How the media works…

This evening I went to the ‘Independent’ fringe to hear Chris Huhne and Nick Clegg. Both Chris and Nick spoke with passion and eloquence. Both identify that the big issues facing us today cross traditional party boundaries: tackling climate change; balancing freedom and security; recreating a sense of community in a globalised world; but that only our party has the answers. The issues were wide-ranging. Chris made the best case I’ve heard yet for having a referendum on the principle of Britain’s EU membership rather than the detail of one treaty. Nick pointed out that 92% of young men sent to prison for short periods re-offend on release – and that we spend a fortune on keeping people with mental health problems in jail, when the same money could fund adequate mental health care to keep them out of trouble in the first place. All excellent stuff, but you won’t hear about it from the press. The media have their own agenda. Andrew Neill – who was either made up for TV already, or has a very bad fake tan – was accosting people on the way in asking them who they would support in a leadership contest. He might as well have been asking about the next England captain, or the next Pope; there’s no vacancy and no need for one; so he didn’t get much response. Steve Richards was chairing the debate, taking questions from the floor. People asked about a Euro-referendum, balancing civil liberties and action on climate change, the General Election, how we can re-engage people who’ve given up on voting, the media. No-one asked about the leadership.

That does not suit the media agenda. So Steve Richards, clearly frustrated that the delegates would not play ball, added his own supplementary to a different question and so asked about the leadership himself. And tonight, Andrew Neill has popped up on TV to say that the leadership question is ‘the one that won’t go away’…

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