The elec­tion calls for a more open me­dia at­ti­tude

The Church of England - - Leader & Comment -

This EU elec­tion pan­tomime is prov­ing to be far more in­ter­est­ing and fun than pre­vi­ous shows. We had the grip­ping on-screen en­counter be­tween the jolly and colourful Mr Farage and the se­ri­ous, po­lit­i­cally cor­rect Mr Clegg, the Euroscep­tic ver­sus the Europhile, and sur­pris­ingly the for­mer ‘kip­pered’ the lat­ter, ac­cord­ing to the TV polls and me­dia com­ment. This re­ally was quite a shock and it sig­nalled worry for the main­stream par­ties, as if a taboo or con­ven­tion had been bro­ken, a rather em­bar­rass­ing un­cle had gate­crashed a re­spectable gar­den party, drink­ing beer not Pimms!

UKIP has sub­se­quently surged up the polls to the point where polling data, and that of course is to be distin­guished very care­fully from the real poll it­self, put it ahead of the other par­ties.

UKIP wishes to with­draw the UK from the EU for many rea­sons, whereas the three main par­ties are keen to stay in, in­clud­ing David Cameron who would cam­paign in favour of mem­ber­ship in a ref­er­en­dum. One ar­gu­ment for quit­ting the EU is the is­sue of na­tional open borders and rights to mi­grate across the EU. This is a le­git­i­mate is­sue to de­bate, it af­fects other poli­cies such as hous­ing need, health and ed­u­ca­tion pro­vi­sion, for ex­am­ple. And UKIP does of­fer a voice to the Mrs Duffy type of blue-col­lar voter fed up with the scale of mi­gra­tion into her town, and branded a bigot by Gor­don Brown for dar­ing to air her con­cern. She now has a party that will take her se­ri­ously.

But the UKIP poster cam­paign mak­ing the point about EU mi­gra­tion flows has been re­peat­edly at­tacked as racist, and that has un­for­tu­nately set the tone of the ‘de­bate’. As Jeremy Seabrook’s fas­ci­nat­ing ar­ti­cle in the Guardian put it, the me­dia have not been able to neu­tralise UKIP’s ap­peal: “The dom­i­nant po­lit­i­cal par­ties and the main­stream me­dia col­lu­sively con­certed the at­tack on Ukip. Never has the man­age­ment of what is some­what hy­per­bol­i­cally called ‘the clash of ideas’ con­ducted by the opin­ion-for­m­ers and gate­keep­ers of de­bate, been so clear. Rarely have the tac­tics to main­tain ar­gu­ment within ac­cept­able bounds been more ob­vi­ous.” Seabrook’s ar­ti­cle re­ally should be read by the me­dia com­men­ta­tors, the ma­jor opin­ion for­m­ers and ‘gate­keep­ers’ of de­bate: he says that Farage has man­aged to keep his show on the road, and the con­certed ef­forts to stop it have bounced off, the pub­lic does not ‘buy’ the crit­i­cism, it re­gards it as part of the ‘es­tab­lish­ment’ gate­keep­ing ex­er­cise. What­ever the re­sult of this elec­tion, that is a change in how the pub­lic re­gards the ‘con­sen­sus’ of po­lit­i­cally cor­rect cul­tural con­trol.

It is sad that ‘racism’ and not poli­cies such as HS2, nurse train­ing, tax, en­ergy, etc, are dis­cussed. But, for Seabrook, some im­por­tant ta­boos have been bro­ken by this cam­paign, and that is good for democ­racy. Per­haps the me­dia will have learned a les­son: that it needs to take pop­u­lar new move­ments se­ri­ously, to en­gage in se­ri­ous self-crit­i­cal de­bate about their own as­sump­tions, and not re­sort to bul­ly­ing and smear?

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.