At a dinner for political journalists on Thursday night, Ed got up and made a speech about cynicism within the political press and how awful it all is. “One of the biggest enemies of politics is cynicism, the belief that we are all in it for base motives. Agree with us or disagree with us, but report us for what we believe. This is all we can ask for.”
This was clearly part of an overall Labour comms drive on the issue of snarkyness, as Peter Hain weighed in on the matter the following morning on BBC Radio 4. According to Hain, the focus of the election campaign should be on “the actual issues in this election and not Westminster-bubble tittle-tattle that the media enjoy and the political class enjoy.”
I’m going to start with Hain’s comment before moving on, since there’s a lot of meat to pick over there. First of all, describing cynicism towards politics as a purely Westminster bubble phenomenon is, ironically enough, a very Westminster bubble approach to the problem. UKIP are still at the time of writing polling anywhere between fifteen and twenty percent nationally. Do you think that’s because people are so enthralled by their transport policies, Peter? People are cynical about politics whether we like it or not.
Moving back to Miliband’s blurb: talking about how the press should be less cynical is an old time, ancient as the hills, cynical political manoeuvre. It tends to get trotted out by a party when it thinks it’s doing poorly, a reach into the deep bottom of the political playbook for anything that might help. Or, it gets used by insurgents looking to create some headline space in a crowded market. All of which brings us neatly onto Nigel Farage trying to get in on the cynicism action.
“I don’t want to see our airwaves flooded with negative adverts about people’s personal lives, or problems they had in their distant past, or leaflets that tell blatant lies,” Farage was quoted as saying. I’m very much with him on all of that. The last thing I want to see, to take an example from the recent past, is a party that had campaigned for over a decade to fully privatise heath care saying in a leaflet that they are the only party that can be trusted to save the NHS. Let’s stamp that out together, Nige.
A final note on the issue of the Labour Party and cynical, personal attacks: this was the party that ran a PPB nine months ago in which Nick Clegg gets eaten by a cat. I’ll end it there.