Tuesday, May 11, 2010

today : Aaaaaaaaaaaaagh!

My question is: How the hell did the Tories not win the election with a resounding thump? Everything was in place. They were up against a 3rd term government and could exploit the natural boredom of the electorate. They had the solid backing of the press. The Tory papers (Express Mail Sun Times FT Telegraph) mounted a two year long mud-slinging attack on Gordon Brown, the non-Tory press were at best restless and generally frustrated with Labour and the 24 TV and radio news relies so much on the papers that all this was reflected throughout the 'media'. The country has gone through a hideous recession and is still teetering. Labour was responsible for a war that many many people disagreed with and this was then highlighted again with Blair and Brown up in front of hearings just weeks before the vote. The Tories had a huge amount of cash in their election war-chest and Labour didn't.

What's more, Cameron has steered the party well. He pretty much put the finishing touches to the rehabilitation that the Tories needed, building on the incremental progress made by Hague, IDS and Howard. Probably the most moderate Tory leader of all time, he managed to keep a lid on the anti-Europe wing, discuss immigration without unleashing an unreconstructed spasm of racism amongst his members and MPs, offered a New Labour style commitment to social justice and tempered and ignored the ideological dogmatism of the Thatcherite rump.

He even seems like a nice enough chap. Young and virile enough to impregnate his missus, touched with compassion and the tragedy of the loss of his son (these things are, I'm afraid, important for public sympathy although I imagine he would have sacrificed all of it to have his son live). People called him the new Tony Blair. But even then I think that's a bit unfair. Cameron doesn't seem quite as slick as Blair. In fact, he comes over as more honest, if anything.

So what went so wrong? It certainly points to one thing: that the press no longer possess the power they used to. Whether this is due to the increased embedding of 24 hour news in the culture or the increasing ubiquity of the internet as peoples' source of information. (Without researching this, and only using mine and my friends' habits as a model) the internet also seems to have changed the way we consume news and information - cherry picking individual articles and pages from here, there and everywhere. This negates the power of a newspaper's bias, as we are as likely to consume a story from one place as much as another, rather than read the Daily Mail or The Guardian each day and buy into their overarching narratives.

Perhaps the fact that media increasingly eats itself means that we are all, in a sense, media studies students who are aware that, for example, Murdoch owns The Sun, The Times and the NOTW, as well as Sky News.
Maybe the papers have just lost their grip. How many people flick through the freesheets rather than spend on a 'real' paper. We can see this is in the tantrum-like behaviour of the Tory press since May 6th. They are like the hare, unable to believe that they didn't win the race. They just can't handle it. The response has been hysterical at best and actually more like a spoilt brat throwing a tantrum.

If they 'thqueam and thqueam' any more, like Violet Elizabeth Bott, they are in grave danger of being sick.

The apotheosis of this is the way Brown has been portrayed as some kind of Hitler figure, holed up in his bunker, desperately trying to maintain his grip on power whilst the world outside crumbles. They are either disingenuously ignoring that he is simply following constitutional convention, or they are too stupid to understand it. Who knows? If he had resigned on Friday, leaving the country leaderless and something like 7/7 happened on Saturday, he would have been held personally responsible. If the Greek deal had fallen through at the weekend and there'd have been a serious run on the pound, the same would have happened.

The Mail, Express, Sun and Telegraph seem to be so stunned by their impotent inability to claim victory (it was the Sun wot hung it, as some wag pointed out) that their only response it to howl and stamp in frustration at their own diminishing influence. They also seem to be so in the habit of portraying Gordon Brown as some venal, evil monster that even on his resignation - when usually even the most one-eyed of papers will offer sober reflection on a lifetime of public service and at least acknowledge the good intentions of a leader - they continued with their caricature. It seems seems the press believe the propaganda they've been printing every day for the past three years, even as the election result shows the public don't.

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