Have you noticed how, since Gordon Brown took over, politics has acquired something of an edge?
Of course, there was the Ealing Southall silliness, in which the political blogosphere became obsessed with spin and counter-spin (mea culpa, feeble “I didn’t start it” excuses notwithstanding). Now, with the dead tree press’ traditional silly season in full sway, the tone in the newspapers is becoming distinctly high pitched.
Today is a case in point. Tom Cowie is not a poor man, nor has he given the Conservative Party an insignificant amount of money, but Â£600,000 isn’t exactly make or break for them (perhaps it is a sign of how big money has taken over party politics that it isn’t, but that’s another matter). For the Guardian to give his story such prominence today, combined with Doreen Lawrence story over the weekend, suggests that the paper has gone on full pro-Labour mode (on which point, I note with wry amusement that Cowie has switched his support from an Old Etonian to an Old Gordonstounian. Plus Ã§a change).
Meanwhile, the Telegraph has a story today all about Labour’s attempts to portray a defecting 26 year old as a key author of the Welsh Conservatives’ manifesto, and the Tories’ attempts to imply that he had no role in it. It has non-story written all over it, but every cut and thrust is included in minute detail (even more detail can be found over on Pravdale – I love the claim by a commenter that unlike this defection, Rene Kinzett is worth more than a bucket of warm spit to the Tory party – ha!).
All this suggests that both the Tories and the Labour Party have their guns pointed directly at each other and the moment and are prepared to use pretty much anything as ammunition. I don’t begrudge them this: it’s just politics and demonstrates that an election is on the way (even if it is still two years away). It is a slight shame that the media doesn’t act as a quality control though and filter out the froth instead of ramping it up in importance. Okay, the news is pretty slow at the moment, but I’ve never understood why they never use this period as a chance to do more in depth stuff and look around the news, instead of publishing every press release that comes their way.
Worst of all is the BBC, which picked up all three stories and pretty much adopted the Labour line on them, at least at first. One of the most dishonest things about the way the BBC does online journalism is that it changes stories on a whim in response to complaints, but does not allow you to see what they had previously written (a la Wikipedia). The worst example of this is the former story, in which the BBC have surreptiously changed “Black MPs spurn Boris mayor bid” to “Labour MPs”. See Jonathan Calder for proof that this was their original line. So, not only do they have an unfortunate tendency to write news by press release (or by parroting newspaper reports), but as soon as they get stick for it they simply airbrush their original crime out of history.