Was the billing bigger than the content?
Over the past few days there’s been a lot of hype about tonightâ€™s Dispatches documentary on Channel 4 in which a young worker, Jenny Kleeman (above) was “planted” in Labourâ€™s London press office to find out how Tony Blairâ€™s party fought the election.
The Sunday Times reported yesterday that Labour party was ” braced for criticism” over the programme’s allegations of dirty tricks. The Telegraph focussed on the allegation that “Labour used its supporters to pose as independent members of the public during the general election campaign”
Under the title – Dispatches: Undercover in New Labour we were promised revelations of dirty tricks. Certainly the programme makers had gone to great lengths to get their programme but did what was revealed add up to very much?
We were told that the Labour press office sends out suggested â€œletters to the editorâ€ for constituency parties to arrange to have sent to their local papers from, apparently, â€œordinary members of the publicâ€. So what?
We were told that the happy crowds of â€œordinary peopleâ€ who formed the backdrop whenever Tony Blair and Gordon Brown spoke anywhere were in fact well orchestrated Labour activists. So what?
We were told that some of the spontaneous demonstrations by members of the public that Michael Howard and Charles Kennedy had to face on the campaign trail were in fact organised by the Labour machine. So what?
Somebody in Channel 4 should grow up. This is politics; Labour was fighting to stay in power; and there was a lot at stake. Manipulating the media and the way the campaign is presented is all part of the game.
The only danger for the party from a programme like this is that people will be looking out for examples of manipulation next time and it might be harder to do. But that is a long way off.