Simon Hughes states the bleedin’ obvious, sparks news media frenzy

by Stephen Tall on August 19, 2010

Well, we’re into the 101st day of the Coalition – and, still, despite the many media sightings of ‘splits’ and ‘tensions’, the Government has yet to founder on the rocks.

The latest round of media sniping was triggered by Simon Hughes’ comments yesterday, widely – but inaccurately – reported as Lib Dems ‘need backbench veto’. So let’s look at what Simon actually said, as opposed to what the news media chose to paraphrase:

If the coalition wants to deliver [parliamentary] votes, neither party on its own has a majority, so we have to make sure everyone is brought into that. It’s a matter of practical politics, the answer is therefore: yes, the parliamentary party, on behalf of the wider party, on big issues has to say, ‘No, we can’t go down this road.”

My reading of Simon’s words is this: if big proposals are brought forward by government ministers on behalf of the Coalition then the MPs of both parties are going to have to be satisfied otherwise they won’t vote for them.

All of which, to me, seems plain, obvious and utterly uncontroversial. Which isn’t good enough for the news media, hence the misleading headlines that Simon is demanding a Lib Dem veto – with rent-a-quote Tories like John Redwood and James Cleverly on hand to take the media’s bait and amp up this non-story a little further.

The media’s approach to the reporting of the Coalition’s (yawn) ‘splits’ and ‘tensions’ puts me in mind of The Day Today’s Chris Morris inciting two studio guests to declare war on each other by putting ever more inflammatory words in each other’s mouths. See what you think:

(Also available on YouTube here.)