Selling politics

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Does politics sell? Few editors or politicians are confident it does. This is perfectly illustrated by today’s Times, whose front page typifies the insecurity both share about the public’s interest in politics.

Headlined ‘A Hollywood ending‘ the page is dominated by a picture of Arnold Schwarzennegger talking to Tony Blair outside Number 10. Beneath the picture the paper promotes ‘Ben Schott’s Prime Minister’s miscellany’. The lead story itself then focuses on the defection of a little known Tory MP. Blair’s departure and Brown’s arrival sold by celebrity and trivia.

But the editors’ insecurity is matched by that of the politicians. Blair knew the photo-op with Arnie would earn him a few front pages. Equally, did Brown need to pump up his arrival with news of a Tory defection? Is this a ‘huge coup for Brown’ as Philip Webster writes? Or, as Alice Miles describes it a few pages on; ‘A decision of no consequence to the country whatsoever, based probably on some fit of pique and personal vanity’, that simply re-emphasises the idea that politics is a big game?

I was talking yesterday to an all party parliamentary media group. A number of the politicians were despairing about their inability to communicate serious issues to the broader public (sound familiar?). But is it any wonder that much of the public is turned off when media and senior politicians collude in selling politics this way?

And is it any surprise that The Times feels insecure when its News Corp colleague, The Sun, takes time out from reporting on Big Brother and Paris Hilton to headline with a world exclusive interview‘ with George Bush? This is accompanied by a 16 page Sun pull-out of ‘The Tony Blair I Know’, peppered with quotes from Bill Clinton, Anthony Giddens and Bill Gates. This is Hello! meets Newsweek. Personality driven, populist, and devoid of political substance, it makes a curious, if fitting, end to the Blair era.

Written by Martin Moore

June 27th, 2007 at 7:16 am

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