Ian Monk: Media obsession damages politics

They lined up like performing animals, pasties and pies stuffed uncomfortably into their mouths as they smiled rictus grins.

Ian Monk: Media obsession damages politics
Ian Monk: Media obsession damages politics

Was there ever a more risible political spectacle than Westminster's finest demonstrating their faux passion for the working man's lunch in the wake of the farcical Budget VAT increases?

Older hands may recall Tory minister John Gummer force-feeding his young daughter a hamburger for the cameras during the mad cow disease scare in the 1990s.

This was far worse, with politicians of all parties eschewing common sense, dignity and intelligence for the sake of ludicrously conceived photo-calls.

The PR advisers behind them should be shot with something more deadly than a camera.

Maybe, just maybe, the attempts at sending a message through those improbable pictures will usher in a revolutionary new PR strategy. At its heart could be the directive to switch off the PR and let the 24/7 news circus find something else to gorge themselves on.

There is a real danger politicians' compulsive rush to fill screens and pages with crass images, recycled 'initiatives' and bogus headline pledges is threatening elective democracy. The frenzy to feed the 24-hour news media makes idiots of politicians without fooling voters. It imperils democracy because it is based on diversions intended to distract rather than inform.

The net result is voters turning away from conventional politics in droves. PR may well be killing politics.

Intelligent presentation of the real initiatives, of course, remains crucial. Downing Street plainly lacks anyone with the nous to spot negative headlines before they are made. Any competent news person would have spotted the 'granny tax' and 'pastygate' disasters before the hapless Chancellor went public with them.

Equally, can anyone imagine Francis Maude being allowed near a microphone to utter the word 'jerrycan' under the ruthless eye of Alastair Campbell?

PR is demeaning politics and vice versa. Its time to cut the strings to 24/7 media that make puppets of our politicians before democracy dies laughing.

Ian Monk is founder of Ian Monk Associates and a former executive at the Daily Mail and The Sun.

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