraph.

Mr Howells said: “I do feel compelled to share that there have been some very recent events where I feel incredibly let down by my party locally.

“It has become evident that there has been a clear inequality of treatment and support available to different councillors and I am at a loss as to understand why this is the case.”

A councillor quitting because he shouted at someone? Wouldn’t PMQ’s be a different beast if that rule applied in parliament?

Taking a punt

At least two political editors have put stuck their necks out to take a punt on who will win their general election seats.

Political editor at the Bristol Post, Ian Onions, shared political betting and the paper’s view on how each seat in their area will go. They’re expecting an ‘as you were’ result across their part of the West Country:

bristol post predictions

In Kent, Messenger political editor Paul Francis is predicting some shock results, not least the election of Nigel Farage as MP in South Thanet:


A great idea – although I imagine it does get the phone ringing red hot too!

When’s Dave?

No sooner had I written about David Cameron’s attempts to dodge the local media than I got a Tweet from the Ambler hyperlocal site urging me to look at the Northumberland Gazette’s website.

The PM spent time at the Northumberland Gazette’s offices during a tour of Alnwick, and had some lovely things to say about the regional press:

Sadly, the fine words which echoed around the JP title’s offices were contradicted with the PM’s behaviour elsewhere.

Elsewhere in the North East, the Chronicle – only the fourth-biggest local news website in England with the sort of local penetration online to rival any publisher – was offered just one question with the PM. And it’s reported the PM blocked a news agency from a photo opportunity.

Yet he’s happy to have this one shared on Twitter:

Would you vote for a man who looked like that? Did he really used to work in PR?

Periscope up

Other politicians seem keen to be involved with the regional press.

The Birmingham Mail teamed up with Twitter to run election hustings at the Mail’s Fort Dunlop offices using Periscope, the new live-streaming tool which I’ve been told will soon become every more useful to publishers.

Given the number of politicians who still see Twitter as a broadcast, rather than conversation, tool, it’s great to see politicians prepared to try new ways to connect with the public.

That said, there’s no denying that print still provides a great way to reach readers, as the Fenland Citizen proved last week:

fenland citizien As newspaper ads go, a four-page wrap is one way to get the message across. Quite what the odd sideways pose is all about, I don’t know. Maybe because the traditional headshot would have looked a little bit too much like this:


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