Archive article from The Socialist Issue 389
Socialist Party complains about imbalance in Newsnight
MOST VOTERS who are fed up with the blandness of the media’s election coverage will be equally fed up with media commentators complaining how boring the election is.
The Socialist Party, and the Socialist Green Unity Coalition, have been contacting the media daily and have held two national press conferences to try and get coverage of our policies and campaign. Although some of this has got into local papers and media outlets, in general there is a media blackout at national and local levels of our campaign.
We thought we might get a better opportunity to show how our policies could appeal to voters, given a proper airing, by participating in Newsnight’s film on political speed dating which went out on Monday 24 April. Nancy Taaffe, the Socialist Party candidate in Walthamstow appeared for us and did spectacularly well. Nancy came joint second beating all the establishment parties and groups like UKIP or Respect, which have had far more national media coverage because of the high profile of former MPs Robert Kilroy-Silk or George Galloway.
However, our hopes of seeing this fantastic performance on TV, albeit at the late time of 11pm in a light-hearted piece on the election, were bitterly disappointed.
Although we had some reservations that the piece may have over-trivialised the election and that we would not be given a fair bite of the cherry, we were reassured by the producer that every candidate would be featured. Out of all the candidates, Nancy was given the least time, just three seconds, and was the only one not to get mentioned by name.
In fact, the emphasis of the programme seemed to be that the more heavily you lost the more publicity you got. What was just as significant a story was that candidates from smaller parties, like ours, when given a proper opportunity to get their ideas across did much better than anticipated.
Although we are one of the smaller groupings standing in the election, our party and coalition is standing in 27 seats in this election, which is more than some of the other candidates who were given more air time in the piece.
It is ironic that although media people complain about how boring the election is they are then not prepared to cover parties - particularly ours - who are offering a serious alternative to working-class people (especially given that we have councillors and many leading members with senior positions in the trade union movement).
We have complained to Newsnight and other media outlets about this blatant imbalance in coverage and would encourage all local campaigns to fight just as vociferously to ensure that we get our fair space in terms of news coverage in the election and afterwards.
It also shows the importance of getting out on the canvasses and selling the socialist to get our ideas across.
The Socialist Party sent a letter of complaint to Newsnight. We await a reply.
Results of Newsnight speed-dating poll: