Sunday, August 22, 2010

The discomfort of Government versus the powerlessness of Opposition

I can't help but think that were we not in government, we would be completely ignored now by the media. Had we not formed the Coalition, we would have been savaged for a few weeks for causing instability and then we would have dropped out of the headlines until the autumn when the inevitable general election would be held (and no doubt Labour would have blamed us for an unnecessary election by not going into coalition!)

Whilst the journalistic quality of some newspapers' coverage of the Lib Dems has been rather questionable, in my humble opinion, no news is bad news. We are attacked not for having no influence but because we are in government. People are reminded about that every day by a constant stream of news stories. And whilst some Lib Dem members may be sick of the questionable coverage, we have to remember that negative attacks of the sort we are getting have been the condition all governing parties have to endure. Much of that coverage amounted to non-stories. For example, when Gordon Brown was prime minister, the media constantly reported on rebellions. Whilst some of them were real, others amounted to reports of backbench MPs signing early day motions against something the government was doing. Yet those same backbenchers were all mouth and no action. They trotted through the government lobby like good little children. Rebellion, what rebellion?

Another similar non-story, this time spun by the Ed Miliband Campaign for the Defeat of Brother David, was the Charles Kennedy "defection" to Labour. The moment I saw this, I could see the whole thing was a spin story lapped up by the media as bashing any government party is regarded as fair game. No party hoping to receive a defector leaks the story to the media before the person has made the move. All that does is kill the defection in one fell swoop. Talk of defections by the recipient party happen when that party knows the defection is not happening. No doubt CK's strong denial of these claims will, at most, be one tiny paragraph hidden away on page 17 of the rags that reported the claim in the first place.

Liberal Democrats have for years put up with miniscule media coverage which tended to be of a dismissive tone. The tone is now different. It is much more aggressive from the media. And the media coverage is much much greater in quantity. But, as I said before, we are now in office. I'd much rather have the discomfort of being in government than the powerlessness of opposition.
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