Tagged: liberal democrats

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I fought old media, and new media won



So, when I found out I’d be liveblogging the 2010 election for Blog Preston, a few words zipped through my brain.

Excitement. Anticipation. Anxiety.

Myself and 3 others set down our laptops at 10pm on Thursday night, and didn’t pack up until 5 am the next morning. Those seven hours were made up of frantic typing, filming, photography and a whole host of other useful tools.

The main minute by minute coverage was provided by the Cover It Live software, as well as tweeting observations (some serious, some less so) from the counting floor. The feedback we got confirmed that we weren’t simply broadcasting into the ether. We managed to hold a captive audience, interact with people both via user comments and using the #preston10 hashtag, while providing a good balance of serious analysis and observation.

The thing that struck me was the simplicity of all this. Ostensibly, we were just 4 young men with laptops. We didn’t have any professional equipment (Dave Stubbings’ camera was about as hi-tech as it got), but by assigning clearly defined roles that played to each of our strengths, we were able to produce a professional account of the evening’s events.

I’m a recent convert to the world of smartphones, but my HTC Legend did me proud. For the evening, it provided me with a great deal of nifty applications in order to enhance the liveblog. I used it to capture Audioboo recordings and Qik videos. Neither were of a professional quality, but that wasn’t the point. The point was we were able to produce informal, insightful interviews with candidates, and instantly upload them. It’s no exaggeration to say that after I’d finished filming a short clip, it would be automatically uploaded via my phone by the time I’d crossed the room and sat down at my laptop.


#preston10 Big commotion in guild hall followed by lingering silence and deflation. Like when Oasis released Definitely Maybe.less than a minute ago via twidroid



Readers of this blog will understand that I value writing verve and development over most other things. However, our successful coverage proved that by familiarising oneself with new technology, almost anyone can do this stuff. Doing the thing we loved coupled with a healthy dose of self-deprecation resulted in a consistently contemporaneous form of journalism that was both informative as it was inclusive.

Our aim was to paint a picture for the people who weren’t there, and make them feel like they were standing in the corner of the Guild Hall overseeing the count.

If this comment by BBC Introducing’s Sean McGinty is anything to go by, I think we succeeded:


@blogpreston were immense last night. Great commitment to local journalism… Proving it has a great future if new tech is used wiv passionless than a minute ago via TweetDeck

Nick Clegg

Broadsheets have a lot to answer for

The knives have finally come out. Nick Clegg has been described as a “Nazi slur on Britain” by the ever tactful Daily Mail, and faced a barrage of smears from the rest of the right wing press.

The reason this has all happened now is plain and simple. Clegg has consistently outclassed both Cameron and Brown on the leaders debates.

He’s relished the opportunity handed to him, stated his policies clearly and with conviction, and shown up the misgivings of the other two parties. The right wing press is running scared, so what better way to make this plain than to dig some dirt on Clegg? The attacks look at best superficially damaging, and at worse churlish and desperate.

But these hastily assembled censure campaigns will do far less damage than other sections of the media over the past few years.

Until very recently, “Liberal Democrat” was still a byword for a joke. A fairly light hearted object of ridicule that were the target of countless “well meaning” columnists. They were portrayed as the court jesters to Brown and Cameron’s warring barons. Leafing through old copies of the Guardian, the Times and Telegraph, it’s astonishing to see the amount of articles penned about the Lib Dems with the phrase “if they get into power” often followed by a quantifying “as if!” in brackets. Journalists who wrote these articles have as much to answer for as the poison pen antics of Daily Mail hacks.

Yes, our electoral system dictates that the Lib Dems only have a slim chance of power. But that isn’t to say it’s impossible. After the debates we’ve seen huge poll gains for the Lib Dems. Despite the slightly uncomfortable drift towards a presidential election in the vein of America, the leader debates have allowed the public to make their own mind up for once, and for that they are to be applauded. Under the courtship of Messrs Stewart and Boulton, Nick Clegg was allowed to firmly express his views, without the jeering and caterwauling that accompanies any of his contributions in the Commons.

Yet without this opportunity, one cannot help but think that the Lib Dems would still be wallowing in apparent mediocrity. The sort of party a lot of people think they should vote for, but never quite warm to. This is where the media have a lot to answer for. Frenzied and sensationalist attacks by the Mail can be brushed off. Highbrow jibes from broadsheet columnists are more difficult to side step.

The notion that the Liberal Democrats were a joke party came not from the public itself. It was predicated by a coterie of columnists, whose (most likely accidental) scoffing at the Lib Dems caused more damage than Dacre and Littlejohn put together. For years, they put the idea in the public’s mind that this was a party not to be taken seriously, with poor policies and definitely not fit for government.

It would do the British public a great disservice to say they believe everything they read. But if all media outlets from left to right wing newspapers are in agreement that the Lib Dems aren’t to be taken seriously, what other logical conclusion can be drawn? When even Newsnight presenters mention the idea of the Liberal Democrats in power with a smirk approaching their lips, what is one to think?

The result has not been a knockout punch of the likes the Daily Telegraph delivered to MPs by breaking the expenses scandal, but a slow and steady process of ingraining the idea that the Lib Dems have no chance. So much so that even its leading lights like Chris Huhne and Vince Cable have only become noticeable public faces late in the game.

