Associated Newspapers give the Tories a handy freebie
Today, the day of the local elections, the Metro newspaper - a freebie given out to commuters every weekday morning in around 15 major cities, including London, Manchester and Birmingham - handed the Tories between £11,000 and £16,000 worth of free advertising (ratecard .pdf) with what was effectively a half-page advertorial.
Although it's no major surprise that right-leaning Associated Newspapers, who own the Metro along with the Daily Mail and Evening Standard, should have a bit of a pro-Tory agenda, to suddently turn over the "60 second interview" feature - normally the preserve of D-list celebs desperately plugging their latest product - to a softball Q&A with the leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition (also D-list, but still) is, on the day of an election and with no equivalent space given to the leaders of the other parties, surely a tad off?
In a seemingly pre-arranged series of at first glance semi-tough questions ("Your strategy of saying nothing while waiting for New Labour to implode appears to be working" being the first - the inclusion of "New" before "Labour" pointing out to people that the red party is no longer the same as it once was), Cameron is effectively given half a page to pitch his party exactly as he pleases.
Generalised questions about the difference between Tory and Labour Councils - a nonsense, as on a local level there is effectively no overriding ethos for any party - are followed by gifts along the lines of "are you getting some panniers for your bike?", allowing Cameron to diffuse the mini-scandal of his chauffer following him to work from last week.
But the real clincher? The final question - smacking of the old days of the utterly deferential royal interview of "Is there anything else you'd like to say, Ma'am?" - "What message do you have for Metro readers?"
A half page's advertising (wth colour photo and handy blue branding) in the Metro would have cost any other party £11,328.80 for London alone, £15,589 for all 15 cities. I wonder if this gift is going to be declared to the appropriate authorities?
(The interview may appear here at some point.)