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Britain Conservatives General Election 2019 Labour Liberal Democrats Media Political Parties Politics

Do the media’s portrayals of political parties really affect them in the polls?

Every election each news website will put out party political articles aligning themselves with one side or the other. Often this is required by the editors, as they’re aiming to deliberately put a spin on every piece of news that goes through them to benefit the party of their choosing, or harm their opponents. Often pieces of news will be pulled entirely because it looks bad for their favourite candidates. Throughout this election, I’m looking at five major news outlets to see if they stick with their leanings through thick and thin, and ultimately to see if all of their efforts have any impact on polling day. In this first article I’ll run through all the media outlets, their early biases, and if they’ve had a tangible effect already.

The BBC

Ultimately, in election periods the BBC is mandated to act neutrally. Although some may question this due to individual editorial decisions, as a state body the BBC should act without bias and with the main goal of informing the general public. For the most part – in the first week of the experiment – this was upheld. None of their articles were flagrantly written in a manner that benefited one side or the other, and if there were any benefits for parties from their articles it was due to it genuinely being good news for the party in question. 

There was one slight hiccup in the BBC’s coverage this week, in which an editor threw in old footage of Boris Johnson to replace what seemed to be a fake wreath laying in a Remembrance Sunday ceremony- as some attempt at humour. Whilst the BBC have accepted this was a mistake, it’s not known if an editor was intentionally covering for Boris’ blushes or not. At the very least the BBC offered a quick apology, demonstrating that the BBC as an institution isn’t setting out with the intention of keeping Johnson electable.

The Daily Mail and The Sun

As I’m sure you’d expect with these particular outlets, the Daily Mail and the Sun haven’t tried to keep anything resembling a level playing field in their coverage so far. Although the Daily Mail’s politics articles are spread out in between the latest celebrity wrongdoings, they’ve been pushing the pro-Brexit parties incredibly hard, whilst attacking Labour at every turn. One example includes turning a Corbyn statement on US food standards into an attack on socialist economics, whilst Johnson’s cenotaph gaffe went undiscussed. 

The Sun has been in a similar position, putting a lot more of its energies behind targeting Labour than encouraging another party. One such article included an attack on the Labour line of opposing billionaires. The meaning of the policy is that it’s an unnecessary level of wealth to accrue, especially whilst poverty is widespread. The Sun claimed that his comments “strip aspirations for people to work hard”, twisting the message to something of an attack on hard working citizens. The outlet has often posted pro-Conservative articles too. However these are dwarfed by the attacks on Labour.

The Independent and The Guardian

The Independent and The Guardian have followed almost the same pattern as the Sun and Daily Mail, in their attacks on the party they don’t want in power (in this case, the Conservatives). This includes highlighting their gaffes and failings more than the right-leaning outlets, and specifically attacking the other side’s attack lines

The two are, however, having trouble falling in behind one specific political party. Both of the outlets have taken stances against both Labour and the Lib Dems in the past week, and neither of the websites has picked their ideal candidate to win the election. This seems to be continuing the theme of this election, in which the anti-Brexit left is far more split that their opposition. How these allegiances change through the campaign could be vital to the result. 

Have they had an effect?

Put simply, not yet. Over the last week, the polls have seen a huge boost for the Labour Party as every pollster notes the gap closing. Due to the lack of debates so far, and the short amount of time spent in the campaign, there’s no way to tell if this is the left wing outlets being successful or if Labour’s huge membership is getting on the doorstep to push the cause forward. The early debates will be hugely telling of which side has the momentum, and the press will try and guide that one way or the other. Next week I’ll assess the impact of the debates, and see just how completely opposed the news organisations are.

By Joe Blackburn: @JoeBlackburn42

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