After the dust settled from the press launch, the Independent Network can be proud of putting independent candidates in the national spotlight.
There was a significant presence of national media at the launch in April with the Press Association and BBC on hand with camera crews as well as most quality national newspapers like the Times, Independent, Telegraph, Guardian, Daily Mail, and the Financial Times. BBC World Service were also present to interview to various independents as well as Martin Bell OBE and Brian Ahearne from the Independent Network.
Political websites like politics.co.uk and epolitix also attended to cover the event showing a shift towards better representation of independent candidates. This was further emphasized by the presence of thee of the major national political sketch writers including Ann Treneman, Brian Wheeler, Simon Hoggart and Simon Carr.
The Telegraph drew attention to the challenge to high profile MPs disgraced in the expenses scandal with the Daily Mail, Metro, and Reuters highlighting the increasing chance of independents causing an upset on May 6th.
The spiky sketch writers did their best to be satirical; the BBC’s Brian Wheeler, Simon Hoggart for the Guardian and Treneman for the Times all picking up on Bell’s metaphor of the Independent Network being a “contraption” and not a political machine. While the BBC used the comment as a humorous starting block before explaining the no policy system of the Independent Network and emphasizing that all candidates share an “earnest sense of public duty”, Hoggart took a personal swipe at the organizers of the Independent Network without offering any real comment into the state of British politics and what the independent candidates stood for.
Independent Network candidate Gordon Kennedy said he had to read Simon Hoggart’s piece twice in disbelief because the picture painted was nothing like the actual event that he attended. “The group of Independent Network candidates could hardly fit in the room comfortably given the number of attending media types. It is true that the Independent Network had no huge budget to supply a flunky to wait on Mr. Hoggart. I am sure if he attended a big political party event there would be more deference and PR smooze, however on this occasion he had to content himself with being just another writer.”
The venue for the launch was the Frontline Club, a favourite of war correspondents and hotbed of independent journalism. The seats filled up so quickly that many reporters found that there was standing room only.
“I was there to support the Independent Network,” continued Kennedy. “I admire their aims and was ambivalent about the journalists as I have to place my trust in the voters of Dagenham and Rainham rather than the editorial policy of national newspapers and whom they decide to support or attack.”
Treneman for the Times seemed to find the launch amusing enough as she likened it to “political speed-dating” but managed to portray the candidates’ enthusiasm for their campaign with a half a page dedicated to the launch.
Matthew West at politics.co.uk seemed to be at an entirely different event where “journalists didn’t appear to care”. However his pessimistic sketch was counteracted by Sam Dale’s informative piece on the same site which emphasized the message that independents had an opportunity like no other on 6 May.
Apart from some inaccurate reporting, which included the number of candidates ranging from 40 to 49 depending on which report you read, the launch received a good amount of coverage emphasizing the growing demand for an alternative to party politicians. Most articles, in print and online, recognised the limited resources available to independents and portrayed the launch as a refreshing alternative to the PR and spin events hosted by the political parties.
The press also gave good publicity to many of the endorsed candidates including Sarah Flannery of Tatton and John Swallows of Peterborough who received a substantial amount of mentions. Gordon Kennedy also got his interview aired on BBC World Service and Alice Sakura Dartnell’s picture by the Press Association appeared in the Metro and the Times which is bound to enhance their campaigns.
Bell proudly said at the launch, “There is not a professional politician on this platform!” Indeed, the platform showed probably one of the most diverse set of views in any political organisation. Issues and policies they may disagree or agree on but the unanimous sentiment on the stage of the Frontline Club was that independent candidates are the only alternative to party politics.
The independent candidates were given a fair voice and a space in many political papers, websites and radio stations showing the media are accepting that independents are becoming a force to be reckoned with.