Tories learn how to manipulate the media

A KIND soul in Labour's London media office has forwarded me a copy of the Essex War Book, produced by the county's Conservatives in preparation for the 2007 General Election that never was.

Graham Dines

A KIND soul in Labour's London media office has forwarded me a copy of the Essex War Book, produced by the county's Conservatives in preparation for the 2007 General Election that never was.

Fascinatingly, there is a section on how to deal with the media - manipulation and spin - which starts off with this nugget: “Sound media management is essential in both putting out positive messages and getting across our side in negative stories.”

Candidates are told to invite journalists “out for a drink/meal on neural territory in a friendly atmosphere.” Perhaps that's why I have had so many Tory invitations to gay clubs!


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Later, candidates are told to treat us as professionals “no matter how local or amateur you think of them” and to “consider whether a story is worthy of being read in a newspaper before you send it.”

No doubt all political parties issue have such documents - indeed, I took part in media training for Labour candidates before the 2001 General Election - and over the years I've spoken to gatherings of Tory, Labour and UK Independence Party candidates.

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Here's my advice to Essex Tory candidates - and those of other parties in the region. Don't inundate media outlets with trivial stories, never assume that a friendly journalist is a supporter of your party, and if you think a reporter is amateur, try to imagine what he or she thinks of you!

A MEETING takes place this evening in the House of Commons for the growing number of Labour parliamentary candidates who support the introduction of proportional representation.

If Labour wins next year, the pressure will grow among its backbenchers for a switch from first-past-the vote to the alternative vote, in which electors indicate who would be their second choice if their own candidate is not elected.

A sign of Labour's growing panic about the outcome of the next election is that supporters of PR want it introduced before the poll. That's unlikely to happen, given that any change would need to be ratified in a referendum.

The Labour Campaign for Electoral Reform (LCER) counts among its supporters Cabinet ministers Alan Johnson, John Denham and Ben Bradshaw.

I have every sympathy with the need for PR, but it should be included as part of a wider change of our democracy, including an elected House of Lords (senate), fixed term parliaments, the relationship between church and state, a written constitution, a rule that says all Cabinet ministers must be MPs - no more peers like Baron Mandelson of Foy lording it over us - and PR for local government elections.

But leave out royalty. The New Statesman is calling for the sovereign to be replaced by a republic, arguing that there can be “no constitutional renewal while a monarch sits on the throne.” The magazine argues that the head of state should not be supreme governor of the Church of England “in defiance of falling congregations and the multiplicity of creeds to which Britain has become home.”

In the past 57 years, the Queen has been a rock of stability who has kept the UK afloat. The institution of monarchy may be an anachronism, but it does spare us from the excesses of transient politicians.

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