thuds and screams in Wapping
So, that election. I should be out delivering leaflets; but my leaflets haven’t turned up. Such is life in the sinister Lib-Dem election machine.
More interestingly, it’s been a week of truth. We kicked off with David Yelland‘s and Michael Wolff‘s pieces about the likely panic in the Murdoch world about the Lib Dem surge and, more broadly, the possibility of their pet candidate, complete with Andy Coulson as personal representative, failing to win. That was interesting, but you could have been forgiven for a certain scepticism.
Then, however, the Murdoch world decided to throw a live demonstration (in more ways than one, thinking about their visit to the Indy). Kicking off, the Tories announced “a new Get Clegg strategy”. Rather, it might have been truer to say that they “announced” it; at the time, the news reporting was merely that it had been announced. What was really meant by this became obvious on the morning of the second debate, with the synchronised wave of abuse from the right-wing press.
By lunchtime on the next day, however, they had been called on the issue, by name:
“George Osborne needs to come clean as to whether he himself was personally responsible for this negative media smear campaign, which is now backfiring spectacularly with voters.”….
Osborne met some political editors on Monday and discussed the party’s response to the Lib Dem surge.
In one paper, a strategist was reported as expressing the hope that the media would do the Tory party’s dirty work. There is no evidence that Osborne made this remark or that Conservative headquarters fed any story to any paper.
The direct quote is from the Liberal election coordinator, Danny Alexander; the rest is the Guardian‘s. You have to love the impressively yellow bit about “there is no evidence that Conservative HQ…” after the direct statement that, yes, Gideon personally made the rounds and handed out the talking points.
Because, of course, the Lib Dem surge has at least achieved one thing – it’s provided an opportunity to observe the media-political complex working in real time. We can’t tell what transpired between Osborne and the pet editors, but we do know that an unexpected third-party surge happened at the beginning of the week, the Tories promised smears, and that certain newspapers all delivered them on the due day. Input-output analysis.
At least we now know, for a fact, that there are newspapers in the UK that accept direct orders from politicians, and we also know which ones. Not that the list is a surprise. It’s also interesting that the Murdochs still think the Times has to observe slightly different standards; it sat out the story. Clearly, self-delusion does actually act as a real check on some people’s behaviour. The Times kids itself it’s still a newspaper, and therefore is somewhat more like one.
Another thing; since Osborne got caught, the Tories have adjusted the fire somewhat. Ken Clarke told the Telegraph that they might consider going into coalition with the Liberals; the Observer, in its Obscurer mode, headlined the same thing over an interview with David Cameron, in which he didn’t really say that – but presumably his PR team must have accepted it. The whole thing has had a strangely communist feel; a Power Struggle in the Inner Party, which the people follow through odd snippets of certainly misleading news-like data.
The good news: ignorance is no longer excusable. The even better news is: there’s an app for that, or rather a Greasemonkey script.
In an environment characterised by uncertainty, the best predictions are often the ones based on humour and caricature; they get past the shared illusions and get right to the irrational core.