As I write this I’m watching David Cameron deliver his first Conference speech as Prime Minister. This is naturally a big event for him; not only is it the first time a Conservative Prime Minster has addressed the Party Conference since 1996, but it also comes at a difficult time for the party itself and wider Britain.
Over the past few weeks of ‘conference season’ we’ve witnessed the Liberal Democrats confuse themselves as they struggle to reconcile the problems of finally tasting power, along with the poisonous knowledge that power has been achieved through the betrayal of many long-standing principles. Similarly we have seen the alleged death of New Labour and the general bafflement of MPs as they try to comprehend just how they’ve managed the elect the ‘wrong Miliband’.
The Prime Minister’s problems however, are intensified by the burden of government. The coalition has upset many in the party’s right-wing and has pushed the party too far to the political ‘centre’ than many would have liked. As a result it has been alleged that the Conservative Party could be on the march towards a state of civil war, which could see the coalition strained not by blue/yellow splits, but by blue/blue splits (see Rawnsley).
Conferences themselves have numerous functions (most of which hold little interest to non-members). However, one of the most significant is the opportunity to transmit their policies to the wider public in the hope of securing votes. It is at this point where the power of the media becomes paramount. Each conference is almost guaranteed to lead the nightly news headlines along with networks like the BBC and Sky offering live rolling coverage and analysis throughout the day. Geographers Smeltzer and Lepawsky address this point by investigating the important role “[m]ainstream and alternative media play … in circulating powerful narratives within and often beyond a country’s borders” (2008:86). Although they’re work focuses upon the Malaysian elections of the last decade, they’re argument and conclusions can be applied just as interestingly to the UK or elsewhere throughout the political calendar. The rise of political blogging through sites such as this, along with countless others; has provided an ever expanding platform of expression upon which people can spout their political views and read the ramblings of others. A quick look to America and the success of groups like ‘The Young Turks’ provide and effective example of this, as the views of their videos and blogs rival that of the major news networks.
Such coverage raises important questions about ‘framing’. In the battle for viewers/readers many media organisations have become increasingly partisan in the way they chose to frame their political coverage. Smeltzer and Lepawsky address this issue of framing by focusing on the relationship between ICT and the electoral process and question the political implications of this framing activity.
Andrew Rawnsley’s Political Commentary: The Guardian/Observer
The Young Turks website