Without doubt the biggest media story of this week has been Diane Abbott’s horrendous car crash interview with Nick Ferrari on LBC Radio. Abbott, who will be Home Secretary in the (let’s face it, rather unlikely) event of a Labour victory on 8 June, got herself in an awful muddle trying to answer a relatively simple question about how much it would cost to employ 10,000 additional Police officers.
I think that we can expect Diane Abbott’s media opportunities to be rather limited for the remainder of the campaign. It’s difficult to imagine such an embarrassment having been allowed to happen 20 years ago when New Labour’s media appearances were strictly scripted and ruthlessly controlled by Peter Mandelson and Alastair Campbell.
Unwise media interviews are not just a problem in this election for Labour. The only campaign contribution so far by Boris Johnson saw him widely ridiculed after he described Jeremy Corbyn as a mutton-headed old mugwump. The Conservatives are likely to keep Boris in the background from now on, if only because they don’t want to remind the electorate that a Conservative victory will see him keep his job as Foreign Secretary.
If anything, the Liberal Democrats have even more of a problem given that their Leader keeps putting his foot in it. Tim Farron got himself in an awful muddle by initially refusing to answer media questions about whether or not he thought gay sex was a sin.
There is of course nothing new in any of this. Back in the 1992 General Election the Labour Party went to great lengths to keep Gerald Kaufman, their Shadow Foreign Secretary, out of the media spotlight for fear that he might frighten voters. There were even Spitting Image sketches depicting Kaufman as a Bond villain.
For all the problems that press officers for the Conservative and Labour parties may have, other parties have it tougher. Would you really want to be in charge of media relations for Paul Nuttall’s UKIP?