Thursday, March 19, 2015

Mud slinging, smears & lies as election campaign hots up

Mud slinging, smears & lies have already become the order of the day as the election campaign hots up. Most of the parties have been accused of underhand tactics with each accusing the other of disseminating lies or of refusing to debate the serius issues of the day

Blatant lies

Labour has slammed Tory claims that Ed Miliband wants an alliance with Sinn Féin if there were a hung Parliament saying it amounted to blatant "lies".

Sinn Féin has also dismissed reports that the party was in negotiations with British Labour MPs over a deal to prop up an Ed Miliband government following the general election [Guardian].

Yet the claims have been repeated and become part of an election smear campaign.

Pamphlets distributed by Hornchurch & Upminster Conservative MP Angela Watkinson prominently warn voters that Labour proposed to seek an alliance with the Republican Party.

The election flyer distributed to homes across Havering in East London talks of a "nightmare" pointing out that the SNP have said they'd help Ed Miliband into the next election", a deal that the Conservatives say "would mean more spending, more borrowing, more taxes - and chaos for Britain."

"And even worse, reports say Labour are also trying to secure the support of Sinn Féin to prop up Miliband as Prime Minister" the leaflet claims.

Whatever the deals demanded for propping up Ed Miliband, the election publication insists that "hardworking taxpayers would pay the price."

The claims that Labour was seeking to make a deal with Sinn Féin were first published in The Sun newspaper back in January. However, most papers have since dismissed the reports as fanciful.


Sinn Féin has rubbished the reports, with MP Conor Murphy saying the party had never held talks with any party on the issue. "Sinn Féin's position on Westminster is very well known. We work hard in delivering a good service to our voters but we do not take our seats in Westminster," he told the Daily Mirror.

"None of these parties have ever asked us over the course of these meetings to support them on the other side of an election," he said.

The scaremongering may have little basis in fact but the suggestion that the SNP and Sinn Fein might prop up Ed Miliband has been used in mock election posters posted on Twitter and in an official YouTube video [BBC].

Chickens running scared

However it's not just the Tories running a smear campaign. Labour themselves have mocked the Conservatives, and Prime Minister David Cameron in particular, for their apparent unwillingness to take part in pre-election TV debates [YouTube].

Cameron has been accused of "running scared" and of being "chicken" for his refusal to take part in a head to head with David Miliband. The PM said he would only take part in a single debate and one that must include the Green Party. After weeks of debate a deal was finally struck with a single 7-way debate which will air on ITV and be shared amongst the other broadcasters [Telegraph].

TV debates

Cameron has rejected a head to head debate. Instead there is now a proposal for two separate interviews of Cameron and Miliband hosted by Jeremy Paxman and then questioned by a studio audience in a Sky/Channel 4 special on 26th March.

After the dissolution of parliament at the end of March, Cameron would appear in a debate featuring the leaders of seven parties on ITV on the 2nd April.

Later the BBC are planning "a challengers' special" involving the SNP, UKIP, Plaid Cymru the Greens and the DUP. The programme scheduled for 16th April will likely anger UKIP leader Nigel Farage who wants the party to be seen as a major player.

There are also plans for separate half-hour segments in a Question Time-style event hosted by David Dimbleby with the main party leaders David Cameron, Ed Miliband and the Lib Dem leader, Nick Clegg taking part. That would be broadcast on the BBC on 30th April, just a week before Britain goes to the polls.

UKIP smears

One party that has been smeared more than any other is UKIP. Hardly a day goes by without the party being taken to task over its policies, especially of those concerning race and immigration. Channel Four's "The First 100 Days" drew hundreds of complaints for its speculative look at Britain after the general election should UKIP win.

The spoof drama-documentary prompted more than 6,500 complaints, many from the right wing group Britain First [Independent] .

The programme portrayed a fictional Asian woman UKIP MP who suffers a crisis of conscience when she witnesses the divisive impact of the party's policies on immigration in action and Britain's pull out from the EU having an impact on jobs.

Farage described the programme as "liberal-left poppycock" [Independent]. Meanwhile some members of the public branded the show a "hatchet job" as a number voiced their criticisms on Twitter, including comedian Jason Manford who raised concerns about bias.

One viewer said, "This is so biased from a mainstream media [organisation], it makes me furious - and I don´t even support UKIP." [Daily Mail]

Clowns & racists

Another programme also drew ire from party supporters. Broadcast on the BBC, the fly on the wall documentary Meet the Ukippers exposed the prejudiced views of some party activists and was watched by 1.4m viewers.

Described as "riveting" by some reviewers the programme exposed many of UKIP's shortcomings [Telegraph]

The programme even led to the party expelling councillor Rozanne Duncan for racist comments she made during the making of the show. During the programme she was filmed saying she had a "problem" with "negroes".

"A friend of mine said, 'What would you do if I invited you to dinner and put you next to one?' I said, 'I wouldn't be there, simple as that."

The revelations shown in the documentary were described as "jaw dropping by the Kent Messenger, a local paper which covers Thanet where the programme was filmed.

Some media coverage was more sardonic. The Telegraph viewed the party with mirth pointing out some of the "terrifying things" the documentary revealed out UKIP.

"They really, really love clowns" the paper said, referring to the slightly obsessive UKIP member who had a rather large collection of ceramic clowns. There were some more serious observations such as the chairman of UKIP's South Thanet branch, Martyn Heale, who was once a member of the National Front but seemed not to understand why it bothered people.

And of course there was a deep focus on Rozanne Duncan and her discomfort with people displaying "negroid features" but who insisted she was "absolutely not racist" [Telegraph]. The documentary can be watched on BBC iPlayer until 24th March.

Minor parties criticised

Even the minor parties have not escaped the criticism of being involved in a smear campaign. The latest to come under the spotlight is George Gallaway and his Respect Party with accusations that Labour opponents were receiving telephone threats, though there's no evidence thus far to show actual party members are involved [Guardian].

With around 48 days to go until the polls open the smear campaigns, lies and criticisms are likely to heat up. Indeed the mud slinging appears to just be starting.

tvnewswatch, London, UK

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