Local media election diary: West Country antics, a great front page, the UKIP dominance of the Fens (sort) and how to make the Tories like you

If in doubt, start in Burnley. Where I think I’ve seen my favourite front page of the general election so far:

burnley bnp

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.


Local media election diary: Cam’s up, Obsorne’s down, piggy in the middle and the UKIPPER in need of a housekeeper.

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Everything comes to those who … show up the prime minister on the front page of the local newspaper.

That could be a lesson to take from Prime Minister David Cameron’s decision to do a sit-down chat with the Huddersfield Examiner, a fortnight after his gate-keepers refused to let the PM do anything in depth with the Examiner and other West Yorkshire journalists.

In the interview, published on the Examiner website earlier this week, the PM dealt with a bunch of local issues, and even got round to talking about lycra.

He blamed the previous lack of interview opportunities on an ‘administrative error.’ Here’s hoping…


Further proof that a long memory is an essential asset for any successful newsroom


Last summer, while most football fans could enjoy a brief period of hope that this season might be the season their team does something special, Blackpool FC supporters weren’t even allowed that.

With barely enough players to form a first XI at the start of pre-season, the giddy heights of the Premier League just a couple of years previously seemed light years away. It’s worth remembering that during their stint in the top-flight, they found themselves right at the heart of the January transfer window as clubs battled to sign star player Charlie Adam (not Austin, as I wrote earlier). And they so nearly stayed up, too.


Try It Tuesday: Ground Signal


The aim of Try It Tuesday – if it can be as bold as an aim – is to share a tool a week which might be useful to journalists. It might be new, it might be old but forgotten, or it might be somewhere inbetween. It’ll be something I’ve found useful though and one I’d suggest spending 10 minutes getting to know. 

10. Ground Signal

Where? www.groundsignal.com

What? Ground Signal is a mapping tool which allows you track all social media activity which is geo-located within an area you define

Why? There are a variety of tools on the market which allow you to do this, but some come at significant cost. Ground Signal stands out because  it has a free option, and a pro option which is a matter of dollars a month.

Once you’ve set out the area you want to monitor, you can watch it live – so great for a breaking news story – or you can receive updates daily or weekly on email, making it very handy for beat reporters, for example, council reporters wanting to keep an eye on anything around the local town hall.

Local media election diary: Ed’s hen party, Ricky Tomlinson, Joey Essex and that Radio 1 DJ from yesteryear

chester chronicle

Finally! Something unpredictable on the general election campaign trail! The Chester Chronicle reported, and was rewarded with weekend-long traffic spike as a result, on how Labour leader Ed Miliband was swamped by a Hen party in Chester.

The story unfolded on Friday when the Labour leader had been busy campaigning in the Wirral and parts of Cheshire.

At Chester railway station, the Labour leader was aboard his battle bus when he was spotted by a bunch of hens. The bride to be appears to have got an invite aboard the bus before Miliband gamely came out to see the bride’s friends.

Obviously, it’s no Mrs Duffy incident in terms of political magnitude, but at least it shows that unpredictable things really can still happen when the Westminster bubble goes on tour.

After all, who would have expected to read this:

One of the 25-strong group of hens from Knutsford spotted the Labour battle bus in City Road after she popped outside the Westminster Hotel for a crafty cigarette.

Within minutes the hen herself had been alerted along with the full entourage.

After some negotiations, Ed’s spin-doctors let the bride-to be on board for a brief one-to-one and a selfie. But after cries of ‘Ed, Ed, Ed!’ the man himself appeared at the door of the coach and waved for a group selfie.

chester chronicle

Labour know who to blame if it all goes wrong

Miliband gave one of his first interviews after the election was called to his local newspaper, the Doncaster Free Press. He is, as he pointed out, first and foremost an MP for Doncaster.

It might not have made the front page of the paper, but he gave away a nugget of an insight into how he tests his policies.

He told the Free Press:

“I’ve got a simple principle, which is if it doesn’t work for Doncaster North, it’s not going to work for Britain.

 “And that’s how I regard our manifesto, and think about what we’re going to do as a Government.”
So if Labour don’t win, presumably it’s Doncaster’s fault.

Living the Reem

If Ed Miliband was a little surprised to get the celebrity treatment in Chester, it’s unlikely some of the other famous faces popping up on the campaign trail.
Perhaps the most bizarre was this one, making the front page of the Grimsby Telegraph:
That’s right. Joey Essex met up with Nigel Farage during a tour of Grimsby. Joey was there as part of his TV series interviewing all the major party leaders.
It wasn’t perhaps the best day for the UKIP leader, however, as the presence of Joey  led to this exchange, according to the local paper:

Essex, who is interviewing all four major party leaders for an upcoming episode of ITV2 show Education Joey Essex, asked the Ukip leader: “Why are we in Grimsby?‎”

Mr Farage said: ‎”It’s symbolic of what’s gone wrong, if we came here forty years ago there were thousands of men working here and a massive trawler fleet, it was the biggest fishing port in the country.

“We joined the European Union and now have to share all our fish with all the other countries.‎ And what we’re saying is let’s take our country and our territorial waters back, let’s get our fishing industry back.”

In response, Essex said “sick”.

And to think people say celebrity interviewers dumb down political journalism.

How did Farage feel after his day in Grimsby? Maybe page three of the Grimsby Telegraph held a clue:


Spinning around…

Well done to the Boston Standard for making the most of a UKIP celebrity whose alphabetical rating presumably sits somewhere past the letter m.

