Monday, April 28, 2008

Low Standards

The London Evening Standard - part of the Associated Newspaper group - under it's current editor, Veronica Wadley, has conducted a no-holds barred campaign against one of the mayoral candidates for the city elections that will take place later this week.

Every day has seen fresh 'revelations', smears and innuendo. And - as I've pointed out myself on a number of occasions - Ken is pretty far from being the ideal Labour Party candidate for this job. But there is reporting, and there is smearing. And The Standard dived over that line a long time ago.

The result appears to be too close to call.

But if Ken Livingstone loses, there will be no doubt that the Evening Standard's relentlessly negative targeting of his campaign has been the decisive factor. It will be a display of political muscle-flexing that hasn't been seen since notorious 'it woz The Sun wot won it' crowing of the early 1990s - a tabloid campaign that resulted in five calamitous years of John Major's government.

If Ken Livingstone loses, the only realistic winner will be Boris Johnson. And it would be reasonable to assume that The Standard will be in no position to criticise Boris for any failures that are likely to happen on his watch. Londoners would have an obvious riposte if they did: "But you told us to vote for him!"

And those mistakes WILL happen .... be in no doubt about that one.

So, one newspaper may be able to exercise enough power to gift the management of a city to a pet politician. And if that happens, that same newspaper will be in no position to scrutinise one of the EU's most powerful men.

For far too long now, the Standard has been allowed to avoid measures to break its monopoly. There is barely a position on the political spectrum that would not agree that this monopoly is bad for London's politics, bad for consumers, and bad for jobs. And just to illustrate how much of a monopoly it is...
  • London has a larger population than at least ten of the twenty-seven EU member states.
  • It only has one paid-for newspaper covering the whole city.
  • The Irish Republic - a nation with only a bit more than a half of London's population - has ELEVEN daily paid-for newspapers.
I expect that Ken will want to apply a bit of fresh elbow grease to sorting this problem out if he's elected. And Boris would - frankly - be mad to take this monopoly on.

But it's the right thing to do. And it needs to be done. Badly.

6 comments:

barneymagrew said...

I would broadly agree with most of your comments but the problem is that all previous paid-for London papers have tried and failed (the Star, the News and whatever Cap'n Bob's rag was called). And now with the cascades of freebies flying all over London Transport, I don't think now would be the time to launch another.

Jura Watchmaker said...

Sorry, Paulie, but this is bullshit with bells on. My response can be found here and here.

Anonymous said...

I also totally disagree with you. While I am not a big fan of Boris, I hardly think Ken deserves any praise from the Evening Standard. He is a corrupt and arrogant man and deserves to be kicked out of City Hall. I hardly believe a Labour supporter, like yourself can be objective and you are clearly waging your own campaign against Boris. When have papers ever been objective? I support the Standard all the way. Get Ken out!!!

Shuggy said...

I don't understand this post. I don't read the Evening Standard so I can't comment on its coverage of this election. But this...

For far too long now, the Standard has been allowed to avoid measures to break its monopoly. There is barely a position on the political spectrum that would not agree that this monopoly is bad for London's politics, bad for consumers, and bad for jobs. And just to illustrate how much of a monopoly it is...

...is, as the Jura Watchmaker has pointed out, complete rubbish. Not only is the Evening Standard not a monopoly - it doesn't even look like a monopoly. I'm left wondering what other cities you've ever been to. Most don't have newspaper markets as diverse as London's. And this...

But if Ken Livingstone loses, there will be no doubt that the Evening Standard's relentlessly negative targeting of his campaign has been the decisive factor.

No, there will be...

It will be a display of political muscle-flexing that hasn't been seen since notorious 'it woz The Sun wot won it' crowing of the early 1990s - a tabloid campaign that resulted in five calamitous years of John Major's government.

I know the Sun claimed to have 'won it' but we're not obliged to agree with them. The breakdown in voting behaviour amongst Sun-readers almost exactly mirrored that of the electorate as a whole. In other words, the Sun couldn't even persuade half of their own readers to vote for Major in 1992.

Did you read Aaronovitch on Brown, btw? Not on same topic but there are similarities between his line and yours with regards to a capricious media. What you both don't seem to take account of is that while the media may be fickle and volatile in their affections and condemnations, this doesn't mean they're always wrong. Brown is completely fucked, in my view. Even if he wins an election, which I doubt, he's still fucked. Those journalists that agree with me may have been inconsistent, may be exaggerating, may have written a load of tosh on other subjects but this doesn't mean they're wrong now. And this is going to be a factor in this election. And before you say it - don't claim this association in the minds of the voter is a media construct. Ken and Gordon do belong to the same political party, after all...

Anonymous said...

What a sad waste of time this is. You seem to forget that the Evening Standard is not forced upon anybody. People make their own judgements, and people choose to read it. Just like they chose to vote out Ken Livingstone, and to try and argue that people are so easily influenced as to be swung from Ken to Boris by a newspaper is ridiculous. People have made up their minds based on a variety of factors. That the Standard probably helped shine a light on Ken's corrupt, self-serving, cronyist mayoralty is incidental. All these bitter lefties really need to stop whingeing and making excuses like this for Boris winning. It's a sad spectacle.

Anonymous said...

PS: if you really want to see a smear campaign - it's right here in our beloved Guardian - check it out. And this nasty, unprofessional and badly written piece ten times worse (and more libellous) than any singular thing the Standard has written. This is journalism at its lowest at most disgusting. Sub-tabloid.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2008/may/01/boris.livingstone?gusrc=rss&feed=uknews