They’re off, the phoney war is over, they’re out of the traps …. these and every other cliché you can think of have been used in order to herald the beginning of the UK general election campaign.
Make no mistake, despite our rather flippant headline this election is important for Scotland – for it will serve as a marker for the arguably more important constitutional decision that lies in wait, a referendum on Scottish independence looms.
However we enter the campaign for this election with a strange feeling that somehow we are outsiders looking in – there is a sense that we will be watching the English general election.
Just like the forthcoming World Cup to be held in South Africa many feel that we have been denied participation, we were just too insignificant to qualify. Gordon Brown, terrified that the English voters are about to end his arranged marriage and throw him out of the matrimonial Downing Street home has implored them to think about the Wayne.
The sidelining of the SNP and Plaid by the London based broadcasters, notwithstanding the appeals to the BBC trust, was depressingly predictable. The decision by the BBC eerily mirrors the mantra from Labour here in Scotland that the SNP are irrelevant and should be ignored.
So, three debates, all held in England and attended by people from the surrounding areas will be presented as though pertinent to all of the UK.
The first of the 90-minute sessions will, we are told, be screened on ITV1 on Thursday April 15, and will be hosted by Alastair Stewart. It will be themed on ‘domestic affairs’ and will take place in north west England. Members of the audience will be able to put questions to Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg directly, viewers can submit their own questions in advance online or by email.
The Scots will be mere spectators as the three London parties pitch for the middle England voter. One wonders what the chances are of a Scottish question being asked given that even the governing party of Scotland can’t get a look in.
The BBC kicked off their coverage on the main 10 o’clock news by sending their reporters to the four corners of …. England in order to interview concerned voters. Law and order, education and the health service were cited by one Yorkshire lady as areas of concern – you half expected the old ‘except for viewers in Scotland’ phrase to be announced.
Away from the broadcast media and onto the ‘press’; today saw the practice session for what will surely become the template for newspaper coverage of the campaign in Scotland.
The Daily Record’s Magnus Gardham decided to employ the now ubiquitous term of abuse routinely applied to online independence supporters. ‘The over-excited cybernats’ exclaimed Mr Gardham, were out of control. Gardham suggested that turning Jim Murphy’s “Labour represent the Facebook generation” boast back on him was somehow political smearing.
Apparently visitors to the new facebook site can download a poster of the Secretary of State complete with the word ‘dork’ beneath it. “Let’s hope it get’s reigned in” wrote Magnus, completely oblivious to the irony after adopting an insulting term himself.
The Scotsman also decided that now was a good time to target online commentators who are less than enthusiastic about either the Union or the Labour party. “Jim Murphy has become the latest victim of cybernats” they proclaimed. A sensative and clearly upset Mr Murphy was quoted as saying “I wouldn’t like my kids reading this online about their dad”.
It’s been said of Mr Murphy that it’s difficult to ignore him …. but well worth the effort; although I’m sure his kids will indeed listen to their fathers advice and avoid the Facebook site.
Finally we had The Herald who had felt it necessary to inform its readers that Labour had sent a letter warning the SNP not to do something they hadn’t in fact done and had no intention of doing anyway. But hey, this allowed The Herald to run with the headline ‘SNP warned over ‘purdah’ rules during run-up to the election’, so job done.
So there we have it, like the world’s oldest profession – the merest hint of an election and down they come – journalistic standards that is.
Will they ‘keep it up’ throughout the election? – the answer is a rather depressing yes, unless their readers demand that they adopt a different position.
Finally, Look out for the appearance of the ‘Poll Dancers’ Yougov, who, using their usual very slim figures will happily spin, gyrate and proclaim that Labour have a very well endowed support – at least 10% bigger than the wimpish SNP.
Hung like Murphy’s poster …