The economy is always fundamental to any election, and the debates upon it therefore central to the choice faced by voters.
So yesterday, with all three main party leaders speaking to the CBI, was a useful and surely newsworthy opportunity for the leaders to set out their stalls, and for the public get a chance to hear what they were saying.
Well, you’d have thought so. Then again, you might have relied on the BBC 10 o’clock news. Not a word. Not one single word. No Brown. No Cameron. No Clegg.
In so far as there was an economic story, it was a puff piece by Nick Robinson on a shopping trip with shadow chancellor George Osborne who seemed to be saying he could solve the deficit and save the planet by getting government departments not to leave the lights on at night.
Ok, it wasn’t quite as interesting as that, and my viewing was disturbed by my own repeated exclamations to Fiona on the lines of ‘what about the CBI? Is this it? Are they not even bothering with it, not one word?’ ‘It’s like those advertising features we used to do on the Sunday Independent,’ was as near as I got to a response.
There may well be some newsworthy elements to Osborne’s ‘green economy’ plans being set out today. But to elevate a puff piece trailer ahead of any coverage whatever of three significant speeches by party leaders on the future of the UK economy was a misjudgement.
I don’t doubt that online and on screen, the BBC will have covered the CBI. Indeed I tweeted yesterday on a report online which stated that it was only when Cameron spoke that the audience got ‘fired up,’ a totally subjective judgement presented as fact.
But most people who have a genuine interest in what GB, David Cameron and Nick Clegg had to say yesterday, and who watched the main evening bulletin, are unlikely to have been living in that media bubble which assumes everyone is following the debates closely as they unfold.
Surely if there is one place where you should be able to expect at least some coverage of an event at which all three leaders made speeches to business leaders on the economy, it is the BBC 10 o’clock news?
Their speeches were substantial, policy-laden, and politically interesting, in GB’s case because he was setting out his analysis of different approaches to the economic crisis and to how we assist the recovery, in Cameron’s case because he was seeking to recalibrate the austere message of his Party conference with an addtional focus on growth. Throw in a clip from Clegg and the praise of the head of the IMF for GB’s handling of the crisis, and there was the makings, surely, of an intelligent and informative package, with or without the usual two minutes of unneeded punditry at the end.
But we got none of that. We got Osborne joking about the deficit with a B and Q till assistant, and Robinson thinking that if he asked soft questions is a mildly agressive tone, we’d think it was a tough interview. It was a puff piece pure and simple. Well done to the Tory spin department.
And is there anyone, highish up in the BBC, who might today at least ask the question – why their main bulletin decided not to bother with even a nanosecond’s coverage of something that surely started the day as a guaranteed item high up the running order?