Politics has turned nasty. Not on the streets, it has been that way for a while, but towards the media.
It used to be brutal behind the scenes, now it is all out in the open.
Gone are the days when spin doctors ruled the roost, working with and manipulating the papers and broadcasters to run their mistruths and massaged perceptions. Now the Tory spinner (certainly not an all-rounder), Dominic Cummings is mocked regularly with attempts at spinning dismissed as the transparent facade they are.
Cummings, Johnson and co. haven’t sat back and licked their wounds, but instead brought the assault directly to the media institutions.
It’s looking more likely by the day that Johnson will refuse to be interviewed by one-man political tornado Andrew Neil, despite interviews with the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn and Liberal Democrats leader, Jo Swinson already airing.
The BBC must take a large portion of the blame for this, but the debacle highlights something only implicit before, Boris Johnson does not respect our media institutions.
If that wasn’t enough, Thursday’s climate debate minus Johnson, comically replaced by an ice sculpture, was taken over by the Tories despite the sculpture amounting to the sum total of their presence on stage.
Johnson, in an act even an eight-year-old me would have been embarrassed about, sent his old frenemy Michael Gove alongside his father, Stanley Johnson to confront Channel 4 and get a Conservative voice in the debate.
Again, this was mishandled by the broadcaster, who instead of turning them away agreed to ask the leaders if they would be happy sharing the stage with an uninvited, unqualified man. They said no and that’s when the nastiness didn’t just rear its head, but spit in the face of the broadcaster.
In a not-so-subtle bit of timing, The Conservatives threatened to review the partly state-funded broadcaster’s remit, with Tory spokesperson, Lee Cain saying they had breached the broadcasting code with “a provocative partisan stunt.”
The attack didn’t stop there and Gove claimed the party leaders were scared to debate a Tory, blaming everyone else but his woefully equipped and verifiably afraid leader.
The depths that the Tories will seemingly plunge to distract and to obfuscate is funny at times, but there isn’t room for humour at the moment.
In a little over a week the next party in charge of this country will be decided and the role of the media in the campaign, especially the broadcasters funded partially or otherwise, is to take the parties to account and to cut through whatever spin they push on the public.
The Andrew Neil interview with Jeremy Corbyn was a perfect example of this. Corbyn suffered under Neil’s intense, caustic style being directly asked to apologise for anti-Semitism in the Labour party and visibly flummoxed when questioned about their taxation plans for those earning less than £80,000 a year.
Neil probed Corbyn, generating negative headlines and added scrutiny. The interview was labelled a “car crash”, so it seems immeasurably unfair and against impartiality that Johnson thinks he doesn’t need to participate.
But it has become very clear that if Johnson and the Tories don’t want to do something, they just don’t do it. So far this campaign, they have edited videos to make opponents look foolish, thrown Mirror journalists off their ‘battle bus’ and shown contempt for the media at all and any point.
It doesn’t look likely that Johnson will face Neil before the public goes to the ballot box on December 12 and it’s a real shame. This election will likely be remembered for gaffes and blocks of ice, but what it should be remembered for is a turning point, the election politics turned against the media.
Image courtesy of BBC via YouTube, with thanks.