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Channel 4 presents: the Remainer-only election

The political spectrum. Credit: Channel 4

April 23, 2024 - 11:50am

Have you got your popcorn ready for election night? Westminster bubblers, the offspring of politicos and every columnist in Christendom might have plans to stay up all night watching the dullest general election in decades, but the perennial challenge for broadcasters of how to draw in normal viewers remains.

While the BBC faces the question of who can step into the shoes of Huw Edwards, Channel 4 has been busy announcing its lineup of election presenters. Krishnan Guru-Murthy and Cathy Newman will be joined in presenting roles by ex Newsnight star Emily Maitlis, with exclusive guest commentary from The Rest is Politics podcast hosts Alastair Campbell and Rory Stewart. Spin doctors, failed prime ministerial hopefuls and, er, Clare Balding — the nation is on tenterhooks.

The announcement of the lineup has been met with some criticism. The I ran a column worried that the inclusion of Balding and Gogglebox stars in the election night analysis will risk turning a serious event into “souped-up reality television that helps no one”, while the Telegraph quoted Tory MP Mark Jenkinson laughing at the “return of prime-time comedy on Channel 4”.

At least Gogglebox has a broad social and political spectrum represented in its cast — from Jenny and Lee in the caravan park to Giles and Mary who are regulars at the Spectator summer party. By contrast, the only noticeable difference in political opinion in Channel 4’s lineup will be various shades of middle-class musing.

2016 might feel like a different country to some, but for many voters the issues raised by Brexit — democracy, border control, laws and freedom — remain important at the ballot box this year. To this end, it’s striking that every single new face at Channel 4 has been openly disparaging about the Brexit vote. Free from her BBC chains, Maitlis used her MacTaggart lecture in 2022 to reveal her anti-Brexit views, criticising her former employer for creating a “conspiracy against the British people”. Balding called for a second referendum on Jeremy Vine’s show, describing the vote to “cut ties” with Brussels as “dangerous”.

Campbell’s preference for Remain is well-documented, and Stewart was expelled from his party for collaborating with the opposition against the Government’s Brexit policy. Whether Leave or Remain, most people now agree that Brexit was perhaps the most important dividing line in recent British political history. This blindspot in Channel 4’s coverage is no accident.

All news outlets will eventually have to face the reality that this election — whenever it comes — is not going to make great television. Polls might show a devastating defeat for the Conservatives, but that won’t necessarily translate into a stunning victory for Labour. The political landscape is messy: Red Wall voters who shook off historic ties during the 2019 election have had their votes squandered by a useless government. Labour’s centrist-dad routine is being hampered by the conflict in the Middle East, the gender wars, and disgruntlement among middle-class greens disappointed by the party edging away from climate catastrophism.

From scandals over Grindr pictures to rows over alleged housing fiddles, parliamentary politics seems increasingly unattractive and childish. The challenge for news broadcasters is not who will cover the next general election, but why bother covering it at all.


Ella Whelan is a freelance journalist, commentator and author of What Women Want: Fun, Freedom and an End to Feminism.

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David B
David B
1 month ago

“…parliamentary politics seems increasingly unattractive and childish’. Not to mention increasingly irrelevant to voters.

Adam Huntley
Adam Huntley
1 month ago

Is there a single person who is surprised at Channel 4’s choice? Certainly not anyone with even the most rudimentary understanding of group think

Rocky Martiano
Rocky Martiano
1 month ago
Reply to  Adam Huntley

Rory Stewart is positively ‘far-right’ by C4 standards, Rory, welcome to Woke Central!
And should we read anything into the fact they left that sourpuss Cathy Newman out of the photo?

John Tyler
John Tyler
1 month ago

We can all predict the line they will take on a variety of subjects, with the absolute guarantee the presenters will despise the ignorant, bigoted majority of people who disagree with their warped view of the world.

RD STevens
RD STevens
1 month ago

Well, at least they didn’t ask Jon Snow back.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
1 month ago

I think the last time Channel 4 was even slightly edgy or exciting was when the Big Breakfast was on. And even that was a low bar (Paula Yates’ interview with Michael Hutchence excepted).

Andrew Dalton
Andrew Dalton
1 month ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Brass Eye?

Alphonse Pfarti
Alphonse Pfarti
1 month ago
Reply to  Andrew Dalton

Anna Friel’s ‘lesbian’ snog on Brookside for me. Downhill thereafter.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
1 month ago

Haven’t watched Brookie since 1991 so missed that one. Are Sheila and Grant still in it?

Alphonse Pfarti
Alphonse Pfarti
1 month ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

It somewhat ‘jumped the shark’ ca. 2000 with a ludicrous storyline about drug dealers shooting down a police chopper, which landed on and blew up the petrol station. Sheila had eloped with Billy Corkhill some years previously.

