No, you’re wrong, stop whining

As the Labour party tears itself apart trying to come to terms with its general election performance, it should understand this reality: the right-wing press was overwhelmingly responsible for its defeat.

I agree with my colleague, Jane Martinson, that the fact that the bulk of UK newspapers backed the eventual winner is noteworthy.

It should not be overlooked because I haven’t a shadow of doubt that Ed Miliband lost because of newspaper coverage.

This is bollocks. Newspapers chase the views of their readers, not form them.

On balance, that is. And the newspapers backed those they thought would win….because that’s who they think their readers will be going for. Everyone wants to be able to say to their readership “We got it right” but more than that they want to be able to say “We think as you do”.

They chase more than form. And yes, the John Bates Clark medal was indeed awarded to the guy who proved this.

But why did Ukip do so well? Because in the five years leading up to the election, the rightwing press lent it, and its policies, credence.

No, other way around and yes, I have been a press officer for Ukip. The support out there in the electorate has always been much higher than the support in the newspapers. We were still being derided as fruitcakes just as we stormed to second place in the 2008 euros. The newspapers only came onside as they saw that there was that groundswell of support. Ukip is actually a useful case study of the following, not the molding.

26 thoughts on “No, you’re wrong, stop whining”

  1. Sorry, Tim, but they should keep whining. Being the sorest political losers in living memory will only hurt them.

  2. Surreptitious Evil

    While I was walking in to (miserable tax parasite safe desk) work, I thought hmm, from a lefty point of view,

    1. It can’t be our fault because Ed was so charismatic and, well, we mean so well.

    2. Cameron is an ignorant posho git who tramples disabled people underfoot while eating babies. So it can’t be anything good he has done.

    3. Therefore “Murdoch”.

  3. “And the newspapers backed those they thought would win….because that’s who they think their readers will be going for.”

    Well, maybe the ‘Guardian’ and ‘Indy’ should have drawn the obvious conclusion from their circulation figures..?

  4. On the other hand, if propaganda doesn’t work, why do people waste time on it? Why did the Daily Mail waste all those column inches? Why did they beg their readers to tactical vote? Is it really all a total waste of time and effort?

    You see, I just have trouble with this “follow not form” argument. There is a whole science of opinion forming which has been developed over the past century or so. I see no harm in acknowledging that reality. Were the papers solely or mostly responsible for Ed losing? No. But surely they had some effect?

    My guess? The “if you don’t vote Tory, England will be turned into a Communist dictatorship by Edola” line was enough to turn a potential hung parliament into the majority Dave got. It was probably enough to stop UKIP getting more than one seat as well.

    But we can never really know what would have happened under different circumstances. It just seems nonsensical to me to claim that propaganda doesn’t work at all.

  5. So how many of these whining lefties think that, if a socialist twat gets exposed to the witterings of the Daily Wail, they get instantly cured?

  6. Thew claim isn’t no effect. It’s that there are two effects, following and forming. And following predominates. This really has been studied.

  7. Then the PR industry is wasting its time. How queer.

    The question of how ideas form is an awkward one, because there are only two options: nature or nurture. (Some people still believe in a fanciful “neither option” called “free will”; as unscientific, we will ignore it).

    Either people are born Tory, or made Tory. Or Labour. Or whatever. Since genetics might have a general psychological effect (e.g. degree of self interest, possibly time preference, etc) that would have an effect but not change with each election. So we must conclude that these values are formed by interaction with the environment. The media are not the whole environment, but they are a large part of it, hence the complaints about the leftie BBC, etc.

    Elections are won by relatively small voting shifts (“swing”). Relatively small shifts of perception of candidates and policies among that population of swing voters are the deciders. It is reasonable to conclude that media plays a large part in those perceptions. But it’s not just at election time. The Daily Mail’s constant stream of FUD is the way to do it, and they do it better than any other newspaper. Thus, peoples opinions formed over a long period by, say, Daily Mail exposure may then, at election time, look like the paper is “following” their readers, when in fact their brains were mushified over many years by the constant exposure to great piles of Dacre.

    And so on.

  8. I’m also not quite clear why there’s some sort of taboo against pointing out that most of the electorate are really quite thick.

  9. “(e.g. degree of self interest, possibly time preference, etc)”

    The lefties are equally voting in self-interest. They’re either voting for other people’s money for themselves and covering it with a fig-leaf of voting “compassionately”, or they price their smug, condescending self-esteem for having supposedly voted in the interests of the poor and downtrodden higher than any pecuniary concerns.

    It’s like an evangelical Methodist crusade.

  10. Ian, you’re probably correct re “The Mail”, OTOH, one would have guessed that the vast majority of Mail readers are tory voters anyway, so they’re going to be preaching to the choir rather than performing any radical realignment on the readership. Do you really think that the few right-biassed readers of The Grauniad, such as myself, are going to suddenly see the light as a result of its proselytising and vote Labour?

