The Pramgate Affair

G was at the centre of an actual political scandal this week. You could tell it was an actual political scandal, because it had the word 'gate' at the end of it. Let me tell you about Pramgate.

Nick Clegg made his third visit of the Oldham East and Saddleworth by-election campaign on Tuesday. Me and G went along to cover the event for Saddleworth News. As he knocked on some doors with the Lib Dem candidate, watched by a huge collection of journalists and party workers, I hung around at the back with G in her pram, and thought I'd try to take a few photos when Mr Clegg eventually walked back towards us.

The picture above shows one of those photos, and also captures a moment seconds before controversy struck. Newsnight's Michael Crick was doing his usual thing of grabbing a few words with a politician while on the move, and sadly his cameraman (on the left) was going backwards, and wasn't looking where he was going, so bumped into G's pram. I shouted "look out!" and Mr Clegg, who we have met before, leaned over and asked if we were ok, which of course we were.

Later on, he spotted us again and came over for a quick chat. "She really does go everywhere with you, doesn't she?" he said. "Yes, but she just almost got run over by Newsnight, actually," I replied. Mr Clegg then walked on and told Michael Crick off: "You almost just ran over that baby," he tutted. And I thought that was the end of that.

So imagine my surprise as, when I checked my phone later that evening, I had dozens of Twitter messages from people asking me if G was ok. I was quickly able to establish what happened next. BBC North West Tonight had made a light-hearted feature of this whole 'incident' during Clegg's visit, and a left-wing political gossip blog had got the wrong end of the stick, and said it had heard a rumour that Clegg had actually kicked a baby during his trip to Oldham. It seemed that a lot of people already believed this to be true.

Before things got out of hand I issued a statement denying the Deputy Prime Minister had kicked G, which was itself deemed worthy of reporting by the Politics Home website. It described this as "2011's strangest political denial." But the denial didn't have much impact. With folk already describing the 'incident' as Pramgate, the biggest political blog in the country, Guido Fawkes soon decided to stick its oar in as well. "There's definitely some sort of contact," it intoned, after poring over footage broadcast by both North West Tonight and Newsnight.

G was the centre of attention the next day, the last of the campaign. At the Lib Dem event, visitor Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander spotted her and asked if this was the baby he'd been hearing so much about. Later, at Labour's last campaign event, several people jokingly asked after G, while one said his main reason for joining Labour instead of the Lib Dems was Labour's firm policy against baby kicking. No matter how much I insisted that Nick Clegg hadn't actually kicked G it didn't matter. History records that he did, and I suppose that's the only thing that counts.

At the count the following night, as it became clear Labour had won a more comfortable victory than expected, their campaign manager said he thought Pramgate had been the crucial moment of the last days of the by-election, which turned things in their favour. I'm fairly sure he was joking. But politics is such a strange business, you can never be sure whether someone's joking or not.


Idaho Dad said...

Like they say, you just can't make this stuff up! I find it fascinating how quickly something so straightforward can be twisted around and exaggerated.

Kath said...

Has this blog turned into The Onion? I refuse to believe you're not making this up! ;)

Richard said...

Kath, I know bizarre isn't it? Definitely one of the weirdest things I've ever been involved in.