Even if you do add in Russell Brand, it doesn't necessarily make your march newsworthy. Photo: Getty
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No, the media didn’t ignore your anti-austerity march – it just wasn’t that interesting

There’s no organised “media blackout” on reporting protest marches. More often than not, they just aren’t that much of a story.

Another protest march, another set of howls that there has been a “media blackout” to prevent the reporting of marches. It’s become an article of faith among the hard left in the UK that the BBC in particular has been ordered not to cover protest marches.

First off, as usual with these events, photos of legions of marchers circulate, along with tweets along the lines of “HOW IS THIS LEGION OF REVOLUTIONARIES NOT NEWS, BBC?!? THERE ARE MILLIONS OF US! #Mediablackout”

These fall into two broad categories – firstly, and most commonly, the shot of a march from years ago which had bigger numbers, like this one, which was tweeted hundreds of times alongside grumpy comments. That’s actually from a march in 2011; you can tell instantly it wasn’t from Saturday, because the trees have no leaves, but Saturday’s march was held on midsummer’s day. Just as a clue, retweeting that sort of fake image hurts rather than helps your claims of relevance.

The second is the shot taken from among the crowd – which really is from the right march, but shows the crowd without actually showing the scale. The one I linked to is from Trafalgar Square; at first glance it looks like a big march, but there’s probably 80 people crammed into that shot. It’s not intentional fakery, but it’s naive to think the fact you are surrounded by people means that the march is newsworthy.

Secondly, as usual with these events – it’s not true that there was no coverage. There was coverage; on both BBC national and local radio, and on the BBC News Channel in the evening news, from 8pm onwards. It’s the British “Broadcasting” corporation – the clue is in the name. The inability to find something on the BBC news website does not mean there is a “media conspiracy”.

These demos, and the complaints of a blackout happen all the time – take the Manchester anti-cuts march. It’s an article of faith among the left that this was the subject of a “media blackout” – so much so that Andy Burnham wrote to Ofcom to complain the coverage was “cursory”. Yet here is a supercut of all the BBC coverage of the day – including the BBC political editor talking about the protestor’s specific demands. On the day, there were two articles on the march on the front page of the BBC website – but still, the myth of the “media blackout” persists.

The wackier end of these conspiracy media blackout theories include the idea that “armed police were deployed to stop us“ – usually posted by people unaware that the police around parliament habitually carry guns, so that’s not unusual. There’s also the usual cry that “Russia Today gave it loads of airtime”. It just goes to demonstrate that the more people tell you “the mainstream media are lying to us”, the more they are probably lying to you.

If you buy into this narrative – as supported by the Morning Star – then all that stops the revolution from happening is the fact people just don’t know about what the Tories are doing. If only the BBC would run an article with the full text of Russell Brand’s speech on the front page of its website, then within 24 hours the country would be at a standstill, with barricades in the street, and within a week, Owen Jones would be prime minister, passing the Socialist Utopia (Creation Of) Bill.

That’s just not true, guys.

It’s not that the general public don’t know about assorted cuts – those are covered by the press on a daily basis. It’s not that the general public don’t disapprove of the cuts – there’s plenty of evidence of that, too. Yet Eoin Clarke still asked “Please give me 1 good reason why the BBC News Website has not covered this anti-Austerity march in London today?”

Here’s the reason – the government don’t need to order a media blackout because the sad truth is “Lefties march in moderate numbers, again, and then go home, again”, isn’t much of a story. That’s it. That’s why the BBC didn’t cover it.

It’s not new – demonstrations happens with those numbers three or four times a year in London alone, usually with the same people carrying the same banners. The metropolitan police tell me they don’t keep a log of how many, but that they “facilitate thousands of demonstrations in London every year”.

People marching – even if there are 50,000 of them – just isn’t a big story. Yes, it’s enough to win one parliamentary constituency, but it’s not a revolution. Sure, BBC editors are being selective in their coverage – but that’s an editor’s job.

It’s often said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. People need to wake up to the fact that marches, for all their symbolic value to the left, just aren’t that relevant or newsworthy anymore. Even if you do add in Russell Brand.

Willard Foxton is a card-carrying Tory, and in his spare time a freelance television producer, who makes current affairs films for the BBC and Channel 4. Find him on Twitter as @WillardFoxton.

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After Strictly, I'd love to see Ed Balls start a new political party

My week, from babbling at Michael Gove to chatting Botox with Ed Balls and a trip to Stroke City.

If you want to see yourself as others see you, write a weekly column in a national newspaper, then steel yourself to read “below the line”. Under my last offering I read the following comment: “Don’t be angry, feel pity. Her father was a member of the European Parliament. Her older brother has been a member of parliament, a cabinet minister, a secretary of state, a historian, a mayor of London. Her younger brother is a member of parliament and minister for universities and science. She has a column in the Daily Mail. Can you imagine how she feels deep inside?” Before I slammed my laptop shut – the truth always hurts – my eye fell on this. “When is Rachel going to pose for Playboy seniors’ edition?” Who knew that Playboy did a seniors’ edition? This is the best compliment I’ve had all year!

