Are the media partly responsible for Ukip’s success? Many Fleet Street titles have spent weeks launching manure at Nigel Farage and his colleagues. But he has, it’s true, enjoyed a profile beyond his previous electoral success. So fingers are being pointed at journalists, as non-Ukip voters search for explanations for this once-in-a-century event.
“If ever a political party was ‘made’ by the media it is Ukip!” exclaims Cornish i reader Judi Strega in one of hundreds of Ukip messages we received yesterday. “To say they were without the backing of a single national newspaper makes a mockery of the coverage they have enjoyed for weeks.” Mrs Mitch Marshall of Bury St Edmunds agrees: “The coverage given to Nigel Farage would seem to be disproportionate to his importance and influence. My husband and I usually feel your paper has a balanced reporting style, but not it seems in his case. I realise of course that I have just added to the coverage of this man and his party…” Falmouth’s Clive Morris, meanwhile, accuses the media, i included, “of letting Ukip get away with saying nothing about policy and just being puffed up by reporters”.
I’d have to respectfully disagree with you there Clive - there has been no “puffing up” of Mr Farage in i - and I have my doubts about the ability of even Fleet Street to persuade 4.4 million people to leave their homes to vote Ukip. (Note to Labour and the Tories: some of them aren’t coming back to you.)
I was moved by Clive’s entreaty for “someone to really probe them and find out what policies they have”. In the 11 months to the general election, Ukip will spend a lot of time under the spotlights. My prediction? More eccentrics and nasties will be discovered and ejected from the party, and plenty of hurriedly-announced policy won’t hang together - but Ukip’s supporters won’t much care.
We at i will seek to remain even-handed in our coverage, and here’s why. Mr Farage is a political phenomenon who taps into some people’s concerns about migration and loss of sovereignty. He has just defied 100 years of electoral convention. He is still basking in novelty, but he has longevity which will surprise a few ministers, I suspect. And critically, we take the line that if we arm you with the facts, you will make up your own minds.