With the General Election just weeks away, editors are being hit by a snowstorm of press releases from eager candidates.
Conservative, Labour, Lib Dem, UKIP, Green – you name it – they’re all falling over themselves for publicity.
Anyway, there I was, checking my emails over egg and chips on Sunday evening, when a message dropped into my in-box from Scott Wood, the Conservative candidate for Sedgefield.
It gives an illuminating insight into the way political parties work and shows how careful candidates have to be in this era of instantaneous new technology.
“Peter, May I get the attached published please,” said Mr Wood’s email. “Great news on investment on our school infrastructure. Sincerely, Scott Wood, Sedgefield Parliamentary Candidate.”
I clicked on the attachment and up popped an identikit Conservative Party template, carefully designed to help candidates personalise a press release and make voters think they’re on the ball. The press release – about schools which had received funding for building improvements – is interspersed with brackets, telling candidates in eye-catching red ink, where to insert their name and constituency.
Well, in Mr Wood’s case, he managed to send me the template without filling in any of the blanks (see the picture). I suspect he thought he’d filled in the blanks but failed to save the changes properly and ended up sending me the Conservative Party foolproof guide to writing a press release.
OK, these things happen and I have no doubt that all the parties send their candidates templated press releases to fill in and send to local papers. And before the accusations of political bias begin to fly, I’d have felt the need to make it public if the election game of Blankety Blank had been failed by a Labour or Lib Dem candidate.
Like me, you might think it exposes a rather cynical view of modern politics, where spin doctors dictate communications, rather than expecting local candidates to be able to think for themselves.
Source – Northern Echo, 30 Mar 2015
> The Northumberland “I’m more local than you are” cat fight rumbles on…
A would-be MP is urging her political opponents to sign a fair-fight pledge after a row over being local.
Election leaflets put out across the Berwick Constituency from Liberal Democrat candidate Julie Pörksen have sparked comment.
The latest leaflet appears to pick on Conservative candidate Anne-Marie Trevelyan because she worked in London, and question her status as a Northumbrian.
Ms Trevelyan said: “I am genuinely surprised that the Lib Dems decided to try to pick a fight on my local credentials as I have been fighting for Northumberland and ‘being local,’, for nearly 20 years.
“Whereas their candidate has been working in London for a firm of spin doctors and as a member of Nick Clegg’s team for the last 20 years. She stood as a council candidate for a London council seat recently claiming that she was local to Pimlico, one of the poshest parts of central London, having been there bringing up her kids for 10 years.
“Perhaps the Lib Dems who now seem to be running things locally would like to sign a pledge for a fair-fight campaign. In the last general election, against Sir Alan Beith, we were able to have a civilised campaign where every candidate presented their plans and credentials honestly, without criticism of others.
“I came into politics because I hated all the spin peddled by Tony Blair and hoped I might be able to bring some blunt honesty to representing our patch. Over my eight years as Conservative candidate voters have always said that is what they want, so perhaps the Lib Dem camp could join me and others in signing a fair-fight pledge.”
Ms Pörksen said: “I grew up here in the Berwick constituency – many farming people know my father. One of the reasons I am so passionate about the right for free post-16 transport to college and school is because I used to get the bus to Ponteland High School in the eighties so know first-hand what it’s like growing up in rural Northumberland with poor public transport, dependent on parents – to be able to get to school should be a basic right.
“However, like many Northumbrians, the lack of local jobs forced me to move away. Moving back to Northumberland was the best thing I could ever do for my children. I want to represent the area where I grew up and which I love in Parliament to make sure future generations aren’t forced to make the same decisions I had to, that there are well paid jobs and decent opportunities here for our young people.”
> The locality question doesn’t appear to have touched Alan Beith, the current MP, who was born in Cheshire.
Source – Berwick Advertiser, 08 Aug 2014