It’s not for me to continue to pour praise on “Saint” Vince Cable, as he is the closest contemporary politics will have to a national treasure. Cable has been an MP since 1997, and the Lib Dems treasury spokesman since 2003. But let us for one moment compare his credentials with his Labour and Conservative counterparts.

Alistair Darling, a solicitor who handled the financial crisis well, but in many eyes didn’t go far enough in trimming the banks’ wings. George Osborne, a history student who after a failed stab at journalism, became a career politician. Finally, Mr Cable. Saint Vince studied Economics as an undergraduate, then later completed a PhD in the same subject. He then lectured at the London School of Economics, before becoming the chief economist for Shell in 1995. There is no other man more qualified for a specific position in government. If he resided in the two other main parties, he would have been lauded for years now. As it is, he was only vindicated after correctly predicting the global financial collapse.

If the Liberal Democrats fail to get a significant stake in Parliament now, it is not the fault of the Daily Mail. The collective media must take a bow, for they are the principal actors in this political tragedy. It’s not only the politicians that are being judged on May 6th.

David Cameron

Election 2010: Local Newspapers



Is David Cameron feeling the strain? The Derby Telegraph reports that the Tory leader has paid yet another visit to a brewery, the second time in a week. Let’s hope that this newfound adoration of ale doesn’t affect his performance in tomorrows leaders debate.

As the Mail continues to hammer away at the Lib Dems, the Hull Daily Mail has chosen a rather more quaint angle to politics, asking local figures what they’d do as Prime Minister. It seems that the public can come up with some good ideas after all.

Colin Brown’s (owner of a local aquarium) formidable scheme to stop giving aid to countries who own nuclear weapons is especially good. But BBC reporter Peter Levy’s plans to “make it mandatory for all politicians to give short, sharp, straightforward answers to questions” is just a bit too ambitious, I think.

Students are having a bigger impact on this election than any other. The Cambridge News has found that parties are working hard to capture the student vote in seats like Cambridge and Oxford East. As part of the Student Politics 2010 poll, 539 final year Cambridge students were polled on voting intention, with the Conservative and Lib Dem vote neck and neck on 26%, and Labour trailing on 19%.

Ken Clarke has sparked controversy in hardly the most Tory-centric area of the country, the North West. The Manchester Evening News reports that the big beast claimed: “It was the Thatcher and Major governments who introduced Manchester to a global economy – not the city elders sighing about cotton”. Clearly the destruction of northern mill-towns, workers unions and unemployment for countless workers seems to have passed Mr Clarke by. He continues, arguing that if it were not for him; “Manchester would still be the run down place it was 30 years ago.”. Nothing to do with the local government’s excellent regeneration project after the 1996 IRA bomb then, Ken?

The Surrey Advertiser seem to have captured the holy grail of broadcasting; Chris Grayling, not only on camera, but also talking! They are running a video series whereby candidates state why you should vote for them. Mr Grayling is running in the constituency of Epsom & Ewell, neighbour to Esher & Walton, where the Monster Raving Loony Party have put up a strong candidate. Not implying there’s any correlation between the two. Just saying.

Election 2010

Blogging at the speed of light

“Nothing travels faster than light, with the possible exception of bad news, which follows its own rules”

In many ways, Douglas Adams, author of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was a clairvoyant. And while his stories about ironic aliens and jaded space explorers didn’t quite come true (yet), the aforementioned quote has become a truism today.

Currently, I’m working on The Times’ Election 2010 Blog , in a week where we’ve already had two major manifestos announced, with one more to come, as well as the first leaders debate this Thursday. To say it’s frantic stuff would be an understatement.

While the machine of page design and leader stories doesn’t kick in until early evening, us live bloggers are constantly sourcing, researching and publishing stories. The election blog has provided a combination of serious political reflection as well as a more whimsical look at politics on the web. The speed and creativity with which people have parodied both Labour and Tory manifestos has been impressive, provided a few laughs in the office and a few “why didn’t I think of that?” moments.

In contrast to my previous post about the dangers of skim reading on the web, I’ve had to become an online vulture, picking at carrions of content, and then regurgitating it all into a readable, regularly updated blog. My vision is now exclusively a mish-mash of twitter feed, google reader, Sky News and BBC 24. If i’m not reading it, you can be damn sure I’m listening to or watching it. It’s also encouraged imagination, with the ability to add video and audio as well as amusing photos. When the Lib Dems have their announcement tomorrow I hope to put up a word cloud, highlighting the most frequent words used in each party’s manifesto.

My main point is that I think live blogging has made office-restricted journalism both relevant and exciting again. While hacks complain everywhere about being more and more tied to their desks, this idea of pulling in information as it happens can enliven the experience somewhat. While no substitute for talking to people and “proper” journalism, it still relies on crucial journalistic traits; fact checking, succinctness and an ability to build a narrative from a range of sources.

That the platform is online does not change the process. If anything, mistakes and discrepancies can be picked up better than ever by the mine of knowledge and pedancy that’s to be found on the web. Speed and quality need to be prioritised in equal measure, neither at the expense of the other.

Let’s hope that people can take the opportunity to engage more readily with politics over the course of this election. We’ve made it so easy to find out what’s going on, there’s little excuse not to.