Bill Hagerty on the press

There's an election coming: it's time to look in the Mirror again

Halfway through the party season, and it's hell out there. Brighton, then Bournemouth, now Brighton and back to Bournemouth next week; reeling from hotel to hotel on the fringe, occasionally dropping in at the Conference Centre - well, the bars there are good for meeting friends and even the odd delegate, should that be unavoidable.

Halfway through the party season, and it's hell out there. Brighton, then Bournemouth, now Brighton and back to Bournemouth next week; reeling from hotel to hotel on the fringe, occasionally dropping in at the Conference Centre - well, the bars there are good for meeting friends and even the odd delegate, should that be unavoidable.

Yes, it's the parties at the political party conferences that really take it out of the working press. In terms of stories, recent years have shown that as hotbeds of news the annual seaside away-weeks of the Lib Dems, Labour and the Conservatives - with the TUC providing the warm-up - are not what they used to be. Labour's certainly isn't: many media professionals consider it to have become a waste of time since the important and often heated policy discussions that once muscled their way on to national newspaper front pages became no more than dull centrepieces around which countless convivial social events whirled.

Yet this week there are signs of a distinct and not particularly subtle change. The politics at Brighton may not enthrall a nation captivated more by football and reality television than the democratic process, but the press, and one newspaper in particular, suddenly finds itself involved in matters other than whether to order a single or double Scotch in the lounge of the Grand.

The reason is an outbreak of a disease that strikes politicians only once every four years or so. It is called electionitis, or, more commonly, fear. Symptoms include treating delegates - often considered a necessary irritant by the political leaderships - with more respect. So, too, the fourth estate - whether newspapers can actually effect the outcome of a General Election is a moot point, but it's best not to take chances. Hence the "be nice to the press" theme of this conference season.

The softening of Labour's attitude is most marked by the re-emergence into its good books of the Daily Mirror, despite the paper being a shadow of its former self in sales terms. "It is as if Blair has suddenly woken up to the importance of the traditional Labour supporters - those that have backed them through thick and thin," a senior Mirror journalist told me. Actually, the paper's approval has been absent during some of the thick, but it has endorsed Labour at every General Election since the Second World War. So, with Rupert Murdoch's allegiance possibly no more permanent than the morning paper it's printed in, the Mirror is back in favour.

Its long-standing mid-conference lunch with the leader - the only paper to have such an arrangement with Labour - survives in spite of the departed Piers Morgan's vigorous anti-Iraq invasion stance (just as, more than a decade ago, Robert Maxwell's offensive patronising of Neil Kinnock did not dent tradition). Tony and possibly Cherie Blair will sit down with the Trinity Mirror chairman Sir Victor Blank, the chief executive Sly Bailey and the editors of the company's three national titles - a humbler turn-out than at one lunch with the late John Smith, when the Mirror contingent numbered 29 - but significant none the less.

Not that the parties are denied a role in this reconciliation. The Mirror's do, changed by Morgan from a discreet cocktail-party to an expensive and rocking knees-up, was several years ago graced by four cabinet ministers bopping under the strobe lights - and it can expect similar hierarchical attention on Wednesday.

"The change in attitude to the Mirror is amazing," said my informant. Amazing - and, it seems, successful: this morning's editorial, I am reliably informed, puts the paper shoulder-to-shoulder with the Government on the campaign trail towards a third term.

How to bite the hand that feeds

The debut of The Independent's media section comes soon after the former magazine and newspaper editor Dennis Hackett examined the explosion of such coverage for the British Journalism Review. He's suspicious of what he sees as professional navel-gazing, concluding that there is too much media in the media, and that objectivity is elusive for many commentators.

As one of these, I was struck by Hackett's observation that those who write or broadcast about the media are inhibited by being unable to criticise the organisations that employ them. "You can't imagine, for instance, were you writing for The Times," he reasons, "suggesting a piece on the downside of producing a broadsheet and a tabloid, and how the two make unhappy bedfellows."

Now that The Independent is entirely compact, this is a challenge I do not have to meet. But I do take issue with Hackett. No pundit can be expected to view the publication or programme for which he or she works as perfect, even if it does pay the rent. In my case, while appreciating that The Independent's one-subject "poster" front pages have contributed to the paper's success, I believe the technique is employed too frequently - sometimes to the detriment of another story that demands front-page prominence.

The Independent's editor is a tolerant fellow, so stating this view doesn't jeopardise my position here. At least, I think not.

Sport
Thiago Silva pulls Arjen Robben back to concede a penalty
world cup 2014Brazil 0 Netherlands 3: More misery for hosts as Dutch take third place
Sport
Robin van Persie hands his third-place medal to a supporter
Van Persie gives bronze medal to eccentric fan moments after being handed it by Blatter
News
Ian Thorpe had Rio 2016 in his sights
people
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
scienceScientists have developed a material so dark you can't see it...
News
Monkey business: Serkis is the king of the non-human character performance
peopleFirst Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Arts and Entertainment
Blackman: Landscape of children’s literature does not reflect the cultural diversity of young people
booksMalorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Voices
Mrs Brown's Boy: D'Movie has been a huge commercial success
voicesWhen it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Curtain calls: Madani Younis
theatreMadani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Life and Style
Douglas McMaster says the food industry is ‘traumatised’
food + drinkSilo in Brighton will have just six staple dishes on the menu every day, including one meat option, one fish, one vegan, and one 'wild card'
Life and Style
Once a month, waistline watcher Suran steps into a 3D body scanner that maps his body shape and records measurements with pinpoint accuracy
techFrom heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Sport
Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
News
Soft power: Matthew Barzun
peopleThe US Ambassador to London, Matthew Barzun, holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence. He says it's all part of the job
Sport
Joe Root and James Anderson celebrate their record-beaking partnership
cricketEngland's last-wicket stand against India rewrites the history books
News
Gavin Maxwell in Sandaig with one of his pet otters
peopleWas the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?
News
Rowsell says: 'Wearing wigs is a way of looking normal. I pick a style and colour and stick to it because I don't want to keep wearing different styles'
peopleThe World Champion cyclist Joanna Rowsell on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

(Junior) IT Systems Administrator / Infrastructure Analyst

£28000 - £32000 per annum + pension, 25 days holiday: Ashdown Group: A highly ...

Sales Engineer - Cowes - £30K-£40K

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Sales Engineer - Cow...

Web / Digital Analyst - Google Analytics, Omniture

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client who are a leading publisher in...

Sales Perfomance Manager. Marylebone, London

£45-£57k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

Day In a Page

Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

The Open 2014

Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?