A visit from ITN’s Chris Ship

Chris Ship visits Fishburn

It’s fewer than a hundred days until the UK General Election. You may have heard about it. Don’t believe me? There’s a website you can check.

One person who is very aware of such things is ITN’s Deputy Political Editor, Chris Ship. Just this Wednesday, Chris followed up the results of a recent Lord Ashcroft poll on Scottish voting intentions with a visit to Glasgow. Having duly assessed the potential SNP/Labour dynamic, Chris swung by our London office to talk through the machinations of the news machine, the run up to May 7th and the relationship of business to government.

With Scotland fresh in Chris’s mind, it was only natural that we began there. The referendum may be fading from the collective memories of those south of the border, but it seems a number of our Caledonian relations are ruing the nation’s resounding ‘No’. To this end, the SNP may romp home to a victory that not only weakens Labour but completely obliterates the Liberal Democrats.

This conclusive goodbye to three party politics brought us to the subject of the Leaders’ Debates. From a broadcaster’s perspective, David Cameron’s reluctance to engage – ostensibly to include the Greens and not dominate the election build-up – has been a logistical nightmare. The same event five years on now looks like it will be harder to schedule, less rigorous in terms of its questioning and potentially far less interesting. That’s unless David Cameron fails to appear, in which case we may find that an empty chair threatens to be the biggest political interest of the entire campaign.

Of course, that’s until the results come in. Although with Chris and many others of the view that the smart “money is on a very, very hung parliament”, the power of uncertainty to numb any excitement looms large. Broadcasters do have 2010 to work from as a basis, but with the fixed-term parliament act preventing an immediate re-vote without a supportive two-thirds majority, it’s telling that Chris and his colleagues are fully prepared for an outcome where it is a matter of “weeks not days” before any working coalition is established. However, if the BBC’s Simon McCoy has any role in proceedings and his coverage of the Royal Baby is anything to go by, we could still be suitably entertained nonetheless.

What then, can the world of business expect after all the excitement has died down? The last week has certainly shown that Labour’s lack of business support is seen as a significant point of vulnerability by Conservative strategists and economic libertarians as a whole. Yet to draw so clear a line between the two main parties (one of whom must inevitably dominate any eventual government) is to oversimplify. Labour’s response to business has certainly been more combative under Ed Miliband, but a resurgent Blue Labour faction will be concerned. Likewise, the potential for a Conservative-led government to lead Britain out of the EU, currently offers Labour a valuable, if highly negative pitch to business.

As such, the interaction between business and politics will remain in a state of flux. As our own work in the rail and aviation sector has shown, issues which were previously seen only as industry-specific have become political footballs occupying the very highest levels of national interest. What’s more, it has become imperative that not only politicians, but businesses across the board embrace the media’s ever-present scrutiny. Putting your case forward in as transparent a fashion as possible to be examined by impartial observers offers organisations of all typed the valuable platforms needed to assert their social purpose and relevance. Equally, the media themselves are aware of their own need to engage in a “legitimate form of reportage” that will inform audiences on the central issues of the day. After all, bacon sandwiches shouldn’t be the news every day.

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