Media Caveat Emptor: you don’t know Jack

Having been away, I’m slowly catching up on some of the stories that emerged while I was away. One thing that appears to have briefly gripped the Lib Dem Blogosphere is the lamentably monikered “Jackgate” focussing on Linda Jack‘s decision to diss Ming on the World At One. I thought I’d make a couple of points (with apologies to anyone I missed who has already made them).

Firstly, those opinion poll drop claims. To start with, my calculation – using the UK polling report – is that the fall since April is from 20% (19.5% to be precise) to 17% (not 21-17 as reported). If I make a claim like that, I show my working; why doesn’t the BBC have to do the same? On a related note, we have also recorded a 1% increase since June, which is quite surprising considering the Brown bounce. Either way, it is well known that the party does better in polls at election time than it does in peacetime, simply because of the increased media coverage we get. The BBC, regulated by the Representation of the People Act, know this. It is fairly cheap stuff to brandish this statistic around as “research” when all they’ve done is compared current poll ratings with a set of polls they knew in advance was better. It is clear that if our poll rating performance since April had been consistent or even improved (as it has been since June, remember), they would simply picked a different date – going back to April 2005 if necessary.

Secondly, there is Linda Jack herself. The BBC’s handling of the story suggests that Linda has become disaffected with Ming Campbell. In fact, the precise opposite is true. Compare these two statements:

“I think Ming was a brilliant shadow foreign secretary, but in terms of his leadership style he hasn’t captured the imagination of the party or the country. Unfortunately it’s the case where he has perhaps been over-promoted. Someone can be a brilliant man, and have incredible intellectual powers, and all the rest of it – but if that doesn’t translate in to leadership skills then, whoever your leader is, you’ve got a problem with them.”

April 21 2006

My disappointment at my chosen candidate [Simon Hughes] losing has been replaced by total despair at the incumbent. We all knew Ming would be a caretaker………….but I for one didn’t think that would mean hiding himself in the cleaning cupboard never to be heard of again!

Sorry, a bit harsh maybe, but really………..I am the only one who longs for the dulcet tones of Charles in the cut and thrust of the Today programme, who dreams about the days when his confidence and humour ensured our policies were kept in the public eye? Now don’t get me wrong, I certainly believed we would need a new leader for the next general election, but not yet and certainly not in the manner we got one. Remember all that talk about coronation? For those of us who believe we are members not subjects we ended up with the same result. Whilst Ming was never my first choice, I was prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt – I liked what he said about social justice and tackling poverty – I have always thought he was head and shoulders above anyone else on most aspects of foreign affairs – but now he seems to have retreated into a shadow of his former self.

27 February 2006

Maybe we should have a leadership election every year……..perhaps if we get Huhne or Campbell we will

The point is, Linda has never been convinced of Campbell’s suitability to the post. That’s her prerogative, but to present her as someone who is disappointed with Campbell’s “recent” performance is just plain wrong. Using a quote as the basis of a story without pointing out that 18 months ago she was predicting that Campbell would be out within 12 months, is misleading to say the least. It may – just – count as news, but it is hardly in “man-bites-dog” territory.

So much for BBC news values. Meanwhile, Linda, Lawrence Boyce et al have to decide how much damage they are prepared to wreak on the party in their mission to oust Ming. Will they declare their operation a success even if the patient dies?


  1. James, did I give the impression of becoming suddenly disenchanted? I don’t think so, and if the BBC choose to portray it that way that is not my fault. To say I “dissed” Ming is the sort of exaggeration which plays into the hands of those who want a coupe. As I have made clear, if you wanted to see me do dissin’ you aint seen nuffin yet! My comments about having an election every year were tongue in cheek – of course that is not a good idea, but frankly, given the number of shadow cabinet members who were prepared to say the same as me off the record, to pretend everything is hunky dory is a nonsense. You take a view that for people to speak publicly about their concerns is damaging to the party – I take a view that we have passed that point and what is more likely to kill the patient is to continue to ignore the illness and refuse to look at ways to treat it. Maybe rather as Ming clearly took that view when he publicly stuck the knife in Charles.

  2. I didn’t say you gave that impression – I said the BBC portrayed you as such. Please remember that you were being used to suit the BBC’s agenda. You may be satisfied that you used them, but to pretend it was a one-way street is naive.

    There is no question that calling Ming ‘over-promoted’ is dissing him – get a load of yourself (and I don’t understand what anyone’s choice of car has to do with anything – who said anything about a coupe?).

    I can only presume from your comment that having had a taste of blood-letting, you want some more. Fair enough, but I’m going to continue to inconveniently point out that you’ve been anti-Ming from the start. Sorry.

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