Today’s Guardian front page splash is an extraordinary piece of election journalism. It runs under a very long narrative headline:
From the Mail? In you go. From the Sun? Very welcome. From the Telegraph? That’s fine, have a seat at the front. From the Guardian? No way. Electioneering, Tory-style
The story is accompanied by a picture of Boris Johnson and David Cameron, at the nursery event from which the Guardian was excluded, holding up hands stained UKIP purple rather than Toy blue (but that might be printing fault). The nearest journalistic parallel I can think of is the stories which used to appear fairly regularly in regional papers, when they were banned from football matches because a team did not like their coverage.
The story, by feature writer Marina Hyde (licensed to comment), quickly broadens into an attack on Cameron’s campaign and his avoidance of meeting anyone not selected by his large team of minders. She writes (on the website the headline has become, ‘Lethal weapon’ Boris unveiled as giant voter defence shield for Cameron):
Of all the unedifying sights I’ve seen so far this campaign, the sorriest has to be Cameron’s entourage forming a protective huddle round him on a busy platform at Bedford station on Wednesday morning, while the prime minister’s eyes darted nervously about, wondering where his late-running train was. He wore the anxious air of a man who absolutely does not wish to be approached, and his fellow passengers could only have clocked it. He made eye contact with no one, and no one came up to him, until a lone woman asked for a picture. He didn’t seem to know quite what to say, essaying a half-arsed, “Fifteen days to go!” “I’m off to spend the day with Boris, which is always an entertainment …” he concluded, sounding like it was always a massive ballache.
Among the general election campaigns I have watched, 2015 is marked by the least contact between politicians and voters, other than those known to be supporters. How can it be, that politicians, who are asking to go to the House of Commons to heckle and be heckled at prime minister’s questions, are so afraid of queries from the electorate?
Marina Hyde does cast some light on how the electorate is being sidelined. she writes:
As for his [Cameron’s] vast road crew … students of political esoterica may care to know that the Tory operatives have a whole badge system going on this election. There are countless people whose job seems to be to busy themselves being busy (what was it Jaap Stam said about the Neville brothers?). Each has a small circular metal badge on their lapel. Some are yellow, some are green, some are red. There may be other colours.
Perhaps they’re medals – the purple hearts of stage management. I’d guess that they have their roots – like most desperately self-parodic elements of British life – in the petty, endlessly pointless hierarchies of a minor public school shortly after the end of empire.
The Guardian had yet to decide how, or if, it will advise readers to vote. My guess is it will be, anything to keep the Conservatives out unless the alternative is UKIP.