Seventy five percent of the British Press endorsed the Conservative Party in 2010. Rupert Murdoch and Paul Dacre have deep links with the Conservative Party, something made exceptionally evident at the height of summer in 2012. Before Tony Blair’s now infamous meeting with Murdoch, The Sun among other prized possessions of Murdoch’s empire would try to spurn the most devastating vitriol they could to either prevent a Labour government, and if that failed, bring it down. It was clear in 1979, as it was in 1992.
But Ed Miliband will be the first leader ever that goes into an election without owing anything to Rupert Murdoch. Having declared war on him, Murdoch has responded in due. The past five years have been used by the Right Wing press to construct a caricature of Ed Miliband with the intent of painting him as too useless, too ‘geeky, and too ‘weird’ to hold the highest office in the land. But the past two televised events despite them being watered down to cater to Cameron’s cowardice –have revealed the myths, lies and distortions of the past five years to be just that, a caricature. Now we see The Times suggesting Miliband is ‘insane’ for taking part in next week’s ‘challenger’s debate’, not because they worry for his welfare up against an admittedly ruthless and efficient Nicola Sturgeon heck, it helps their cause to have her shredding votes from Miliband – but because they know with every minute of unmediated and ‘no filter’ exposure Miliband can grasp in front of television cameras is good for him and terrible for Cameron’s greatest asset, the now dwindling margin between him and Ed Miliband as a capable leader in the eyes of the public. Personal ratings in the past fortnight for Ed Miliband have climbed drastically, not that you’d know. The Sun and The Telegraph called Miliband’s performance in the 7 way debate a failure despite ¾ polls suggesting otherwise. The Express wrapped in bubble wrap an underwhelming Cameron on their front page.
No matter how well Ed does, the papers will hope we did not watch and that we construct our opinions based on their front pages, which are then reviewed and create the news cycle’s agenda on BBC and Sky News. Just today it was revealed Number 10 lambasted the BBC for not giving coverage to The Sun’s ‘expose’ on Miliband’s leaked debate notes. The status quo is for news to be decided by the front pages.
They can do this in any way they wish, and they will do it with more viciousness and bile the closer we get to polling day without Crosby’s ‘crossover’ happening. They have lied and distorted the truth and misinformed their readership for five years, with no consequences. They have personalised an election and cheered Cameron on as they did the same for the first time in 10 elections from the steps of 10 Downing Street. This cannot surely be a free and fair election. An Australian with no stake in our democracy is intent on seeing Miliband relegated to history, and he will stop at nothing. Several families control our entire press, regulated only by self-regulation via IPSO. They fear the regulation that would come with the implementation of the Leveson Inquiry, and they fear they will not have unmitigated access to Downing Street, if Ed Miliband wins.
This is the most aggressive the media has been in any election in living memory. There will be coordinated campaigns just as there were in 1992, except this time their monopoly over public discourse is truly threatened. No matter the events of the election, David Cameron will be championed as ‘Our Only Hope’ (See: The Sun, 2010) even when all evidence suggests mediocrity and a failed record. Miliband will be portrayed however Lynton Crosby believes he should be. The ‘unholy alliance’ between the Conservative Party and the media’ will be pivotal in this election. It is only social media and the history of Miliband coming out of these attacks stronger than before as with the Daily Mail’s attack on his father that can counter this alliance.
The biggest test of our democracy will be whether Murdoch makes up the minds of the people or if they make up their own. If it is the latter, and Miliband wins to go on and change the way our press operates forever, this may be the last election fought with an unmediated and undemocratic army of media moguls fighting on behalf of the Conservative Party.
Jade Azim, Young Fabian member and Anticipations Deputy Blog Editor