Thoughts on politics and life from a liberal perspective

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

How will the media handle the Lib Dems now?

I had a brief discussion with a few people on Twitter yesterday about how we think the media will now handle the Lib Dems.

Members have often complained that our party does not get a fair crack of the whip in terms of media coverage and it is often seen in terms of the number of slots we get on things like BBC Question Time and other political programmes.

I think we will see a couple of contradictory effects.

Firstly we may find that we actually get fewer slots for programmes like Question Time. Because we will be members of a government whose ministers and to some extent MPs take a "coalition line" it might seem odd to regularly have more than one representative for that coalition on panels. However as Lib Dems we need to make sure that we fight for fair representation in this respect. We got 24% of the vote which is 2/3rds of the total the Conservatives got (they are the key figures, not seats) and we are still a distinctive party who will be fighting elections on our own. It would be unacceptable to be squeezed to a disproportionate level. The media will have to find a reasonable way to accommodate this. Perhaps the way smaller coalition partners are treated by the media in other countries could be instructive here.

Secondly, a contrary effect to this is likely to be that what people within the party say and do will be treated more seriously and covered accordingly. We are now in government so what Nick Clegg, Vince Cable, Chris Huhne and David Laws etc. think and say about issues is very important. They have the power to actually effect change. Each Lib Dem cabinet minister will have more power and influence than whoever is Leader of the Opposition, at least for the first few years of the government. The same will be true but to a lesser extent for the 20 or so junior Lib Dem ministers. We will see effects like Lib Dem conferences being taken much more seriously. No longer will some elements of the press be able to effectively ignore them. We now make up nearly a quarter of the cabinet after all.

We also need to make sure that on issues such as the AV referendum where the Lib Dems and the Conservatives are likely to be on opposite sides that the Lib Dems are heard properly.

It will take time for our political culture to adjust to the new reality and that includes politicians, the media and the public.

You can rest assured that Lib Dem activists will be watching to make sure that we are given a fair crack of the whip. We are just in coalition. We have not merged with the Tories!


Rebecca Gunn said...

I think for the first few weeks Liberal Democrats will be tarred with the same brush as Conservatives for a while. As many people on my twitter feed and Facebook are currently worried about this new Government. A lot of blame going around for the Labour deal that never was, even though it was mostly Labour timewasting it would seem.

Honestly I'm worried the party will become the scapegoat for everything by the media. But I hope Clegg and the other Lib Dems can somehow stop this happening.

NoetiCat said...

We'll be wearing blue sandals instead?

Really funny because the Liberals in Switzerland are actually a lot more pro-banks/finance...

Anonymous said...

yes but they aren't Social Liberals like the LibDems:

dazmando said...

I was wondering about this myself. I also wonder how the righ wing press will treat us. I already noticed todays daily fail asked if Clegg can kept the lib dems together but they have not asked if cameron can kept the toies together

Kalvis Jansons said...

"We are just in coalition. We have not merged with the Tories!" Getting that message across must be top of the list!

Amnesiac said...

I think the media will react well - they want to like the Lib Dems and lots of people are commenting about how "Fresh" this coalition seems. One of the most interesting electoral stories that has emerged in recent days is the transition in leadership from the Baby Boomers to the new generation in control of Britain: Generation Jones—between the Boomers and GenXers. Prime Minister Cameron, as well as Clegg and many in the likely new Cabinet are GenJonesers. The new Parliament will be filled with more GenJones MPs than from any other generation. It’s a new day in Britain…and I’m very curious to see how these generational changes play out.
Here’s a quick overview: and this article about GenJones in The Indie a few days ago nailed it for me: