It was the night the press lost the plot. Yesterday, Fleet Street threw its weight behind the Conservatives, with most British newspapers supporting the Tories.
The Sun proclaimed: ‘We’ve had enough of Jezza’s rubbish…Vote Tory. Don’t Chuck Britain in the Cor-Bin’.
The Daily Mail appealed to the nation to vote tactically for the Tories and Brexit. The day before, it attacked Labour over 13 pages, under the headline: ‘Apologists for terror’.
The Times reported that Theresa May could expect a 50-seat majority, with The Evening Standard, Daily Express, The Daily Telegraph and Financial Times supporting the Conservatives.
The Mirror and Guardian stuck with Labour, but their support was limp compared to the pro-Tory roar from the rest of the press.
The polls seemed clear, and it was merely a matter of thinking up some clever Theresa May victory puns.
That is obviously not what happened. Not only did the press not predict the result, the swing to Labour shows that they did not influence the vote.
Newspapers expect to hold huge sway in elections. But it seems that the tide has turned for the press.
The notorious 1992 Sun headline ‘It’s the Sun Wot Won It’ set the tone for newspapers’ election coverage, after John Major won an unexpected victory over Neil Kinnock.
The headline has gone down in UK newspaper folklore – although Rupert Murdoch has since described it as ‘tasteless and wrong’.
Brash, maybe – but that Sun headline contained some truth. Now, the electorate gets its information from a wide range of digital sources.
Guardian columnist Owen Jones said last night that the British commentariat got it wrong ‘and have to show some humility’.
That is not on the cards. The press will dust itself off and regroup. But it will perhaps never again enter an election with such certainty that it can predict or shape the result.
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