This morning a journalist from the Telegraph was booed and jeered when, at the launch of Ukip’s election manifesto, he asked why there were no black faces in the document. The video of the supporters’ response was posted online, as was another in which the senior political correspondent, Christopher Hope, personally explained the event.
The saga was presented as an example of the Ukip’s lack of ethnic minority support and its disdain for rigorous scrutiny. But was it fair? The journalist was perfectly entitled to ask the question, of course, but are hostile reactions from activists in response always wrong?
The party had just released a ‘fully costed’ 76-page manifesto with new policies on the economy, education and defence – and yet the focus of a respected broadsheet journalist was on a matter the party had been challenged on many times before. Coming up with questions and possible angles for new stories can be a relentless task, but the chosen line of questioning here seemed relatively trivial, lacking in intellectual curiosity and unlikely to reveal anything ‘new’.
It was also another example of the modern phenomenon, particularly on the left, of prioritising the issues of identity over those of economics. But I fear that ‘racist’ or ‘sexist’ stories tend to generate more online traffic than those that scrutinise policy announcements: a risk to the general quality of political reporting and discussion.