Final episode aired in 2003/2004. In the closing credits, Jimmy Corkhill is driving a sit-down lawn mower in the garden of Barry Grant’s gangster mansion. Perfect!

Think one or other of the repeat channels or streaming services is now showing it from episode 1.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
28 days ago
Reply to  Andrew Dalton

I’m surprised that noone picked up on that! Brass Eye and its offshoots were brilliant – and even then, risky, satire. Absolutely no chance of anything remotely like it on today’s anodyne centrist / progressive broadcasting media.

Damon Hager
Damon Hager
27 days ago
Reply to  Andrew Dalton

Yes, but tellingly, Brass Eye got into trouble for being “off message”. The MSM only likes satire when it’s directed at the usual suspects. And of course, Brass Eye was yonks ago,

Peter B
Peter B
1 month ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

It’s all been downhill since “After Dark” ended in 1991 …

Alphonse Pfarti
Alphonse Pfarti
1 month ago
Reply to  Peter B

The Ollie Reed incident?

Damon Hager
Damon Hager
27 days ago

Ollie claimed that he was often not half as drunk as he appeared to be. Producers, he said, encouraged him to lay it on thick. It was what he was there for, and he knew it.

j watson
j watson
1 month ago

I wonder what the line-up on GB news will look like? And wonder if Unherd will run an Article on that?
As it is one suspects C4 will have chosen with a market perspective – they have to sell advertising space. No doubt just like GB news will. And thus selecting based on who tends to watch C4.
As regards whether it’ll be a dull election – it’s never dull when a party that a sizeable majority want out come to the point of reckoning. What does reduce the spectacle though is how many Tories have run away before their Portillo moment. Nonetheless we might get a few.

Andrew Dalton
Andrew Dalton
1 month ago
Reply to  j watson

Channel 4 is publicly owned.

McLovin
McLovin
1 month ago
Reply to  Andrew Dalton

Plus the gatekeepers that control advertising help throw revenue their way and away from GB News.

Lancashire Lad
Lancashire Lad
1 month ago
Reply to  j watson

As it happens, GB News invariably includes at least one combative leftist on any discussion panel that’s not just a direct one-on-one interview; but don’t let your prejudice and lack of awareness stop you from thinking otherwise.

j watson
j watson
1 month ago
Reply to  Lancashire Lad

And then choke them off when they start to say things to their listeners they don’t like. Happened repeatedly hasn’t it.

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
1 month ago
Reply to  j watson

I don’t watch it much but I’ve never seen that happen. Can you provide an example?

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
1 month ago
Reply to  j watson

No – quite the reverse,

Peter B
Peter B
1 month ago
Reply to  j watson

They’re actually there so there’s some actual debate and it isn’t just boring and predictable.
Channel 4 clearly don’t consider that relevant.

Andrew R
Andrew R
1 month ago
Reply to  j watson

I wonder if it will be as laughably bad as C4 News “Ways To Change The World”, with KG-M sagely nodding to a load of nonsense that only a Critical Theorist could come up with.
Cringe

j watson
j watson
1 month ago
Reply to  Andrew R

Can’t say I’ve seen that AR. Probably past my bedtime.

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
1 month ago
Reply to  j watson

I wonder what the line-up on GB news will look like? And wonder if Unherd will run an Article on that?
The difference between Channel 4 and GB News is that those of us who pay tax are thereby forced to pay for the drivel on Channel 4 to be shoved down our throats.

R Wright
R Wright
1 month ago
Reply to  j watson

Always whataboutism from Watson

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
1 month ago

Well, it’s a fairly calculated insult to the people who pay the bloated salaries of the hacks who run Channel 4, don’t you think, to be so blatantly partisan during an election?

Martin M
Martin M
1 month ago

While I had some sympathy with the Remainer position leading up to the referendum (despite my being a Brexiter), and while I could have coped with a “softer” Brexit than we got, many Remainers have behaved appallingly since the referendum. I accordingly have this to say to them: “We won. You lost. We’re not going back any in time soon. You’re going to have to live with that”.

Peter B
Peter B
1 month ago
Reply to  Martin M

Yes, but as you know, they’re not listening. They never will.

Martin M
Martin M
1 month ago
Reply to  Peter B

Well, they listen when you say it directly to their faces. Some of them get quite annoyed.

Peter B
Peter B
1 month ago

This is great news. All the people I don’t want to hear from will be locked down for several hours on a channel I don’t watch (apart, very occasionally, Gogglebox). I can watch the other channels secure in the knowledge they won’t be there !

Damon Hager
Damon Hager
27 days ago
Reply to  Peter B

I occasionally watch the BBC and Channel 4 for films, but since the advent of GB News, I haven’t watched any of their accursed “news” output. I occasionally listen to BBC Radio 4 in my car (since I only have an analogue radio in there), but that’s largely for the unintended comedy of it.
Mainstream fake news is really just produced by, and for, upper-middle-class progressives, notoriously born without genitalia.