Regional press coverage of the forthcoming election campaign could be decisive in almost 200 marginal seats, the chairman of the Newspaper Conference has claimed.
At Monday’s event, sponsored by JICREG, Annabelle told the audience that the “hundreds of marginal constituencies” are where the election will be won and lost, making local media more influential than ever before.
Her comments come after Johnston Press chief executive Ashley Highfield warned in a BBC TV appearance that politicians who “underestimate” the power of the local media in an election year could face “disastrous consequences”.
Annabelle, pictured above left, said: ““If we take seats with majorities of 10 per cent or less that require a swing of five per cent for the incumbent party to lose, then there are currently 194 such marginal seats in Britain.
“So it is local campaigns that are going to matter, and by definition the local media covering these battles on a daily or weekly basis.”
As well as chairing the Conference, made up of London-based correspondents of regional press titles, Archant announced earlier this month that Annabelle would be heading up a specialist elections unit to share ideas and resources across the company’s titles ahead of 7 May.
She added: “With political disillusionment about politics at an all time high, people who want to vote are likely to turn to the questions of who their candidate is and what they stand for.
“The MP who has been publicly speaking out about a lost service could well get votes to take them over their line, even if their party leader is not deemed flavour of the month. So that is why political parties know that they ignore the local media at their peril.
“From the Western Morning News in Land’s End to the John o Groats Journal – what people read, watch, listen to locally, will help them to understand more about how national policy will apply to local issues that matter to them, and who their candidates are, as they decided where to put their cross on 7 May.”