LDV survey: what party members think of the media reporting of Kennedy and the Coalition

Lib Dem Voice has polled our members-only forum to discover what Lib Dem members think of a variety of key issues, and what you make of the Lib Dems’ and Government’s performance to date. Almost 600 party members have responded, and we’ll be publishing the full results of our survey in the next few days.

A week ago, the news media’s silly season alighted on a suggestion that Charles Kennedy was about to defect to Labour, and flogged the story for all it was worth.

LDV asked: The news media this past weekend was dominated by suggestions – which appear to have emanated from the campaigns of one of the Labour leadership contenders – that Charles Kennedy was about to defect from the Lib Dems to Labour. The story was immediately dismissed by Charles and the party. Which of the following statements do you agree with:

    72% – This was no more than mischief-making by Labour. The media should have known better than to run with the story without credible sources.
    18% – This was a plausible story regardless of the source, so it’s understandable the news media chose to print/broadcast it.
    4% – Other
    6% – Don’t know / No opinion

These comments sum up the views expressed:

  • The rush to be first to a factually inaccurate story is a race to show your paper employs the most incompetent, gullible idiots.
  • I think it is likely to be a PR stunt by the Labour party, but like all good stories, it probably has an element of truth to it.
  • Anyone who knows Charles will understand why it is untrue but also why it came about!
  • The CK defection story was just the latest in a long line of negative media stories about the Lib Dems… so LDV asked what our sample of party members felt about our press:

    How accurate and balanced do you think media coverage of the Liberal Democrats has been since the formation of the Coalition?

    57% – Inaccurate and unbalanced: the media has done its job poorly and given an unfair account of the Lib Dems in government.
    37% – Okay: there has been reasonable coverage and it has been generally accurate.
    3% – Accurate and balanced: the media has done its job well and given a fair account of the Lib Dems in government.
    4% – Don’t know / No opinion

    A majority of members in our survey, therefore, think the media is doing a bad job of reporting how the Lib Dems are doing in government. However, a pretty high 40% of members reckon the coverage is okay or better than okay – a figure which surprised me, if I’m honest. Here’s a selection of your comments:

  • If anything the party has been weak at getting a message across that the Lib Dems remain a distinct party within government. We have been too ready to defend without reservation some decisions, rather than say that we are reluctant to do so but that is the price of stable government through coalition.
  • The media is undeniably, but barely understandably hostile to the Lib Dems; carrying nothing positive; willfully misrepresenting facts, decison making and our position; and talking up internal splits and splits in coalition with no real basis from my experience with reality of members, voters or public opinion.
  • They seem obsessed by the possibility of the Coalition failing – now, or next week, or whenever. No analysis of what the Governmen is actually DOING – just more personality politics of the lowest common denominator variety. I have been genuinely disappointed by the poor quality of critical analysis by the Media.
  • Don’t take this as a whinge about unfairness. The media, especially the print media and its online offshoots, are always inaccurate and unbalanced, in more senses than one. The Lib Dems aren’t necessarily treated worse than others in that respect.
  • The press are wholeheartedly targetting the LibDems to cause damage and undermine the party. There is no tripartisan spirit in the press.
  • There has been some good reporting but it’s been few and far between. The left (Guardian) is particularly vicious towards the Lib Dems
  • It is becoming more difficult to justify and support a majority of the coalitions policies and decisions
    It’s a new world for the press and of course they’re going to attack and seek to find divisions. This is the real world and when we learn to understand it better and work with it rather than grumble, we’ll do better.
  • You can access all the results of past Lib Dem Voice surveys of party members here.

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    10 Comments

    • Do you have the demographics of those who answered the survey? Be interesting to compare them to Lib Dem membership as a whole.

    • I’ve heard a lot of grumbling about how the media treated it but very few examples of the media treating it in a dishonest way. In another article the writer took a swipe at the BBC, when it reported the story as “Charles Kennedy ‘not defecting to Labour'” without any previous article saying that he would.

      The Daily Mail ran a story, i’m struggling to think of others. And it wasn’t immediately dismissed by Kennedy- it was around for a couple of days on twitter and the blogs before it was denied by Kennedy.

      Very sad that Charles Kennedy has tied himself to the mast of a ship sinking into blue water. I suppose he must feel like Michael Foot during the Blair years.

    • But they ran the story as “Kennedy not defecting”. The story that left the blogosphere was “Kennedy not defecting, despite rumours saying he would.”

      The two BBC news articles on the subject-

      “Lib Dems: Charles Kennedy is ‘not defecting to Labour'” – This was on the 21st, before Kennedy had denied it. The only other story came a day later, entitled- “Charles Kennedy calls Labour rumours ‘absolute rubbish'” once he had denied it.

      It was huge on twitter, but by the time it had entered the mainstream media the story was mostly about how it wasn’t true. I know you Lib Dems would dearly like to believe that everything is fine and that everything is the fault of a hostile media, but it just doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.

    • I don’t care what you do- but don’t try and pretend that you’re the victims of an unfair and hostile media. It was widely reported that it wasn’t true, eclipsing the original rumours to the point that the BBC didn’t run a single story on the rumours originally, but ran two to say that they weren’t true once they had taken hold on Twitter and the blogs.

    • The biggest problem with the media today is that, despite having a plethora of outlets on TV, radio and online, there is, more than ever before, a tendency for the broadcast media to follow the newspaper agenda. There was a time when the BBC and ITN would rarely follow the newspaper agenda but now it seems they rely on the print media to set the entire broadcast media agenda.

      I’ve worked in newsrooms up and down the country in recent years (BBC and commercial) and they are so scared of going against what is perceived to be that day’s agenda – and it’s usually an agenda set by the newspapers.

      So journalists end up parrotting a narrative and rarely questioning it.

      So it’s not really that the broadcast media in particular has it in for the Lib Dems but more a culture of ignorance.

      The newspaper press is largely

    • Paul McKeown 30th Aug '10 - 1:57pm

      I came across a rather insightful comment on ConservativeHome: http://conservativehome.blogs.com/leftwatch/2010/08/will-charles-kennedy-and-any-other-lib-dems-defect-to-labour-.html#comment-6a00d83451b31c69e20134865e5d8a970c

      The salient parts of the comment are:

      It’s almost certainly a cooked up story. However, just calling it silly misses the point; this is how Labour works, silly story about a defection one day, Clegg being got at by a Labour supporter claiming to be Lib/Dem going on about the coalition attacking the poor (which even he had to admit hadden’t happened) the next.

      The point is that these stories eventually work because Labour people are at it all the time and most voters just see the publicity stunts and don’t know the facts. 35% of voters think any economic problems were caused by banks, all trade unions are deluging members with stories that the cuts arn’t necessery, they are “idealogical” and the rich who caused the problems should pay not the poor and public sector workers.

      Liberal Democrats should be very wary. These continual attacks will eventually lead to a new perception of their party by the public, unless they debunk each and every such spurious piece of nonsense quickly, strongly and visibly. It would be a mistake to expect journalists from the mainstream to do the job of researching these stories: their editors are uniformly hostile to multipolar politics and the Liberal Democrats in particular.

    • Paul McKeown 30th Aug '10 - 2:02pm

      Basically the Liberal Democrats will suffer a long attritional campaign of attack by innuendo from unattributed Labour sources. The danger is that the mud will eventually stick. The trick for the Liberal Democrats will instead be to make the name of “liars” stick to the source of the attack.

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