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Electioneering (Part Two)

In August, only a couple of weeks after starting this blog, I wrote a post called 'Electioneering'. Still one of my better efforts, it discussed negative campaigning in America and that moment when David Miliband decided to imply to a throng of nonplussed people that he was going to force out Gordon Brown.

Writing today, I notice some similarities, hence the title 'Electioneering (Part Two)'. It's interesting to see how things can develop: then, Labour looked dead in the water and Brown on his way out; now, he's resurgent and may be able to help them out of this hole yet. And then, John McCain was engaging in some full-scale negative campaigning, doing everything in his power to weaken Obama's reputation; now, he has lost the election and made an admirably humble concession speech.

Here's to change.

Historic black man wins historic black election to become historic black President
The Emperor's New Glenrothes
Indy hit by the wind of change
Misleading Headline Of The Week

Historic black man wins historic black election to become historic black President

Congratulations to Barack Obama, then, for winning the Presidential election (he's reading this). He's already inspired millions – to vote, apart from anything else – and we can only hope he is able to fulfil his promises and lead America and the world into recovery. By the way, did you know he's black?

The BBC's live election coverage was, on the whole, pretty good, although Jeremy Vine's little touchscreen thing analysing individual counties was wholly unnecessary. Who does he think he is, Peter Snow? His brother, Tim, would have been better. Still, the coverage was mostly good. One thing I did find very annoying, though, was David Dimbleby's insistence on bringing the election back to race.

Now I'm as fully aware as anyone else of the importance of Obama's race in the context of the election.

It shouldn't be important, but it is – and yes, I was worried he would lose to John McCain thanks to a few (well, more than a few) deep-seated racists in the south of America. I would still love to see their reactions now: jaws still over the floor, I imagine, like Pam and Tommy just burst through the door. I am glad that analysts made note of the race issue and were happy to bring it up in political discussion, instead of sweeping it under the carpet and saying, "Well, his race may affect the outcome of the election, I suppose, but I don't think like that and anyway, is he black? I hadn't noticed." For better or worse (definitely worse), Barack Obama's race mattered, and it is right that the BBC confronted it in their election coverage.

However. Was there any need for David Dimbleby to contextualise the result to nearly every state with its ethnic diversity ratio? "And Obama is projected to win Massachusetts – 40% of the population there of an ethnic background, of course... and he is also projected to win Rhode Island – 29% of the population black... McCain is projected to take Texas... no black people there at all, obviously... but Obama is projected to win North Carolina... 51% of people there from an ethnic background... " It became stupid, and very unnecessary anyway; if the statistic had really mattered then it would have made sense, but it really was as if he though being black was the only reason Obama would have received any votes. And when you also consider his stumbling, fumbling, bumbling presenting, it really is time Dimbleby went.

Whether it's right, meanwhile, for some people to vote for Obama purely on the premise that he is of a certain ethnicity, I don't quite know. In an ideal world we would all vote... well, we would all vote, for a start. But, to finish that sentence, in an ideal world we would all vote on policy, comparing parties' intentions and voting for the one most in accord with our own beliefs. Sadly, however, that's not the case, and it's definitely not the case in America, where you could have to drive several miles to find someone who has even heard of the world 'policy'.

So is it right to vote for someone because they're black? I don't know. It isn't right to vote against someone because they're black, so is it OK to vote for them for the same reason? Is it different in this case because Obama has made history, empowered millions of African-American citizens and showed that the civil rights movement in America had a greater effect than anyone could ever have imagined (Deep Impact scriptwriters aside)? I don't know. But it's done now: Obama is President, and personally, I'm very glad.

By the way, is anyone else still having terrifying visions of 'Obama' ripping off his mask to reveal Hillary Clinton laughing maniacally and shouting, "The fools!"? No? Just me then.

The Emperor's New Glenrothes

In the second most crucial vote of national importance this week (sorry, X-Factor), Labour won the by-election in Glenrothes, which borders Gordon Brown's constituency in Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath. It's a big by-election, and one that has had some justified build-up: with all the problems Labour were having, it looked as though the SNP would be able to overturn their 10,664 majority. Then the economy really hit the skids and it became Brown's time to shine. And now they've won this big, very big, by-election that, as the Prime Minister claims, actually does signify a vote of confidence in his handling of the economy.

Given that we're not quite in a stage of throwing money around in celebration just yet, it really is one hell of a result for the Prime Minister. This is the seat of his neighbouring constituency, and it looked certain Labour would lose it. That would have been a killer blow. But Brown is showing himself to be a strong leader in an economic crisis, and he could just emerge out of this recession a hero. He's doing as well as could be expected at the moment, that's for sure.

But it's not a Brown Bounce. Stop calling it that. The Brown Bounce happened when he took over as Prime Minister and had an immediate surge of popularity, which generally happens with all new Prime Ministers. This, on the other hand, is mere popularity. Will it last? Who knows? But there's probably no man happier to be in a recession.

Indy hit by the wind of change

Considering its love for all things apocalyptic, I wonder how long it will be before The Independent splashes its own face across its front page with the headline 'THE DEATH OF INDEPENDENT THOUGHT'. It could work in a Russian Doll picture-within-a-picture kind of way, which would look cool: a series of ever-smaller front pages proclaiming the death of a species – the whining middle-ground newspaper.

You see, The Indy is dying on its arse a little bit, and even though its not-right-wing status makes me prefer it to dishrags such as The Daily Mail and the eerily-booming Evening Standard, I wouldn't be that disappointed to see it go. It's a long time since The Independent cared about reporting the news, and although the fresh-faced idealist in me years ago loved to find out what else in the world should be outraging me over my morning biscuits, I very quickly grew bored of hearing about the various ways in which I'll wake up dead tomorrow. Tsunamis. Superbugs. Suicide bombers. If The Indy was a conspiracy theorist it would be Where Are All The Bees? As it is, it's a newspaper with one headline: 'WE'RE ALL GOING TO DIE'.

When is there ever?

The fact is that newspapers are struggling as a breed. We hip young gunslingers called student journalists are being constantly warned that print is a dying aspect of journalism because everything happens online now, and sadly, that's largely true. Why wait for a newspaper Tuesday morning when you can read a story on your computer at work on Monday afternoon? The current financial crisis is not helping newspaper circulation – look how badly The Daily Star Sunday is doing – simply because it makes more sense to read the paper online for free than to buy it in print, although unsurprisingly, the FT is doing pretty well at the moment.

It is predicted four national newspapers will go under in the next five years. If The Independent is not one of these, I will eat a copy of it.

Fittingly, one of the reasons for its failure is a reluctance and consequent slowness to get into online development. It is paying the price for that now. My own interpretation of its spiralling downturn is simpler: that in these times of real crisis, people want to read the news. Here, The Indy cannot help you.

It looks like a question of when, not if, for The Independent. Perhaps this is a shame after all. I can think of worse newspapers. Anyway, the Mail is suffering. That's funny.

Misleading Headline Of The Week

The BBC has to stop doing this.

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Electioneering (Part Two) + TIME