This isn’t doing the cause of feminism any favours here, a high pitched whine concerning media coverage of the Women’s Equality Party. The specific whinge being that Nigel Farage gets lots of airtime and that they don’t. Well, given that Farage’s party is the front runner in this coming election that might be fair enough we’d think. But there’s more to it than that. Much more in fact, and I speak as someone who was a press officer for Farage in the run up to a euro-election.
Now I am fighting another campaign, this time as WE’s lead candidate in London for the European elections. If you weren’t aware of my candidacy, or that we’ve just published the most bold and radical manifesto of this electoral contest, or that we’ve just won our first seat in the local elections, in Congleton, don’t be surprised. Ofcom guidelines, intended to ensure fair elections by allocating TV and radio airtime to parties according to measures such as their past performance, are often misinterpreted as instructions to silence newer parties. It takes a stroke of luck, good or bad, to get us public attention.
Yep, past performance does indeed determine – in the absence of truly exceptional factors – airtime coverage.
In Britain, broadcast guidelines and a voting system designed for stability and to resist extremes are combining to foment instability and extremism. As a journalist, I saw the rise of regressive populism and decided I could do more to combat it by founding a party than by writing about it. But smaller parties face barriers when trying to get their message out via routes open to establishment parties and regressive populists. And that matters because our message is urgent and compelling. WE is the only party to lay out a blueprint for making the UK better than it has ever been, inside a transformed Europe. It is less than 10 days until the European elections and WE will spend that time doing everything it can to reach voters. WE is fortunate in already having wide and deep support and brilliant activists. I’m also offering secular prayers for another stroke of luck that, for a few minutes at least, catapults us over the barriers to broadcast coverage. Dying to be heard? In this broken system, it can take a near-death experience to get news organisations to listen.
Yep. And you know who had to go through all of that? Nigel Farage and Ukip. I know because I was one of those banging on doors to get our views heard. Pottering around the Press Gallery in Parliament to hand out press briefings. My colleague, Clive, phoning ’round the TV and radio shows to get someone, anyone, on.
I actually did the post-election BBC radio interview. We’d just come second in the euro-elections. They still ran the main interview with Tory, Labour and LibDem, that is the first, third and fourth. Us in Ukip, coming second, were relegated to the Championship, not Premiership, interview with the Greens – second and fifth together.
Like Brexit itself, the systemic exclusion of some small parties from UK political coverage and the overrepresentation of others can only be understood as part of a bigger picture that journalists more often reinforce than challenge (and I speak as someone who committed political journalism for more than three decades).
You were complaining about, struggling against, calling out, the manner in which Ukip spent a decade wandering in the wilderness were you? Doing something about it?
You weren’t? Then you can bugger off can’t you Honey.