Freesteel Blog » Glenrothes: What the papers say

Glenrothes: What the papers say

Saturday, November 8th, 2008 at 4:06 pm Written by:

Angus Macleod in The Times has the story:

Labour’s private Glenrothes poll had shown SNP heading for defeat

The Prime Minister was privy to the results of a mass canvass completed towards the start of last week which showed that voters who had previously said they were “don’t knows” were heading for the Labour camp by a margin of three to one as Thursday’s polling day approached.

The results of that canvass were kept to a group of five party top brass… They made a pact to tell no one else and, other than to say that the result would be “close”, were content to sit back and watch as the premature claims of victory from Alex Salmond and the SNP grew louder and louder, media pundits busied themselves estimating the Nationalist majority…

[So what went wrong?] It was, as the SNP alleged, negative campaigning. But as past masters at such tactics the party should not have been surprised that it became the dominant issue.

It tried hard to answer the Labour accusation that the council was forcing the vulnerable elderly to pay unreasonable amounts for items such as home alarms but never managed to neutralise the Labour propaganda.

…While the campaign concentrated almost exclusively on local concerns, it was played out to the doom-laden background of the global financial crisis and Mr Brown’s role in handling the fall-out.

Fifers are notoriously clannish and took pride that one of their own was being praised around the world for his role.

Meanwhile, back in media Pundit and planted-story land, Andrew Porter writes in The Telegraph:

When the polls closed on Thursday night the Prime Minister had just been told that Labour was likely to lose the seat it had held at the last election with a comfortable 10,000 majority. Mr Brown went to bed thinking Labour had lost.

An ally of the Prime Minister confided to another: “He will take it badly. He always does.”

Instead, in the early hours, the Scottish political narrative was spectacularly spun on its axis. Labour had secured a barely believable majority of 6,737.

But has it changed the political story across the wider canvass of UK politics?

There were some obvious reasons why Labour won. They fought as the opposition to the incumbent SNP. The unpopular policy of care home fees under the ruling SNP Scottish executive was remorselessly played by Labour.

And today the Guardian is literally wetting itself:

  • Brown hails Glenrothes triumph as vote of confidence in economic strategyThe SNP spent the four-week campaign ahead in the polls,[What Polls???]
  • Euphoria at No 10 greets stunning Labour win in seat it had written offDouglas Alexander, the Labour election coordinator – who in Bahrain on Thursday night had received a gloomy forecast of the result from the Glenrothes count as the polls closed – argued yesterday: “This has shown Gordon was right to argue that he had to focus on taking people through this downturn, and it has shown, above all, voters recognise that it is progressives that have the answers.”
  • Where did Labour get it right?Andy Sparrow This was the first byelection since the global banking system came close to meltdown. But in the event local issues seemed to resonate more than national or international concerns. Labour selected a prominent Fife headteacher, Lindsay Roy, as its candidate and focused relentlessly on the alleged failings of the local council, which since last year has been run by the Scottish National party. Home care charges, which for some users have risen dramatically, became the key issue. Although only a few hundred people are apparently being asked to pay under Fife’s new means-testing regime, the charges aroused considerable opposition to the doorstep.
  • A good night for Labour – phew!But coming so soon after some really bad byelections this result may also come to be seen as an indicator that the outcome of the next general election isn’t the forgone conclusion many thought.
  • A bounce in the backyardThe result was not just a surprise but a stunner – one for the record books. Glenrothes is the first Labour byelection victory in a Labour-held seat since 1997 in which the party increased its share of the vote compared with the preceding general election.
  • Sarah Brown: the real reason Labour won in Glenrothes?I consulted a senior Downing Street staffer, a cabinet minister who’d recently visited the seat and a couple of party staffers yesterday, all of whom predicted a narrow SNP win — and no, I dont think for once it was expectation management.
  • and so on…

It’s not as though the accurate story didn’t briefly get out, before this fake narrative became dominant. Back in October 23 reporter Andy Sparrow wrote for the Guardian: Gordon Brown ‘has been told Labour will win Glenrothes byelection’.

One should never underestimate the mendaciousness canniness of leading politicians in this world. They get there because they know how to work the electoral system with all its flaws. They will do any amount of misleading the public in order to get their vote. This skill does not necessarily translate into an ability for competant governance in the public interest, however. If it did, the entirety of Western democracy wouldn’t spend so much time in the sh*thole, to be honest.

Having trialed a set of tactics in this by-election:

  • getting the family into the campaigning
  • claiming to be competently solving a financial crisis you absolutely didn’t foresee and which is widely viewed as a consequence of deregulation, expressed in its most extreme form with the Abolition of Parliament Bill
  • targeting micro-issues, such as council charges to a small number of old people, that are of no relevance to the office that is being elected
  • misleading the media (and therefore the public) about facts — knowing that they are too stupid, disinterest and under-resourced to find the evidence to correct it

… we can expect to see a heavy amount of this crap rolling out over the next two years. Sanity doesn’t stand a chance.

The overwhelming majority of the public’s education about politics and governance comes from leading politicians, channelled through the media. No wonder we don’t know anything and don’t have a clue. Fighting this is like trying to sell athiesm in the time of the dark ages.

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