Polls say Clegg survives media onslaught, but what next?

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The influence of the Conservative party in Britain over large swathes of the press is well known, but the partisan reporting of the most popular newspapers in the country over the last week is unprecedented to an observer from my generation.

The last time such a consummate, unashamed declaration of political allegiance coupled with an attack on a member of the opposing party must have been during the 1992 campaign. Neil Kinnock, the then leader of the Labour party, was victim to slurs of a similar magnitude.
In 92 it was again the tabloids and right-wing quality newspapers that answered the call of the Conservatives to take up arms against the opposition, and, in proving the parable true, helped smite Kinnock via the mighty pen.

The papers owned by media mogul Rupert Murdoch, namely The Sun and News of The World have expectedly lambasted Clegg since his shock 'win' of the first UK televised election debate, although The Times managed to retain editorial integrity. The Mail, The Daily Telegraph and Daily Express followed suit, with claims of sleeze by Clegg from The Telegraph and, according to the Daily Mail "an astonishing attack on our national pride".

In an insightful piece for The Guardian, the ex-editor of The Sun, David Yelland, spoke of the consequence of a Liberal Democrat victory. He wrote that "if the Liberal Democrats actually won the election - or held the balance of power - it would be the first time in decades that Murdoch was locked out of British politics. In so many ways, a vote for the Lib Dems is a vote against Murdoch and the media elite."

Clegg hasn't taken any steps to attempt to woo Murdoch or the elitist media in the same manner as the Conservative and Labour leaders routinely do. Although there is no solid proof gaining their support wins an election, or whether the media's stance is in keeping with the public's sentiment. Tony Blair successfully wooed Murdoch prior to his landslide victory in 1997, before his successor Brown lost it in spectacular fashion.

The recent onslaught seemed to have an effect on Clegg's soaring, unexpected popularity, which catapulted into contention a party that has often languished in the sidelines and considered a wasted vote among the electorate. That damage was notable on the day of the Mail's and Telegraph's aforementioned disclosures, incidents that purportedly happened in 2002 and 2006 respectively. The paper's printed these stories last Thursday, prior to the second of the televised debates, prompting Clegg to defend the donations reported by the Telegraph.

Clegg's popularity dwindled, but has since climbed. According to The Independent the most recent ComRes survey for The Independent and ITV put the Conservatives on 32 per cent (down two points since the weekend), the Liberal Democrats on 31 per cent (up two), Labour on 28 per cent (unchanged) and others on nine per cent (unchanged). According to the paper it is the Liberal Democrats' highest rating since ComRes began polling in 2004.

In another article, the paper presented evidence that The Sun had withheld polls in favour of the Liberal Democrats, and analysed the allegations made against Clegg and sought to report on the accuracy of, or lack of, the claims.

So, ahead of the third and final debate tomorrow, the big question is will the British press show more of the same, and how will Clegg fare under the unfamiliar scrutiny.