 

Three parts of Michael Gove

Part one Bumped into Michael Gove the other day for the first time since I called him a “political psychopath” and “Westminster suicide bomber” in print. We had one of those classic English non-conversations. I babbled. Gove segued into an anecdote about waiting for a London train at Castle Cary in his trusty Boden navy jacket and being accosted by Johnnie Boden wearing the exact same one. I’m afraid that’s the punchline! Part two I’ve just had a courtesy call from the Cheltenham Literature Festival to inform me that Gove has been parachuted into my event. I’ve been booked in since June, and the panel is on modern manners. De mortuis nil nisi bonum, of course, but I do lie in bed imagining the questions I hope I might be asked at the Q&A session afterwards. Part three There has been what we might call a serious “infarction” of books about Brexit, serialised passim. I never thought I would write these words, but I’m feeling sorry for the chap. Gove gets such a pasting in the diaries of Sir Craig Oliver.

Still, I suppose Michael can have his own say, because he’s returning to the Times this week as a columnist. Part of me hopes he’ll “do a Sarah Vine”, as it’s known in the trade (ie, write a column spiced with intimate revelations). But I am braced for policy wonkery rather than the petty score-settling and invasions of his own family privacy that would be so much more entertaining.

 

I capture the castle

I’ve been at an event on foreign affairs called the Mount Stewart Conversations, co-hosted by BBC Northern Ireland and the National Trust. Before my departure for Belfast, I mentioned that I was going to the province to the much “misunderestimated” Jemima Goldsmith, the producer, and writer of this parish. I didn’t drop either the name of the house or the fact that Castlereagh, a former foreign secretary, used to live there, and that the desk that the Congress of Vienna was signed on is in the house, as I assumed in my snooty way that Ms Goldsmith wouldn’t have heard of either. “Oh, we used to have a house in Northern Ireland, Mount Stewart,” she said, when I said I was going there. “It used to belong to Mum.” That told me.

Anyway, it was a wonderful weekend, full of foreign policy and academic rock stars too numerous to mention. Plus, at the Stormont Hotel, the staff served porridge with double cream and Bushmills whiskey for breakfast; and the gardens at Mount Stewart were stupendous. A top performer was Jonathan Powell, Tony Blair’s former chief of staff, who runs his own conflict resolution charity. Powell negotiated the Good Friday Agreement and also has a very natty line in weekend casual wear. Jeremy Corbyn has said he wants a minister for peace, as well as party unity. Surely “Curly” Powell – a prince of peace if ever there was one – must be shoo-in for this gig.

PS: I was told that Derry/Londonderry is now known as “Stroke City”. I imagined stricken residents all being rushed to Casualty, before I worked it out.

 

On board with Balls

Isn’t Ed Balls bliss? From originating Twitter’s Ed Balls Day to becoming Strictly Come Dancing’s Ed Balls, he is adding hugely to the gaiety of the nation. I did the ITV show The Agenda with Tom Bradby this week, and as a fellow guest Balls was a non-stop stream of campery, charleston steps, Strictly gossip and girly questions about whether he should have a spray tan (no!), or Botox under his armpits to staunch the sweat (also no! If you block the armpits, it will only appear somewhere else!).

He is clever, fluent, kind, built like a s*** outhouse, and nice. I don’t care that his waltz looked as if his partner, Katya, was trying to move a double-doored Sub-Zero American fridge across a shiny floor. After Strictly I’d like to see him start a new party for all the socially liberal, fiscally conservative, pro-European millions of us who have been disenfranchised by Brexit and the Corbynisation of the Labour Party. In fact, I said this on air. If he doesn’t organise it, I will, and he sort of promised to be on board!

 

A shot in the dark

I was trying to think of something that would irritate New Statesman readers to end with. How about this: my husband is shooting every weekend between now and 2017. This weekend we are in Drynachan, the seat of Clan Campbell and the Thanes of Cawdor. I have been fielding calls from our host, a type-A American financier, about the transportation of shotguns on BA flights to Inverness – even though I don’t shoot and can’t stand the sport.

I was overheard droning on by Adrian Tinniswood, the author of the fashionable history of country houses The Long Weekend. He told me that the 11th Duke of Bedford kept four cars and eight chauffeurs to ferry revellers to his pile at Woburn. Guests were picked up in town by a chauffeur, accompanied by footmen. Luggage went in another car, also escorted by footmen, as it was not done to travel with your suitcase.

It’s beyond Downton! I must remember to tell mine host how real toffs do it. He might send a plane just for the guns.

Rachel Johnson is a columnist for the Mail on Sunday

This article first appeared in the 29 September 2016 issue of the New Statesman, May’s new Tories