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Saturday, 5 December 2015

Shock Horror! Oldham Voters Defy Our Great British Press

First Write the Headline then Report the News - How the Press Got Oldham Wrong

The Times writes the headline first and then gathers the news!

It wouldn’t have made such a good headline, but at least it would have been more honest for once if the headlines had read 'Voters Defy the Press'.   A more truthful headline would have been on the lines of ‘Labour holds Oldham with increased majority despite vitriolic Press attacks on Corbyn’ or ‘British Press Gets It Wrong Again’.  But they would not have been such good headlines, even if they would have been more truthful.

Despite the predictions that terrorist loving, baby-eating communist leader of Labour would scare the voters into voting for UKIP , voters in the Oldham by-election defied the predictions and gave Labour an increased share of the vote in the by-election.

Roy Greenslade’s enjoyably mischievious article in The Guardian The Times Counts the Cost of Spinning Against Labour in Oldham’ captured it perfectly.  On Friday morning the first editions of The Times appeared with the headline ‘Labour is counting the cost in Oldham’ with the successful UKIP candidate and Nigel Farage pictured together.  Later we were told by The Times that Corbyn wasn't an issue in the by-election, despite this being the focus of Ukip's campaign!
The Times plays the racist card - it was all the fault of those Muslims
The only problem was that the electorate begged to differ.  So the fall-back position of reporter Callum Jones was that Labour was predicted to hold the seat with a reduced majority despite Jeremy Corbyn as leader.  When the result was actually announced the headline was changed again to ‘Labour holds on to Oldham with ease.’  and they then fell back on Farage's excuse - the Muslims.  It was all the fault of the 25% of the electorate which is Asian.  And then Farage will no doubt tell us that because they have a few token Asians, UKIP isn't racist!
Nor was The Times the only culprit.  The Telegraph ran with ‘Even if it holds Oldham Labour has no answer to the UKIP squeeze’’.  The Sun played it both ways – its headline was that it was a two horse race between Labour and UKIP but the sub-headline announced that 'Rod Liddle had paid Oldham a visit and it was clear that Oldham was ‘the rock solid Labour seat, where voters are ditching Corbyn’s barmy army in favour of UKIP’s dark horse.’ 

The Sun had, of course, substituted its own fervent wishes for those of the electorate who weren't as stupid as the Sun clearly wished they were.

Even the Labour supporting Daily Mirror went wobbly.
The once great Conservative Spectator speculated predicted, in the form of a question ‘Is UKIP on course to win the Oldham West and Royton by-election?’.  The Express, which is of course known for the accuracy of its predictions, headlined on ‘Oldham by-election:  'Tax scandal rocks Labour’s Jim McMahon’  Perhaps slightly more accurate was its headline ‘Express: Entertain the Whole Family’  Certainly what its coverage lacked in information it makes up for in entertainment.

The Mail’s Robert Hardman, a know Labour supporting paper, confidently announced that ‘The greatest threat to Labour’s hold on Oldham?  Jeremy Corbyn!  ROBERT HARDMAN visits Oldham West as UKIP surges before today’s Oldham by-election.’

Maybe the Guardian reported it most honestly:  ‘Shock all round as Labourstrolls to Oldham byelection victory.’

Why was it a shock that Corbyn, who had thousands attending his hustings meetings in northern working-class cities over the summer, had not deterred Oldham’s voters?  Because the papers have been engaged in such a vitriolic poisonous campaign against Corbyn – from the quality Guardian to the Murdoch Sun and Times, that they couldn’t believe that the voters had defied them.
Labour-Tory MP Simon Danczak doing his best to attack Jeremy Corbyn in the Tory press
And therein lies the lesson.  The press are not invincible, despite the Tory cuckoo in Labour’s nest, Simon Danczuk predicting in his favourite paper, the Daily Mail, that only a ‘moderate’ Labour candidate could have won.

Tony Greenstein 

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