Amol Rajan: At times, the truth was stranger than any television satire

Media Coverage

"The medium is the message," said Canadian academic Marshall McLuhan, in 1964.

Modern elections make that dictum, brilliantly lampooned in the satirical show The Thick of It, seem more apt by the day. The 24-hour news cycle and the array of spin merchants make distinguishing the two almost impossible, and at times during the campaign, Armando Iannucci's comedy seemed impossibly prescient. But it's our job to try. So here's a bunch of stories that even those employed to censor the news couldn't control...

3 April The Tories start as they mean to go on, chasing the middle ground with the prospective Home Secretary declaring that owners of a B&B "have the right" to turn away homosexual couples. Chris Grayling is "Asbo-ed" until election night.

8 April Michael Caine, an early celebrity backer for the Tories, is wheeled on to pledge his support for Cameron's National Citizen Service, but forgets it's a Tory idea. "This government is doing a wonderful thing with the national service." Oops.

13 April Launching their manifesto at Battersea Power Station, the Tories play David Bowie's "Changes" and "Everything Changes" (spot the theme) by Keane. But Keane's drummer is appalled. He tweets: "[Am] told the Tories played Keane at their manifesto launch. Am horrified. To be clear – we were not asked. I will not vote for them".

14 April Two Labour stooges are photographed holding open a door for the Prime Minister and his wife at a health centre. As a snapshot of how orchestrated most campaigning is, and the subservience of Brown's staff, it's hard to beat.

15 April This is the day the world changed – Nick Clegg adopts the novel approach of looking into a camera designed to focus on him; 9.9 million people mostly like what they see. Within hours a British newspaper (not this one) has commissioned a feature with the headline: "Is Clegg the British Obama?". Welcome to Cleggmania.

18 April "Nick Clegg nearly as popular as Winston Churchill" screams an upper mid-market Sunday paper. Headlines later in the week are less favourable to the yellow Messiah.

21 April "Clegg in Nazi slur on Britain" writes one mid-market tabloid. It's the counter-Clegg offensive: The Daily Telegraph digs up less-than-flattering details of his expenses on the same day. If the idea is to destabilise him before the second debate, it doesn't work.

23 April Manufacturers at Marmite are outraged when the BNP puts a jar on their election broadcast. As our Charles Nevin reported, it was one dark spread against another.

24 April A morris dancer puts a top hat on the Tory leader's head during St George's Day celebrations. The subsequent photo is a gift for Labour's class warriors.

27 April Newsnight's Jeremy Paxman more than meets his match in the shape of unlikely hero Dr Eurfyl ap Gwilym of Plaid Cymru. The sharp-suited, bespectacled and balding Welshman, every inch the economist, chides Paxman with taunts of "do your homework" and "get your facts right", forcing him to leaf through an index and concede that London is an English region. 28 April The Institute of Fiscal Studies criticises all three leading parties for not being honest about the budget deficit – and director Robert Chote solidifies his claim on the affections of housewives across the UK.

29 April Brown is caught right in the thick of it, recorded calling one Gillian Duffy a bigot. The story had everything – she was an old, widowed life-long Labour supporter, living in a place of industrial decline and worried about immigration. Except that, refusing to play ball and say she'd vote blue, Mrs Duffy turned down a life-changing sum from a tabloid newspaper.

29 April A perma-tanned Tony Blair revisits Blighty to talk up Labour achievements, just in time to look good in relation to "Bigotgate".

4 May Gordon Brown is the "worst Prime Minister ever". Who said it? George Osborne? Nigel Farage? Blair? No: Manish Sood, Labour candidate for Norfolk North West.

5 May BNP Campaign chief Bob Bailey, standing in Barking and Dagenham, is caught on film punching and kicking an Asian youth.

"The election isn't about celebrities, it's about people," the Prime Minister said on his final day of campaigning. Just behind him, Ross Kemp, David Tennant and Eddie Izzard concur.

Comments