Nick Clegg “sidelined”? Erm, not quite Sam

by Stephen Tall on October 18, 2008

Fan as I am of The Times’s Sam Coates’ Red Box blog, an article today by Sam for the newspaper contains one of those Westminster Village myths which quickly establishes itself as fact unless challenged:

Some Conservatives may fret [that David Cameron has found himself sidelines during the financial crisis], but they do not have it as bad as the Liberal Democrats. Nick Clegg gave a speech on Monday morning cautioning that the crisis was an “economic 9/11”. Not a single sentence of the speech was reported in Tuesday’s papers.

Now, to be fair, I didn’t buy all of Tuesdays papers to check this out. What I did do, though, was search for “nick clegg” and “economic 9/11” on Google News. Here’s what I found:

BBC.co.uk – Clegg warns of ‘economic 9/11’
Daily Mail – ‘Economic 9/11’: Financial crisis could raise new breed of extremists, warns Lib Dem leader
The Guardian – Nick Clegg warns of ‘economic 9/11’
Plus a PA report that was syndicated to well over 150 regional newspaper websites.

Actually, though, what I find slightly more disturbing is the seeming pride with which journalists sometimes note their own failure to cover politics seriously. The implication of Sam’s comment is that Nick Clegg is somehow to blame for being “sidelined”, that this shows his (and the Lib Dems’) irrelevance. Well, our political opponents are welcome to take that view if they like; that, I guess, is the normal knock-about stuff of tribal British politics.

But for the media to ignore the statements of the leader of a party with 63 MPs and which at the last election attracted some six million votes shows a pretty casual disrespect. Disagree with Nick Clegg (or David Cameron) if you will; but for the media to start making stories out of the fact that they’re failing to report what politicians are saying says more about the current state of journalism than it does about politics.