Keith Gladdis: Back to the 1970s? It’s barely even 2015
How do newspapers cover a general election when the result is a foregone conclusion? The simple answer is, you pretend it isn’t.
Despite everyone knowing Theresa May is heading for a handsome win, Fleet Street goes along with the pretence that all is at stake. And that means Jeremy Corbyn’s ‘leaked’ draft manifesto makes most of the front pages.
The Daily Mail warns of a £6bn tax raid to ‘Drag Us Back to the 1970s’ and put ‘Brexit at Risk’. The Daily Telegraph – which was handed the document along with the Mirror and the BBC – also invokes the 1970s saying the Trade Unions will be ‘Welcomed into the No10 fold’. A first edition splash in the Times on spats between Theresa May and Philip Hammond was spiked to report on Labour’s plan to bring ‘trains, energy firms and Royal Mail back in public hands’.
Yet dire warnings of a ‘socialist tax and spend splurge’ ring a little hollow today. A quick check of the Royal Mail share price shows only a slight blip. Compare the fall out of 45-pages draft manifesto commitments with the reaction to Ed Miliband’s Mansion Tax proposal during the 2015 general election.
Then, in the weeks before the general election a single proposal for a tax on homes worth more than £2m led to London house prices to rise at their slowest rate in two and a half years.
A tax pledge from Labour had an effect in the real world because people believed Ed Miliband could had a chance of winning and making it happen. And it made great copy. Papers told how Ed Miliband ‘squirmed’ after admitting his £2.7m Victorian home in North London qualified for the tax but insisted it wasn’t a mansion.
In truth, it is very hard for journalists to get too excited about Jeremy Corbyn’s plans. Ed Miliband’s disastrous ‘Ed Stone’ was taken more seriously.
The Daily Telegraph may compare Corbyn’s manifesto to Michael Foot’s 1983 ‘longest suicide note in history’. But readers find it hard to care about a suicide note from someone they already consider well dead. That explains why the Sun wouldn’t bother to mention it on their front page even after changing their second edition inside spread to tell its readers ‘Jezza’s got the Trots’.
Perhaps the more interesting story was who had leaked the draft manifesto and why? Was it the fault of moderates at Labour HQ deliberately trying to spike Corbyn’s guns.
Or, as some seasoned conspiracy theorists believe, was it leaked by the leadership in a bid to stop moderates from watering down any proposals before it is officially published next week.
If it was a plan by the leadership then it was a pretty shambolic one. Corbyn only inadvertently excited journalists when his driver accidently ran over the leg of a BBC cameraman. Thankfully he is ok. But at least Labour is giving newspapers something to get excited about.
The Tories aren’t don’t even seem to be bothering with a campaign at all relying on a few dull public appearances by Theresa May.
It leaves lobby journalists desperate for copy and looking enviously at Mebyon Kernow, the campaign for Cornish independence. Leader Dick Cole confirmed they will field no candidates in this general election. ‘Some of us are absolutely knackered’ he explained.
Keith Gladdis is a director at MHP and former Daily Mail executive news editor,
Picture by: Rick Findler/PA Wire/PA Images.