Out there - Leeds

Election views - Shiv Malik spots a small moment of drama

After a week of campaigning, the broadsheet Yorkshire Post had clearly had enough. "Drama that is yet to grip its audience", read the headline on page seven of last Monday's edition. Page seven is normally reserved for second-rate crime, fundraising and animal stories. For example, "Warning after cow attacks dog walker" was the very serious second story on page eight that day.

With 251 years of publishing history behind it, the grand old paper of Yorkshire is perhaps entitled to be a little bored. In the election of 1880 there were riots around the country. Why now should the Post's editors be asked to give up valuable space for this year's lacklustre contest especially when cows are rampaging across the Peak District?

The better-selling tabloid, the Yorkshire Evening Post, has kept its election coverage floating around pages four and five. It has also chosen 12 "ordinary" members of the public to variously condemn or celebrate the government on a daily basis, under the heading "You the jury". But despite the laudable attempts to sex up the issues, again there seems to be an air of duty about the whole thing. Even the Evening Post's street vendors seemed unconvinced. Four out of the five I asked said they were not going to vote.

Yet there is still some excitement to be had. Students make up 27.2 per cent of the electorate in Leeds North-West - one of the few three-way seats in Yorkshire - and so the Leeds Student, with its readership of 40,000, is receiving an amount of party pandering far above its normal station.

Tony Blair, or certainly his press office, has written a letter to the paper. The Lib Dems have bought a full-colour advert at the cost of £1,000. Michael Howard's press office first refused, saying that the Tory leader was "snowed under". Once they realised Tony Blair's office was penning away, they decided they couldn't afford to stay off the student bandwagon. A letter is on its way.

This competition for the Leeds student vote was also the motivation for another, less glorious, but perhaps more effective, form of pandering. Armed with nothing but a loudhailer, Charles Hendry, the once shadow minister for young people and higher education, and now supposedly, since the dissolution of parliament, just an "ordinary bloke", mounted the steps of Leeds University Union and argued the Tory case for 35 minutes. How did it go? A full 60 members of the fag-and-sandwich brigade gathered to hear him speak. Why? According to Andrew Chiswick, 22, English undergraduate: "I want to see people gun him down hard." And when people did "gun him down" more people flocked to listen. Away from carefully managed media messages, here, raw and in the flesh, was the entertainment.

Here, in its small way, was the drama.

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