Michael Williams: Readers' editor

Don't blame the press for spreading election fever

Share

Pity poor Gordon Brown. Just an honest God-fearing soul, trying to turn a decent day's work as Prime Minister. Then along come a bunch of unscrupulous political hacks with nothing better to write about, who flam up the idea of a general election and then dump on the poor chap when it doesn't happen. This is a scenario which several of you have outlined this week. It's not a picture of the "clunking fist" that I recognise. But what should I know? I'm just a journalist, guilty like the rest, according to reader Anthony Wong.

"The newspapers," he writes, "have been hyping the possibility of an election. Now they are disappointed there isn't one. This is just sour grapes. People should see this as media hype. Shame on you for not taking an 'independent' line on it; it is the media that has egg on its face now." In the 'IoS' blogs, "Gracey" fumes: "Gordon Brown is damned if he does, damned if he doesn't. It is the spin-obsessed media who once again stoked up the story." "JohnDunCo" agrees: "Some Labour spokesman produced a bit of spin and journalists took it and ran with it, demonstrating their gullibility once again. It was a cheap way to fill pages."

So are our political staff, in Tony Blair's words, just "feral beasts"? No, says Andrew Grice, political editor of The Independent. "The election frenzy," he reckons, "was not generated by the media, as grown-up politicians like Alan Johnson have acknowledged. At the highest level, Labour... let the speculation run during its Bournemouth conference and, on some occasions, deliberately fuelled it.

"Other media reports were the result of journalists finding out about Labour's hurried preparations for an autumn election.... Political journalists played and enjoyed the game, but there would not have been so many reports about the election that never was without the encouragement of Labour politicians." And Gordon Brown could have killed the speculation at any time.

Politicians blaming journalists is hardly new. "Power without responsibility – the prerogative of the harlot throughout the ages" said the Tory leader Stanley Baldwin, attacking 'Daily Express' journalists back in 1931, borrowing the phrase from his cousin Rudyard Kipling. But in the case of the press vs Gordon Brown, the verdict has to be a resounding "not guilty".

t Many readers have written to ask why we use the name Burma rather than Myanmar, which is how the country describes itself. The 'IoS', in common with parts of the media, does not use Myanmar because the UK doesn't recognise the legitimacy of the regime that introduced it, in 1989.

Corrections and clarifications

Jane Fletcher: On Sunday 7 October, we published an article headlined "Pressure Grows for more BBC Bosses to go over Crowngate". In a list of those who had resigned we named Jane Fletcher, who had been BBC1's Head of Press. Due to an error the accompanying photograph was of a different Jane Fletcher, the freelance executive producer of 'Live Earth' and 'Saving Planet Earth Live' who, of course, had no involvement in 'Crowngate'. We apologise to her for the embarrassment caused.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - German Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Japanese Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are fluent in Japanese a...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer - Immediate Start

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Nai or Oxi: whether Greece says Yes or No today its citizens will continue to struggle  

Greece crisis: Referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its lack of genuine legitimacy

Rupert Cornwell
George Osborne likes to think of himself as the greatest political mind of his generation  

Budget 2015: It takes a lot of hard work to be as lucky as George Osborne

John Rentoul
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test