Nick’s latest book, covering the 2015 general election, draws on his experiences of reporting over a dozen general elections and draws on his wider experiences gained from fifty years of political reporting. In his introduction Nick explains that the publisher’s aim in commissioning the book “was to use the experiences and conclusions of the 2015 campaign as an opportunity to reflect on the highlights and lessons of past general elections. This was my 14th in the five decades I have spent reporting political and industrial affairs. Matthew Smith’s (the publisher) invitation to write a fifth election book was an offer I could not resist…”
Each chapter is headed by a letter in the alphabet, so there are 26 chapters. This is an achievement in itself. Some are straight forward – A for Election Advertising; G Political Gaffes; O Opinion polls (“They had been consistent in their prediction that the result would be close, probably a dead heat between David Cameron and Ed Miliband, a forecast that had dictated the course of the campaign, influencing tactics to a far greater extent than had ever previously been the case”. Others are highly imaginative – K for Kitchens; Q for Queen; W Political Wives; X for Xavier (Michael Denzil Xavier Portillo) to give him his full name and Z for…you will have to read the book to find out about that one!
His chapter Journalists highlights the changes in the way the news is reported. The impact of 24 hour television news programmes, and how the Web with its social media and networking; personal blogs, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagam, Buzzfeed and other platforms have changed the rules of the game out of all recognition.
With Jeremy Corbyn the bookies’ favourite for winning the Labour party leadership election (results expected on 12 September) a careful reading of chapter M the Monstering of Miliband reminds the reader of the dominance of the right wing press and the savage treatment they will dish out to those who fail to support the status quo. “ The pounding he (Miliband) would be subject to…was as vicious as the treatment meted out to Gordon Brown, Neil Kinnock and Michael Foot, but the pre-election monstering of Miliband went further than simply trashing of his personality and the ridiculing of his political credibility…” This Nick Jones quite rightly puts down to Miliband’s attacks on Murdoch, his support for a Leveson style of independent press regulation; for being outspoken against the ‘phone tapping scandals and the need to protect the ‘principle of media plurality’. None of these are found on Murdoch’s ‘to do list’.
The book also contains a number of personal insights; his encounters with UKIP’s Nigel Farage; the revelation that Nick’s father, Clement Jones, editor of the Wolverhampton Express and Star had been friends with Enoch Powell in the early 1950s and how the fall out of Powell’s ‘rivers of blood’ speech “is imprinted on family memory”. All is set out in the chapter U for Ukip. But at the heart of it all is Nick’s commitment to straight reporting which caused Blair’s spin doctor Alistair Campbell in his second volume of diaries to describe him as a ‘tick’. Oxford Dictionary – Tick ‘parasitic insect…unpleasant or despicable person’. Praise indeed.
The Election A-Z by Nicholas Jones is published by Urbane Publications price £12.99.