How to put a bit of stick about in your election coverage

As I write this, there are 61 days to go to the general election.

If you want a more precise countdown, by the way, it’s here

Having looked, I should warn you that there are little over five million seconds before the country goes to the polls.

So I’m hoping your coverage plans are taking shape.

I have always loved election time – and it’s a double whammy this year because we get local ones thrown in as well.

But I have to acknowledge that not everyone shares my enthusiasm for the political process.

And so it’s important that we don’t get distracted by Westminster village/council house bubble priorities in the next couple of months.

We need, as I believe the young people of today have it, to keep it real.

So here are some ideas:

  • Colour pieces on the campaign trail: Shadow the candidates to find out how they react to real people, and to find out what makes them tick
  • Public meetings/hustings: If no one else is organising one, perhaps our papers should
  • First time voters: Ask people voting for the first time which way they’ll vote, and how they’ve decided.
  • Students: According to the National Union of Students, 191 constituencies have student populations large enough to overthrow the sitting MP The student vote could be crucial in your area, particularly after the Liberal Democrats’ tuition fee u-turn last time round.
  • Experts 1: What do the pollsters, pundits and bookmakers think will happen in your constituency? Check out Lord AshcroftNew StatesmanIain Dale (this one is for Gloucestershire) and Paddy Power
  • Experts 2: Get some analysis from local university politics lecturers – such as Dr Lisa Harrison at the University of the West of England
  • Ukip and the Greens: What will be their impact, albeit at opposite ends of the political and age spectrum?
  • Who are the youngest candidates?: Labour’s hopeful in Bath was just 18 when he was selected in 2013 – have you got someone even younger standing?
  • Retiring politicians: The election will see the retirement of some big figures – Don Foster in Bath, for instance.
  • What sort of communication works?: Does anyone really read those mock newspapers? What role is social media playing? Do politicians ever change minds on the doorsteps?
  • Visiting ministers: Don’t let them get away with a) vague speak-your-weight-machine quotes (Blandalism, as one of my favourite colleagues calls it) or b) whistle-stop photocalls. Ask them something tricky about their local party – and make sure your story is crystal clear about exactly how few real people they met on their so-called visit.

Above all else, make the most of the opportunities for putting a bit of stick about – as the original House of Cards Francis used to say.

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