The Clegg Trilogy and style over political substance

The Leaders’ Debate has spawned saturation coverage of Nick Clegg because he ‘won’ the debate.  Hardly anyone who watched the 90 minutes of heavily sanitised and carefully rehearsed eyelid fluttering can remember anything Clegg said, but apparently he ‘came across best’ because he, gasp, looked into the camera and sounded reasonable.  This is what our politics has been reduced to.

The debate has presented the media with the political equivalent of the Bourne trilogy of films.  The debate itself can be cast as The Clegg Identity.  Media coverage of his performance and subsequent polling has become The Clegg Supremacy.  And now the reports suggest to counter him, Labour and Conservative media experts and policy wonks are plotting the script for The Clegg Ultimatum in an attempt to shoot him down.

But notice how all this focus is about personality rather than substance.  Regardless the media is happy to be part of the game and is playing ball.  The problem with the media is that it has its own agenda.  In the run up to the General Election being called, editorial planning meetings will have taken place at all major publications and broadcasters where decisions would have been taken about the narrative that would be followed.

Thousands of column inches and hours of air time will have been set aside for the reporting about the campaign and carrying analysis from the talking heads about the policy pledges, gaffes and state of the opinion polls.  The excitement in newsrooms about a month of frenetic activity and opportunities to find different reporting angles from rival media will have ensured journalists were as hyped up as boxers before a world title fight.

But the media corps has encountered an absence of genuinely far reaching policies.  It has discovered the politicians have set arbitrary parameters to airbrush the most important and unsettling issues out of the campaign because there is a consensus that negates the need for parties to offer alternatives.

As a result the media has been reduced to a starving pack of wild dogs tearing into any small titbit of news to satisfy its ravenous appetite.  If the only fayre on offer to fill those column inches and broadcast hours is the political beauty pageant borne of personality politics, the mainstream media will run with that – the interests of the readers and viewers be damned.

So it is that The Leaders’ Debate has become a story on steroids.  Billed by the media as historic because it was the first debate of its type in this country, it was nothing more than a seminal milestone on the route taken by this country in its flight from meaningful politics of substance.  Yet many mainstream media journalists are still beside themselves that ordinary voters not only failed to tune in en masse, but remain disinterested and disconnected from the phoney campaign.

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2 Responses to “The Clegg Trilogy and style over political substance”


  1. 1 Kenomeat 17/04/2010 at 9:35 pm

    After the debate I listened to the Steven Nolan show on Radio 5 where a phone-in was being held on the debate. The first caller stated how impressed he was with Clegg. Nolan asked him what Clegg hasd said or promised that would lead to the caller having a better life and what particular policy statement by Clegg appealed to him. The caller, of course, couldn’t answer except to repeat that he was impressed with his performance. When pressed the caller hung up.


  1. 1 Media polls pushing The Clegg Supremacy « Autonomous Mind Trackback on 18/04/2010 at 10:39 am
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