OPINION: Labour must fight against Tory media bias

The loss of the Crewe by-election was bad news for Labour, but much worse news is the complete loss of any control over the media.

Charlie Whelan
Charlie Whelan

Days before election day in Crewe, anyone close to the Labour machine knew that the party was going to get a drubbing. The truth is that Labour actually did slightly better than some feared.

What was also apparent to anyone in Westminster was that the media would follow the election result with frenzied stories about the early demise of the Prime Minister. Thousands of hours were spent by hacks looking for any MP to break ranks and openly oppose Gordon Brown.

Sensible watchers like me took a few days off to go fishing, where fellow anglers talked twice as much sense as former Tory activists such as BBC political editor Nick Robinson. Despite all their best efforts, the mighty lobby machine came up with sweet FA to show any moves to oust the PM.

As I write, the BBC is leading the news on a story about an early day motion (EDM) from the usual Labour suspects on road tax. Normally EDMs like this don't warrant a mention in the Morning Star. But these are not normal times. Last week the unions and the CBI agreed with the Government's new rights for temporary and agency workers. This will have a real impact on 1.4 million workers, yet BBC TV didn't even bother to cover it.

The Downing Street media team must be in despair, and who can blame it? How on earth do you turn round a media so obsessed with the process of politics but blind to the policy? Even in the prime of New Labour spin, in opposition it still had to convince the media that its policies, particularly on the economy, were well thought out.

Now the media don't even bother to ask the Tories about their policies. The Conservative Party just fought the most negative by-election campaign in history and the media didn't care. 'Send Gordon Brown a message' was just about the only positive thing the Tories said in Crewe.

The Labour Party is about to appoint a new general secretary. If, as seems likely, it is Ray Collins, a senior official in the union Unite, then at least the party machine will be in safe hands. One of his first tasks will be to mould a new media team that can fight back against the complete lack of scrutiny of Tory policies, starting with the BBC.

Guto Harri has now officially left the BBC to work for Boris Johnson and the Tories, but others remain. It's time for Labour to put some real political pressure on Aunty Beeb. Then and only then is it likely that the rest of the media might end this madness.

Email: charlie.whelan@haymarket.com

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