If in doubt, start in Burnley. Where I think I’ve seen my favourite front page of the general election so far:
At time of writing, Burnley FC are still looking for the killer instinct, but (obviously) it’s the main story which I’m interested in.
It might look like a run of the mill ‘here are the candidates’ front page from the Burnley Express, but it’s who isn’t standing which makes it noteworthy.
For the first time in four general elections, the BNP aren’t present. The collapse of a party which at one time was a dominant force on the local council, and widely believed it could ‘take’ Burnley at a general election, has been little short of spectacular.
And, in many ways, very, very good news for anyone who believes hate has no place in politics.
Short and tweet
At this stage of the election campaign, it can be hard to get politicians to keep things short and sweet (unless you’re trying to speak to the prime minister, more of which below).
So this idea from the Watford Observer is a belter: Asking candidates to sum up their manifesto commitments in Tweet-sized pieces.
It also has the perhaps unintentional consequence of showing which candidates understand Twitter and which ones maybe don’t. #toomanyhashtags?
A long way for short words
The battle to speak to the prime minister as he tours the country using it as one giant backdrop for a one-way conversation with the electorate continues.Graeme Demianyk, London Editor for the Western Morning News, wrote of his experiences trying to speak to senior Tories:
On Monday I drove two hours to get to North Devon for the George Osborne gig. He didn’t know that. Our patch is ridiculously big.
But I got back into the car with a heavy heart, knowing there was another two hours on the road, having got just one question while sitting among the crowd of eager activists. We’d been asked to submit three, which in itself is a dubious request.
The “story” was therefore the speech – exactly as they planned.
The gang of local media were then shuffled out – politely enough, mind – as the whole affair slipped into “private” status. Speaking to colleagues outside, there was a grim inevitability about it all. No one was that surprised.
Our local reporter was in Penzance for the PM. Again, it was an event managed by the dead hand of PR. Scaffolders waiting to get on with their job of work while David Cameron addressed activists.
You can understand the spin doctors’ anxiety in the heightened era of “gotcha” journalism and real-time “news” on social media. Think Ed Miliband and his bacon sandwich difficulties. But, hey, you want to run the country. Deal with it.
You may remember that Cameron told the Huddersfield Examiner that his snub to the local press in West Yorkshire was an ‘administrative error.’ It appears to be an administrative error which keeps repeating itself.
It gets worse
To give you some idea of just how control freaky the Tories have become, here’s Alastair Campbell, the man who pretty much put Labour into power by tightly managing the Labour Party’s press image, taking the moral high ground over the Tories on their lack-of-access approach in the Manchester Evening News:
“In my day, we made sure we spoke to every local paper in the place we went. Often it meant arranging picking up reporters in lay-bys.
“I know, having been involved this time around, the local and regional press are part of the planning of every visit the party and Ed Miliband does.
“David Cameron has not met a single person he’s not been planned and scheduled to meet. The Tories, including Osborne, say they love being out campaigning and meeting real people. But the truth is, they’re not.”
The day you find yourself on the wrong side of a freedom-of-the-press discussion with the king of New Labour spin doctoring, is surely the day you know you’ve got a problem!
But the Tories do like one local newspaper…
The Tories are keen to get into one local newspaper, it seems. In last week’s Thanet Extra newspaper, they took advertising out on pages two, three and four:
It’s amazing what the prospect of UKIP kicking your backside in an election can do, isn’t it?
Three’s a crowd
UKIP have clearly decided the Fenland Citizen in the Fens (I think) is key to winning the general election there.
For the last three weeks, they’ve secured wrap adverts around the paper. That’s three weeks in a row:
Getting a number of well-known ex-councillors from other parties to back you could yet prove to be an inspired tactic.
A fishy tale
Back to the South West for one of my favourite headlines so far:
Not one, but two, fish puns in one very prominent piece involving Nick Clegg, who is described by journalists as giving them all the time they need.
Are the Tories paying attention?