There once was a time when rich newspaper moguls ruled Britain’s political scene and pandering to their needs was a sure-fire way of securing a tasty majority in parliament. But on Thursday evening, as the exit polls came in showing that Labour would win 261 seats in the General Election, Rupert Murdoch stormed out of The Times’ election party. The days of the “Murdoch machine” reigning supreme, it seems, were over.
For the most part coverage of Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign this year had ranged from in-comprehensive to the borderline reprehensible. On election day, when most broadcast media observe a blackout period, the Sun echoed its treatment of Neil Kinnock in ’92 with a “Don’t Chuck Britain in the Cor-Bin” headline and the Mail featured a front-page header giving readers a “tactical voting guide to boost the Tories and Brexit”. The Daily Express simply ran with “Vote For May Today”, a day after they lead with “Vote May Or We Face Disaster”.
In the 2015 General Election the share of the press support of the Tories (measured by circulation) was 71 per cent compared to 15 per cent for Labour and five per cent for the Liberal Democrats. During the early stages of this year’s election that number went UP, with a huge systematic overrepresentation in the press of Tories over Labour and particularly of May over Corbyn. One report by the Independent found that 75 per cent of press coverage misrepresented Jeremy Corbyn, with the press no longer acting as a critical watchdog of the powers that be but rather more often as an antagonistic attackdog.
There is no doubting that the press has moved further to the right of late, as reflected by the recent appointment of George Osborne (former Conservative MP and chancellor) to the role of editor-in-chief of the Evening Standard. But the worrying thing is that it’s not just the usual suspects. The BBC, the most trusted media organisation in the UK, were roundly criticised by the right wing press for its biased coverage of the election, but when thousands of people lined the banks of the Tyne for a Corbyn rally in Gateshead the national broadcaster was nowhere to be seen. The Guardian pitted Corbyn as an outsider from the start, and upped their vitriol of the leader significantly after the Copeland by-election. As David Hearst wrote here, the paper “planted the knife in Corbyn’s back so many times and in so many ways that Caesar’s murder looked like the work of a lone wolf”.
In the end it was social media that came to Jeremy Corbyn’s saviour, and as a publisher we were happy to use it to get that message out. We published the most shared political post of the General Election, one we sourced from Facebook, and I urge you to give it a read if you haven’t already. It was the view of a normal person whose voice had become increasingly unheard in modern times, namely down to the role the media has played in silencing his opinion and promoting their own. As newsrooms become increasingly biased we put the voice of the nation at the centre of our editorial strategy, and with momentum gathering behind an “alternative way” it is a strategy we will continue to pursue.