National press journalists are allegedly being excluded from covering carefully-managed general election campaign events organised by Labour and the Conservatives.
This is the claim of Daily Mail columnist Stephen Glover who illustrates his point with the example of Tony Blair’s speech about the European Union in Sedgefield on Tuesday.
Most newspapers were not warned in advance, says Glover, and apart from “one or two hand-picked reporters” he says that only TV journalists were invited.
The Conservative-supporting Sun was apparently banned from the launch of the Labour campaign at London’s Olympic Park.
And Glover says that newspaper journalists were not even told about Ed Miliband’s visit to the Sikh Gurdwara in Leamington yesterday.
On Tuesday, Prime Minister David Cameron gave a speech in a West Country barn which appeared on TV to be in front of a packed rally (pictured above: Reuters).
But Glover notes that it in fact took place in a corner of a largely empty building in front of a comparatively small group of party activitists.
Glover speculates that Miliband and Cameron are so terrified of repeating Gordon Brown’s infamous encounter with Gillan Duffy that they are avoid real voters at all costs.
He said: "I submit that the chief reason is that, more than ever before, the main political parties are electioneering on their own terms, which means keeping the media — and in particular newspapers — at arms’ length. Never before was there such a sterile and stage-managed contest."
Liberal Democrat campaigner and PR commentator Mark Pack said that another feature of this general election campaign has been the death of daily press conferences.
Writing on his blog he said: "These have been dying off for a few elections, and now are dead rather than seriously ailing. That’s a huge shame because the format of each party holding a press conference at the start of the day allowed journalists to pursue one issue in depth with a party if they wished.
"It was far harder to bat off six journalists all asking about the same topic than one interviewer asking the same question six times – especially when the interviewer only gets one bite in the campaign but the journalist pack gets a bite every morning."