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All news is local? Not here it isn't

Here is a tale of two elections. One is currently en route from South Carolina South Carolina, state of the SE United States. It is bordered by North Carolina (N), the Atlantic Ocean (SE), and Georgia (SW). Facts and Figures

Area, 31,055 sq mi (80,432 sq km). Pop. (2000) 4,012,012, a 15.
 to Florida, offering us acres of detail as it goes. Thanks to a double-page spread double-page spread double nDoppelseite f  in the Times, for instance, we know what it cost Barack Obama to buy land next to his $1.5m Chicago home from the wife of a campaign donor under police investigation. The real outcome of this election campaign, on the other side of the Atlantic, will not be known for nine months.

The other election, only three months away, directly affects nearly eight million people on both banks of the Thames who watch British TV and read British newspapers. It will decide what buses they ride, how much they pay to drive their cars into town, the shape of underground services, police strategy, Olympics delivery and countless other bread-and-butter issues. Victory in this campaign will also hand David Cameron Editing of this page by unregistered or newly registered users is currently disabled due to vandalism.  or Gordon Brown a lifeline of credibility.

The Tory champion is a tow-haired toff, a card, columnist and comedian. Everyone knows Boris. The Labour champion is a renegade left-winger who likes jokes and Scotch in equal measure. Everyone knows Ken. (The Liberal standard-bearer used to run Brixton policing: everyone will soon start to know about Brian Paddick Brian Leonard Paddick (born 24 April 1958) was, until his retirement in May 2007, Deputy Assistant Commissioner in London's Metropolitan Police Service and the United Kingdom's most senior openly gay police officer. .)

You couldn't have a more idiosyncratic id·i·o·syn·cra·sy  
n. pl. id·i·o·syn·cra·sies
1. A structural or behavioral characteristic peculiar to an individual or group.

2. A physiological or temperamental peculiarity.

 collection of characters competing to run one of the world's great cities. You couldn't, on recent form, dream of a riper election to cover in detail (and sell a lot more copies in the process). Race slurs, corruption allegations, cronyism Cronyism
Tammany Hall

Manhattan Democratic political circle notorious for spoils system approach. [Am. Hist.: Jameson, 492]
, sex in far away places, booze, resignations... they're all part of the race to run London Run London (2001- ) is an annual 10 km run (or series of runs), organised by Nike and held within London, UK. The events are unique in having different themes and marketing campaigns each year. . Yet somehow, this isn't a story the nation has been allowed to know much about.

The Standard, London's evening paper, has been blasting away for weeks, to be sure. BBC London This article is about the BBC London region. For other uses, see BBC London (disambiguation).
BBC London is the BBC English Region producing local radio, television, teletext and online services in London and parts of the surrounding area.
 did some sterling work, pinning down Rosemary Emodi, the mayoral aide who lied about a freebie free·bie also free·bee  
n. Slang
An article or service given free: "such freebies as subway and bus maps" New York.
 trip to Nigeria - and making Ken Livingstone look somewhat off the pace as it did so. But where was that story on BBC BBC
 in full British Broadcasting Corp.

Publicly financed broadcasting system in Britain. A private company at its founding in 1922, it was replaced by a public corporation under royal charter in 1927.
 national news? Did Birmingham or Bradford get a word of it? Not at Six or Ten. This investigative yarn, claiming a big scalp in the most embarrassing circumstances, faded away north of Watford.

Our so-called national press didn't do any better. Nothing in the Times, Telegraph or Independent on the first (or second) day after the BBC announced Emodi's resignation. A brief report of a campaign debate apology from Boris (which left Ken out of the action) in the Guardian and then, yesterday, a front page about Boris's free office space. Nothing addressing Livingstone's latest problem - even in the Mail - until 24 hours after the resignation. A supportive word or three from Kevin Maguire in the Mirror: assorted columnisings from Littlejohn, Camilla Cavendish and Seumas Milne. But nothing consistent on your actual news front.

If you wanted a follow-up, yet again the Standard or BBC, tracking Ken ever more closely, were your best (and almost only) bets. The Today programme weighed in with an interview and a little national portent. But Livingstone played a pretty straight bat. A single Dispatches on Channel Four had turned up the heat under the mayor. Now it was turning out chilly again.

Yet pursue those US parallels a little longer. Big American daily papers have metro sections that cover local news in their home cities with zeal and resource. They know all about issues on the streets where their readers live. Local TV affiliates also bring viewers a nightly news mix of national and next-door events. Nobody thinks local a matter of no importance. Indeed, it's the local voting record of Obama in the Illinois state senate that has fuelled so much wrath these past few days.

Britain has no such big-tent philosophy. National news may linger over a nasty attempted murder in Chorley, Lancs, but leaves local politics to the local bulletins. Fleet Street wouldn't dream of running a London news page, let alone a London metro section. That's supposedly Standard fare, though even the Standard, under fierce competition from two freesheets who prefer to lead on the death of an Australian actor in New York New York, state, United States
New York, Middle Atlantic state of the United States. It is bordered by Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the Atlantic Ocean (E), New Jersey and Pennsylvania (S), Lakes Erie and Ontario and the Canadian province of
, hasn't exactly made a fist of covering the warp and woof warp and woof
The underlying structure on which something is built; a base or foundation: "profound dislocations throughout the entire warp and woof of the American economy" David A.
 of London governance over the past eight years. The mayor's office and Greater London Authority
''For more coverage on London, see the .

The Greater London Authority (GLA) administers the 1579 km² (610 sq. miles) of Greater London, England, covering the 32 London boroughs and the City of London.
 are in the spotlight when something pongs - hooray for that! - but the gritty business of reporting debates and appointments week in and week out has been much more half-hearted.

Who, lower down the food chain, covers politics in the boroughs, where democracy starts? Some good, dedicated independents, such as the Southwark News, do a diligent job, but much of the time, across swaths of the capital, you'd barely suppose politics existed.

'What would be the equivalent of Iowa, New Hampshire New Hampshire, one of the New England states of the NE United States. It is bordered by Massachusetts (S), Vermont, with the Connecticut R. forming the boundary (W), the Canadian province of Quebec (NW), and Maine and a short strip of the Atlantic Ocean (E).  and the early primaries in a British context?' asked Jackie Ashley in the Guardian as she lamented our system's insufferable boredom. 'Try to imagine Ken Livingstone, Ken Clarke, Trevor Phillips, Richard Branson... and Polly Toynbee tramping round Yorkshire touting for votes,' to become Prime Minister, she answered blithely.

But that's not far off what we've got in Lewisham. Except, in a British context, nobody gets excited because it's somehow too small to engage journalism's great and good. If Emodi had worked for Obama, she'd have been a 'top aide in love tryst lie' getting maximum New York Times treatment. Here, she barely gets a mention.

When Livingstone began blogging in self-defence on the Guardian website, the debate attracted hundreds of participants in a trice. Give them Chelsea over Charleston any time, it seems. And wonder why we're all so damned slow, so wrapped up in our confusions over which news should fill which stereotypical slot, to see the big picture.
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Date:Jan 27, 2008
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