This article is taken from The London Economic’s twice-weekly email, Elevenses.
This weekend I found myself embroiled in a somewhat heated email exchange with a man named Steven.
A few weeks ago, he had spotted an article in The Guardian citing a front-page story in Bild, one of Germany’s main tabloids, which read “Britain, We Envy You”, and he wanted to know whether we would share it.
In his words: “I know it doesn’t fit with your usual pro-EU, anti-Brexit, anti-British and anti-Boris agenda. I just thought you could share something positive about our country for a change.”
Further dialogue revealed he was also confused about how we managed to talk about Labour figures such as Jeremy Corbyn in a positive light. It was, as he said, “baffling to him” that he could be viewed as anything other than a crackpot socialist who is hell-bent on bankrupting the country with some sort of Venezuelian-style revolution.
For me, such correspondence never comes as a surprise. During the 2019 general election press hostility towards Corbyn and the Labour Party in the mainstream media doubled compared to the 2017 election. The Conservatives, conversely, saw negative coverage about them halve. An earlier study conducted by the Independent also came to the same conclusion, finding that in the first two months of his leadership 75 per cent of press coverage misrepresented Corbyn. As they noted at the time, the majority of the press was no longer “acting as a critical watchdog, but rather as an antagonistic attackdog”.
The email from Steven was, therefore, no different to the countless dinner parties, pub drinks and gatherings I have had to sit through where Corbyn has been portrayed as a danger to Britain. That is, after all, how he has been made out to be in almost every mainstream media outlet in the country. No wonder people are so stoic in their beliefs.
It should also come as no surprise that he feels we should be more upbeat about Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union. UK newspapers have been filled with Euromyths since 1992 and coverage in the press during the referendum was overwhelmingly pro leave. On referendum day the front pages included splashes such as ‘Vote Leave Today’, ‘Be LEAVE in Britain’ and ‘If you believe in Britain, vote Leave’. Finding a pro-European perspective, on the other hand, was a lot more challenging.
So when Steven asked me what our ‘agenda’ was, I responded that on the first count it is to provide an alternative voice. The vaccine rollout has indeed been successful – we said so here – but should that mask 150,000 deaths, excessive spending and a cronyism scandal unlike anything we have seen before? A lot of media outlets believe so and The Conservatives are polling record numbers as a result. We tend to disagree.
We also disagree that the sort of flag-waving nationalism brought about by the Johnson administration should be celebrated. Instead, we believe firmly in openness and inclusiveness. We believe that we are stronger together and that Britain, as things stand, is flirting dangerously with the ideals of the far right. We believe that a concentration in media ownership among a select group of wealthy individuals has contributed greatly to that and we aim to chip away at it in whatever small way we can.
And as far as transparency goes, few are as open about it as us. You can read about The London Economic, our history, our beliefs and our ownership here. And as with Steven, I am always on hand to listen to your feedback.
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