I agree with Mike Smithson of Political Betting: (and Allan Scullion) the Channel 4 Dispatches documentary about Labour’s “dirty tricks” told us nothing particularly shocking.

But then, political bloggers are comparatively media-savvy political anoraks who understand how political campaigns operate and are therefore a wee bit jaded. The idea that most politics is just a media spectacle doesn’t do anything more than confirm our suspicions.

I suspect, however, that many “ordinary punters” — people who don’t watch politics in such great detail — may have been deeply shocked by the programme and its revealation of how the spectacle of politics actually works in practice.

The reddest faces, I think, should be those of the local and regional newspaper editors who fell for Labour’s astroturfing efforts on their letters pages. As To Hell in a Handcart put it, the “‘no shit, sherlock’ factor” was very much in evidence:

The irony of this ‘investigation’ is that it is intended as a damning expose of Labour’s media management, but it ends up painting a picture of a brilliant, sophisticated, slick press machine which is simply doing its job extraordinarily well. The people who come out looking like they’re not doing their jobs properly are the poor, bewildered, lazy local hacks, who according to this programme are hoodwinked, spun and duped at every turn.

Blogger Peter Black, a Lib Dem member of the Welsh Assembly, says:

It seems that research has shown that more people trust the letters page of their local newspaper than any other page, a fact that Labour were keen to take advantage of. After this documentary, I think that they would be justified in not trusting anything that appears in their local paper ever again.

What is worrying about this programme is how it underlines the way that political parties seek to manipulate every piece of news that we receive, in whatever medium. Getting the message across has become a sophisticated 24 hour a day operation in which even trusted sources are subverted to the party line.

It was also interesting to see how many big-name political journalists cooperated with the documentary. I think this revealed a lot of bitterness about Labour’s strategy of locking out the national media, and perhaps an indication that correspondents are getting fed up with being co-conspirators in the charade that is national politics.

One commenter at Political Betting says: “I fear one could make identical documentaries about the Conservatives and even the Liberal Democrats”. Indeed. Methinks they have been made and are in a can on a shelf somewhere. Tory and Lib Dem partisans should not get too smug.

Justin McKeating has a very different view at the Sharpener.

Update: At least some regional newspapers mentioned in the film are holding their local pols to account. The Argus in Brighton asked some questions of Hove MP Celia Barlow who was shown in the film participating in a “spontanious” demonstration outside the Tory conference in Brighton.