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A Standard Dis-Service to London?

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When the history books on the 2012 London Mayoral elections are written, the Evening Standard's claim to be London's paper may not stand up to much scrutiny; unless backing the winning horse by tripping up it's opponents rates as great service. The paper's coverage of this year's elections has been shockingly one-sided and unbalanced, focused too much on personalities, and overly supportive of the Conservative party candidate and now Mayor-Elect Boris Johnson.

It's fair to say Ken Livingstone's record as mayor was not unblemished, and some of his blunders on this campaign were spectacular own goals, however, the Standard's focus throughout the campaign on the minor differences in the tax arrangements of two would-be mayors who have a penchant for a spot of moonlighting - and other trivialities such as 'Ken is not a nice person' beggared belief.

One sided though the coverage was - it may still have been redeemable if the Standard had spent sometime focusing on the actual policies of the different candidates in the elections. They were different enough to be offering Londoners a real choice, yet the entire election was dressed up as a personality contest. No wonder only an estimated 2 million Londoners turned out to vote. In the great debate about re-engaging people with politics, the media - even local media - especially a paper that claims to be the newspaper for a global city like London - needs to grow up a bit.

When I put it to a Standard journalist a couple of days ago that their coverage was pretty one-sided and too focused on the two 'first party' candidates, I was told that because they were the two most likely to win, that made it the Standard's duty to focus on them. Yet, covering the policies and positions of the other candidates more closely would have given Londoners a more grown-up choice about who to pick. Siobhan Benita's close call to third place certainly vindicates that possibility. It's a shame Londoners didn't get to hear more from or examine these other candidates more closely.

A few years ago, the Evening Standard ran an elaborate campaign saying 'Sorry' to Londoners - maybe it's time they did one again. Sorry for backing Boris, we won't do it next time.

Dele Meiji is editor of Diaspora Debate, - an African Arguments blog.