I’ve watched all of the coverage in this general election through my fingers, as the whole thing is beyond cringe-worthy.
I mean this in several ways: David Cameron’s smug face; the media annihilation of Brown; the ghastly media commentators; the desperation of the Murdoch press in making sure their man gets in; and the self-congratulatory tone of the whole thing when the media thinks it’s done something clever like catching Brown out in an off-guarded moment today where he referred to a woman as ‘bigoted’.
It’s changed the whole tone and focus of the election into even more of a menagerie than it has been previously, with the pantomime of the TV debates and the absurd merry-go-round of opinion polls and predictions and tiresome echo chamber chatter that generates heat and no light whatsoever.
In an election campaign where there’s a crippling deficit caused by a near-depression hanging over the whole business, the dominating impressions will all be Brown’s gaffe, Clegg’s ascension and celebrity endorsements.
Today has been taken up with a million tedious Twitter updates tagged with #bigotgate; multi-spectral analysis of the audio clip from Brown’s car; political correspondents’ boring takes; shit advice from PRs and crisis management wonks trying desperately to sound like they have something important to say; and pompous, nay patronising, pieces on the great unwashed of the North.
The truth is, what Gillian Duffy had to say about immigrants was ill-informed and could be judged as bigoted. Another truth is, Brown made an off-the-cuff remark in the privacy of his car. Who’d’ve thunk? Politicians, like real people, say one thing in public and another in private.
A silly thing to say then, but one which will be a defining moment of the election campaign – if we believe what the media are telling us. This is not news; it’s what the TV, papers and websites are telling us is news. I expect we’ll hear all sort of things about how this was the moment the election exploded into life now, but that’s really total bollocks.
It’s the moment the story of election has exploded into life, because the three main political parties have been playing a relatively straight bat and talking about boring things like National Insurance. The media has had little to get its teeth into, and the Murdoch media has been ignoring the Lib Dems completely.
A hung parliament has been a hard sell from the point of view of a news editor, a political correspondent or a pundit. But it doesn’t really get any better than Brown attacking an old woman, with a side serving of immigration angst.
What opinion polls should be asking people in the UK at the moment is not ‘who will you vote for?’ or ‘Will Gordon Brown be the death of us all?’ or ‘Do you like Nick Clegg’s wife?’ – it should be ‘Have you really got the first fucking idea about politics?’
Because from where I’m standing this is the stupidest election I can remember. And when you look at the blank faces; the mumbling about immigration or the need for ‘change’; the despicable ‘Broken Britain’ refrain; or the witless scorn of poor, hapless Gordon Brown for his awkwardness and gaffes, don’t blame the people. Don’t even blame the politicians. Blame the media.
We’ll always have Murdoch and his papers that swing behind whoever has thrown the old tyrant a juicier bone; we’ll always have vested interests and ideologues and iconoclasts urging us to swing one way or the other.
The real culprit is the media as a whole, an entity that has lost sight of any idea of how to report politics without some kind of populist framing device; how to inform and educate without trying to entertain; how to report politics, fundamentally.
Watching this campaign has been like watching some sort of Chris Morris work of art. 15 years after The Day Today we finally have rolling news telling us absolutely fuck all, the silly graphics and the news networks setting their own empty agendas.
It’s politics repackaged as a ghastly reality TV show, never mind for the MTV generation, this is for the BBC3 and E4 and Sky One generation. It’s the election where the news just gave up and went to watch Glee, safe in the knowledge that people aren’t really that interested in deficits anyway.
Bill Clinton had a popular slogan in the 1992 Presidential election, designed to keep the issues forefront in the minds of voters; “Its the economy, stupid!”
2010? It’s the stupid, stupid.