Press ‘morally bankrupt’ over Rantzen coverage

By Alex Stevenson

The Conservative candidate for Luton South has hit out at the media’s heavily focused coverage of Esther Rantzen in the constituency, accusing journalists of deliberately portraying her as more hardworking than her rivals.

Nigel Huddleston said the media had been “morally bankrupt” in the way the campaign had been covered in an interview with politics.co.uk.

Ms Rantzen’s four decades in broadcasting have resulted in her enjoying the highest profile of any of her rivals. She began her campaign in the wake of the expenses scandal, which ended Labour MP Margaret Moran’s political career.

The seat appears to be a close Labour-Conservative marginal which could prove crucial in deciding whether Gordon Brown or David Cameron forms the next government, making every column inch and broadcast minute of coverage vital. Labour are defending a notional 14.7% majority in the seat.

“She’s no more passionate or hardworking than any other candidate,” Mr Huddleston said.

“Certainly the media have gone out of their way to portray she is, though. I think the media have been a bit morally bankrupt in the way they’ve covered this campaign so far.”

Despite his comments Mr Huddleston and the other Luton South candidates enjoy an unusually amiable relationship. The Tory candidate called Ms Rantzen “hardworking” but criticised her for lacking any depth on national political issues.

“There’s a policy agenda at a national level that’s completely missing,” he explained, claiming Ms Rantzen would be less effective in addressing issues about the NHS, the war in Afghanistan, crime levels and tax levels.

“These are the issues people are concerned about because that’s what’s going to decide the results of the general election.”

Mr Huddleston denied he resented the extra press coverage Ms Rantzen’s campaign has attracted.

He said: “People locally see through that straight away. They’re not making their decision through the filtering of the media.”