Tuesday, June 26, 2007

What Honeymoon?

It is common for a new Prime Minister to be given a honeymoon period, where the media and public opinion show support for them. While weekend polls suggested Labour had gained a halo effect, the BBC appear to have launched an anti-Brown/Harman offensive even before they take up their new roles.

Last night's Panorama was an investigation into Brown record on spin. It wasn't exactly revealing or new, just collected little bits of evidence from across ten years to show he was as media-obsessed as Blair, depict him as competitive in gaining positive media coverage, and importantly quite prepared to lie publicly when asked if he was aware that Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone had donated a large sum of money to the party. This all raised serious doubts about the extent to which Brown would usher in a new style of open government that would listen to the people.

This followed on from the grilling Harriet Harman received on the Today programme concerning whether she had agreed, during the Newsnight hustings, that the party should apologise for the Iraq War. She did, yes I checked, say she agreed when Cruddas said the party should apologise but now claims "What I've said is I actually voted for the war on the basis that there were weapons of mass destruction and I was wrong on that... How many times can I say it? I haven't asked anybody else to do anything - I've just explained what my position is." Will all this lead into a back story that argues this government is illegitimate and needs a public mandate? It seems likely that Brown is to get a hard ride and face significant scrutiny over the next months and may well be driven to the early election whether it was in his mind or not. Good for democracy in some ways, but should the media undermine a new Prime Minister in this way, it may be a popular approach for some but it sets a dangerous precedent where any new government could find itself undermined from day zero.


Heather Yaxley said...

Would it really be a precedent? Didn't Northcliffe use his newspapers to bring down Asquith's government and help secure Lloyd George as prime minister in 1915/16?

Darren G. Lilleker said...

Nothing new in terms of the media bringing down a government, new if they try to kill it at birth. Major had a reasonable ride allowing him (to some extent) to win in 1992. My concern is that the media are sick of Labour and so are continuing on the offensive despite the change in leadership, so characterising the change as rhetorical not real (which is a fair point). But if they do see Cameron as the heir to Blair/Brown, yet he will off course argue it is a new style of government, will the media simply attempt to prove there is more of the same.

It all relates to the role of he media and when it tries to interfere with democratic politics too much. the big question for many years is what is the dividing line between watchdog and commentator?