    IMHO, La Sturgeon’s declaration that the Labour Party was going to have to dance to the SNP’s tune in Westminster caused a lot of wavering potential tory, labour and UKIP voters to think “Fuck That!” and put their crosses against the tory candidate’s name.

  11. Sebastian Weetabix

    Per George Carlin: think how dumb the average person is. Half the people are even dumber than that!

    On the other hand ‘stupid’ people tend not to believe in ridiculous ideas (like, say, ‘moderate’ Islam, or unrestricted immigration) that only an intellectual could believe in.

    I do love to see left wing theories beaten up by a gang of right wing facts in a dark electoral alley.

  12. How much of election victory is people switching who they vote for, versus who actually turns up to vote?

    So, Mail readers tend to be right wing, Mirror ones left. The proportion of each that turns up to vote will change the election result.

    Their likelihood to actually vote can be influenced by what they read in the newspapers, much more easily than you could change who they are likely to vote for once they do get themselves to the polling station.

    Could that be it? Just a theory.

  13. Thanet shows what happened. UKIP hoovered up the district council, but both parliamentary seats went to the Tories.

    People really did hold their noses and vote Conservative to keep Ed and Nicola out.

  14. Tim, You’re kidding yourself about UKIP. Farage has had twenty years to come up with a plan to leave the EU, and as far as anyone knows it only exists on the back of one of his fag packets. And now there is the latest farce when he “resigns” only to be re-instated the next day. What a joke.

    He could even be an EU plant to sabotage the case for leaving, because any competent politician should be able to get more support behind what is a hugely popular cause.

  15. the right-wing press was overwhelmingly responsible for its defeat.

    The Kaiser’s armies were never defeated. It was a stab in the back!

    Despite Ukip winning only one seat, it delivered the best performance by a new independent party in post-war English politics

    This is what I’ve been telling despondent kippers.

    In several seats that Labour regarded as winnable marginals, expecting to tip out Tory incumbents, the party was foiled by Ukip.

    Vote UKIP, don’t get Labour.

    In every case, Labour failed because of the votes for Ukip.

    Lord Farage of Bromley has a nice ring to it.

    But why did Ukip do so well? Because in the five years leading up to the election, the rightwing press lent it, and its policies, credence.

    I must have imagined all those sneery articles in the Mail and the Torygraph.

    newspapers gave disproportionately favourable coverage to Farage and his party.


    They certainly poked fun at some of his supporters and, at various points, questioned Ukip’s credibility. Yet they treated the party’s policies, including its anti-immigrant stance, with undue sympathy.

    By “undue sympathy”, he means “no platform for racists!”.

    The press’s role in the 2015 election requires more investigation.

    And by “investigation”, he means regulation.

  16. Philip Scott Thomas

    Anyone remember which party that bastion of right-wing Tory scummery The Sun, them wot won it for the Blessed Saint Margaret, back in the run-up to the ’97 election? Yep, they saw the writing on the wall and, as Tim says, followed their readership.

  17. Bloke in North Dorset

    Its rather a fun thought experiment to imaging the Mail and Guardian editorial teams being swapped over. I’d bet on their being more Guardian readers suffering heart attacks that Mail readers (as a %), I think of the spat out fair trade coffee and muesli, all over their nice shiny Apple products.

    I’ve just cheered myself up again at that thought.

  18. Bloke in North Dorset

    Guido’s reporting its because Labour voters stayed at home. If that’s true and even greater sense of Schadenfreude to brighten my day.

    If you don’t vote it means you accept the result of those do.

  19. On balance, that is. And the newspapers backed those they thought would win….because that’s who they think their readers will be going for.

    Media outlets that get their money by force like the BBC are free to try to form their viewers’ opinions.

  20. Socialist bullshit on the “we wuz robbed” theme is nothing new.
    My dear old Dad was a lifelong Labour voter in the old mold–he had little time for homosexuals and “darkies” as he called them (“Alright in their own country–not over here”). I can well remember how he literally could not understand support for the Tories among those not middle class or wealthy. He could not follow it. If you were working class and didn’t vote Labour it had to be a matter of mental illness in his eyes. He was raised on leftist bullshit in the thirties and altho’ a good and decent man he was altogether too accepting of sloganized socialist twaddle. far below his actual level of intelligence.

  21. Very good?

    Making a clown out of someone who is already a clown is a cheap victory Arnie. You should be kinder to your corporate socialist brothers in BlueLabour. You might need to borrow some cash one day.

    Also Cassette Boy?–socialism is poisonous 19th century mutton effluent dressed up as shamb but Cassette Boy?. Couldn’t he have called himself MP3 Master or summat? Do you still mimeograph your propaganda bullshit?

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