I’m fed up with political commentators opining that “the people just aren’t engaging with the election”. Andrew ‘Vomit In My Eyes’ Neill just said it on his heinous apology for a political show, This Week.
He continued on to say that “us in the media village are enjoying it, but not the electorate”. And that sums it up nicely.
The problem isn’t that we’re not engaging with the election; it’s that we’re not engaging with the coverage of it. But to the politico hacks like Neil, Robinson and Kuennesberg, there’s no distinction between the two. The coverage has simply become about itself.
Tonight’s debate was the epitome of everything that is bad about political journalism. The ‘media village’ lobbied strongly for the debates, not because it marked a new era in democratic government, but because it’s a much simpler story to tell.
Rather than having to spend time, effort and money doing some actual journalism, it’s much easier to sit in a studio with a dial group and talk endlessly about who won, forever on the look-out for a killer gaffe, or who looks prettiest on camera.
What gets lost in all this is that we are not electing a President. We live in a parliamentary, constituent-based system, where we elect our local representatives to national Government. The only ones voting for David Cameron will be the people of Witney.
Moreover, the idea of a political debate being something fresh is ridiculous – there’s much healthier, more vigorous debate every week in the Commons. These are politicians educated in the debate realm, and what we saw tonight bears no resemblance to what it purported to be.
So annoyingly, the coverage will continue to be about itself, burning up the fuel of tonight until the next one. What’s insidious is that not one of those hacks will be examining their colleague Alistair Stewart’s performance tonight, which was absolutely diabolical. They should be ashamed of themselves.