UKIP sent Mike Read, the once-famous DJ, to Lincolnshire to back the local candidate:

boston standard

I challenge you to find a more tenuous, stretched quote from a political supporter in this election:

Mr Read and Coun Hunter-Clarke both joined UKIP on the same day in 2012 and have since spoken together at conferences all over the country.

 He said: “It was great to be back in Boston and Skegness, somewhere where I did the Radio 1 roadshows.”

Steady Eddie

For Labour, well-known supporter Eddie Izzard has been causing a stir in various local newspapers as he gets out to support local candidates.
The Basildon Echo carried one of those intros you know you’ll only ever see once in your career:

Eddie Izzard made a splash in Basildon town centre today when he hit the campaign trail wearing the finest clothes known to woman.

Mr Izzard was in town to support parliamentary candidate Labour Mike le Surf, who is fighting for the South Basildon and East Thurrock MP seat.

Followed by a series of paragraphs which I suspect will never be repeated in political journalism:

Basildon resident Sue Marriott, 49, of who popped out of work when she heard Eddie was in town, said: “He looks fantastic! He’s lost so much weight. Now he’s got better legs than me!”

Asked why he was cross-dressing for the campaign trail, Eddie said: “I am transgender! It is my genetic right as a human being to dress like a woman and if anyone has a problem with it, they can take it up with the United Nations Court of Human Rights.”

Eddie and Sue swapped dieting tips, with Eddie advising her to ‘dump the sugar’ if she wanted to lose weight.

Typical Labour. Always trying to ban something.

What does the shorthand for scrotum look like?


But perhaps the best quote of the celebrity general election campaign trail so far comes from Ricky Tomlinson, speaking to the Liverpool Echo about his support for the No Vote No Voice campaign, which has received national support from the Daily Mirror.

The Scouser was asked what he thought about Russell Brand’s view that you shouldn’t vote:

Ricky, who was awarded the Freedom of Liverpool in October, says: “I think he’s a ****head. You’ve got to vote.

“Why doesn’t Russell Brand stand for election himself? He could stand alongside Joey Essex, who once, on a quiz show, asked ‘What’s a scrotum?’ They could form The Scrotum Party, or The Brains of Britain Party.”

It might not be Churchillian, but crikey, it’s memorable!

Local media election diary: Holding power to account, putting sex in politics, an election without candidates and a bizarre endorsement

So how can the local press find a voice during elections while remaining neutral? At Trinity Mirror, the company I work for, we turned to readers and asked them to help shape local manifestos which have run in 24 of our titles.

The idea was simple: Get issues which matter to local readers heard. And while in this diary I’ve been rather critical of the efforts of Prime Minister David Cameron to engage with the local press, there’s no denying that’s exactly what he did when he visited Teesside earlier this week.

The local title there, the Teesside Gazette, co-opted both Boris Johnson and Ed Miliband into supporting their call for people to take part in the manifesto survey – and got the PM to answer each manifesto demand point by point on his trip to the southern end of the North East earlier this week.


The would-be MP who puts every other candidate to shame

If elections were won and lost based on the quality of the pitch a candidate made to the electorate, then Will Straw, a Labour candidate in Lancashire, would probably be home and dry by now.

Will, son of former foreign secretary Jack (probably the most famous person* in my contacts book thanks to a spell at the Lancashire Telegraph), is standing in the Rossendale and Darwen constituency, which is where I live.

It’s a swing seat of sorts. In previous general elections, it was flagged up as the one the Tories needed to win to get into Number 10. They won it off Labour in 2010, but still didn’t make it into Number 10. And as a result, it’s had less attention this time – until this week.

Thanks to Lord Ashcroft and his independent polling, Rossendale and Darwen appears to be one of the closest to call seats going:

ashcroft poll

Clearly Will’s presence for the last 18 months is doing something – he’s closed a 2010 gap from 10% to nothing, largely at the expense of the Lib Dems.

Will he win? I have no idea – but he’s certainly trying harder than the local Labour Party on the council, who (in my ward at least) have failed to deliver any sort of presence on the ground for the last three elections).


But what makes Will stand out for me is this: his manifesto. Not just one manifesto, but two – one for Darwen, a small mill town which sits in the shadow of Blackburn in a different borough to a large part of Rossendale, a largely rural collection of towns which, in parts, look far more towards Manchester than they do into Lancashire.

In my experience, politicians tend to deliver top-line messages very well. They’ll do this, they’ll do that. But rarely do their share their workings out in such detail as Will has done here.

Elections might be won and lost on national issues, but putting them in local context is something many politicians fails to do other than in the ‘insert name of town here and smile’ sort of way.

The manifesto, running to almost 40 pages, draws on ONS data to show how issues are affecting Rossendale, such as how pay has dropped far more dramatically in the constituency than it has nationally. It reflects on what he has heard on the doorstep and puts it into context. It doesn’t constantly wave an angry fist at other parties, but does highlight where things aren’t working, and produces evidence to back that up.


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:


Try It Tuesday: Find My Seat and other useful election tools

The aim of Try It Tuesday – if it can be as bold as an aim – is to share a tool a week which might be useful to journalists. It might be new, it might be old but forgotten, or it might be somewhere inbetween. It’ll be something I’ve found useful though and one I’d suggest spending 10 minutes getting to know. 

try it tuesday

7. Find My Seat


Local Media election diary: The shy PM, peculiar headlines and the candidates living 150 miles away

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More tales of David Cameron’s determination emerge from the regional press – and it’s hard not to see his behaviour in Belfast as anything other than an insulting snub to local journalists.

According to the Belfast Telegraph, Cameron found less than five minutes to speak to the press during a whistle-stop visit to Northern Ireland … but did find time to do a Game of Thrones tour: