I wonder if the press coverage of the Conservative Party Conference’s last day would fall under a charge of public misrepresentation.
For the benefit of those who have never been to a Party Conference, they are usually annual events lasting several days, where party members and politicians come together to listen to speeches, debate, consider and perhaps even vote on party policy. On the main stage are the key speeches by cabinet members and special guests and these attract the ‘lions share’ of the press coverage.
But away from the stage is where the really meaningful discussions take place, minds engaged, persuaded and opened up, and supportive relationships for causes formed. Hundreds of fringe events are put on by hundreds of organizations, covering all manner of issues affecting our society, our future, and put on at great expense and effort by passionate advocates of a cause that they believe in. In the weeks after I have no doubt that these connections made, ideas exchanges and hearts inspired will change the direction of countless initiatives and lives.
Across the 50 odd rooms were nervous first time speakers with their fully written speeches and shaky voices, to great orators, confident experts and impassioned unheard members armed with the strength of their convictions and an experience they want to share to those who may be able to do something about it. Of the thousands of hours that were spoken by politicians, causes advocated and feelings, I wonder what tiny fraction would have made it out into the public awareness through the media who despite their wide access to events and every opportunity to cover, would perhaps only cover a few which may enhance a certain angle.
Just before the Prime Minister took to the stage, a young Nigerian walked with a smile to the podium and shared with the country her story and why she was a Conservative. Kemi Badenoch MP, 37 and from Nigeria, spoke passionately how she came to London aged just 16, armed with only £100 in her back pocket, the words of her father of self determination and responsibility, and her belief in Britain and the Conservatives as the Party of opportunity, inclusivity and hope. You could feel her pride at her unlikely journey from there to getting elected as the Member of Parliament for Saffron Walden a few months ago, and was now about to introduce the Prime Minister of Great Britain to the stage.
The speaker before, Ben Bradley MP shared how, as a councillor he could see how residents of Mansfield had been ignored and neglected under a cloud of negativity and of his determination to do something about it. How instead we should be celebrating success, creating rewarding work opportunities to help people to help themselves. ‘We have an amazing story to tell’ he said. But was and how can he be heard?
The party was putting young, diverse, inspiring future leaders front and centre, with amazing tories that deserve to be heard by so many more than just those in that one packed room.
Moving on to our Prime Minister’s speech. Theresa May’s speech closing the 2017 three day conference was unfortunately affected by the self-serving idiocy of a so-called comedian, gravity’s pull on earthly objects downwards, and the consequences of having 10,000 people from across the country all wanting to shake hands and take a photo with her.
It quickly became substantial news that, contrary to all evidence, humans are as it turns out human, things without enough glue may fall down, and some jokes are really not funny and can actually be very irresponsible.
It opens up a wider question of how fair a representation of events the general population are being given, of just how much is being left out, and if this is really the media reporting the news, or are they creating it, cropping it, and deciding what news we should be allowed to hear. If a piece of paper wasn’t thrust into the hands of someone who was busy and there were some antibacterial wipes to hand, how much more of the coverage have been on the actual content of the speech as was its purpose? And if so, why would these few extreanous events completely render inconsequential what would otherwise have been central to the coverage. If even the policies and direction of our national government are at the mercy of being cropped from the national awareness by such events, what of also the impassioned voices of so many contentious activists and volunteers and speeches of other panelists.
Kemi’s speech preceding the Prime Minister’s spoke of her belief in inclusion and the sharing of ideas, not the closing away of minds and hearts from a mutual respect of differing views and each other. This surely must start by what is being said being properly rendered outwards by those who have the responsibility under ‘Today at Conference’.
The consequences of this selective representation of what is happening packaged into the definitive version of what we need and should know is leading our country down a route of less empathy, less communication and greater divisions. Most of us can empathize with the pressures of addressing a large audience, the horror and loneliness when it goes wrong, and the pure grit and determination required to carry on. For can this not be appreciated, set aside, and the actual content which is being be delivered considered is the responsibility of all of us. Our failure to do so says volumes about us and the direction of our society.
We must start with a more honest look at what and how events are being covered, how those in public positions are being treated, and asking ourselves whether the purpose is to help inform the public to open up a discourse between people based on what has been said, or the pushing of a certain personal message fostering divisions. Is it finally not time for news to be the information that matters and what we all should hear, for it to cover the intent and purpose behind peoples actions not what the media wants or thinks we want to hear, so we can take it away and consider ourselves a view beyond what we think we know.
What is being reported is hardly the whole of what is actually happening or being said. It is to us to keep an open mind.