The same media outlets that blurted deafening pro-Leave messages have become eerily quiet of late.
“This is not the end”, The Telegraph splashed on the eve of Britain’s official departure from the European Union as they proclaimed a ‘new beginning’ for Britain next to a statesmanlike Boris Johnson.
Alongside others, the billionaire brother-backed newspaper had been one of the prominent foghorns for the Vote Leave campaign, giving succour to the ERG and other hardliners who extolled the virtues of a clean (or hard) split from EU.
On the day we found out that the UK had voted out of the union they wrote that it was “Telegraph readers wot won it”, in a nod to the infamous Sun front page that hailed an unlikely Tory win in the 1992 general election. The sub-heading could not have painted a clearer picture of the symbiotic connection they had instilled in their readers. It read:
“Brexit may have divided the country, but you, dear readers, have been vociferous in expressing your desire to leave the EU in your letters.”
It was a match made in heaven for a newspaper that acts like it has an innate responsibility to protect the Old Guard and readers that pine for the good old days of yore to return.
To credit The Telegraph and its readers entirely with the vote to leave the EU would be a little myopic. A media onslaught across the mainstream media is ‘wot won it’, so comprehensive was its scope and reach.
According to research by the Reuters Institute at the University of Oxford, of the 2,378 articles they analysed which were focused on the referendum, 41 percent were pro-leave as against 27 percent pro-remain. They also found that press coverage focused heavily on politicians and campaign spokespeople with relatively few analysts/experts, academics, and foreign politicians, and with more attention on personalities and the contest, than the issues.
This should come as no surprise to UK media audiences who have been subjected to myths about the European Union since the day the country opted to join the bloc. Reports that curved bananas will be blocked by Brussels and lollipop lady sticks will be outlawed by the repressive union have been making headlines across our papers for years. Little wonder, therefore, that there was a dearth of voices willing to sing its praises when it came to the crunch.
A “terrible deal for Britain”
But ever since the UK officially departed the EU at the start of the year, there has been a notable change in the tone of the same newspapers that supported the exit in the first place.
Last week, The Telegraph took leave of its pro-Brexit crusade after it questioned whether the UK’s divorce from the EU has really been all it’s cracked up to be. Assistant editor Jeremy Warner engaged in a war of words with the government, saying they seem “intent on wasting our sovereignty”.
He added that it is now “abundantly clear” that the deal struck with the EU was a “terrible deal for Britain” that imposes “multiple different obstructions on trade”. Warner warned it could also “seriously damage the integrity of the union with Northern Ireland”, something most Remainers were acutely aware of before their vote was cast.
And what of the Brexit successes? Given how vocal most newspapers were in the run-up to the referendum you would have thought they would be trumpeting the spoils of the victory. But there has been an eerie silence on that front too, which you could surmise is down to the fact that there has been so few.
News that the crown stamp will return to pint glasses was heralded as a “Brexit triumph” by The Express, quoting MP Lee Anderson who noted that the badge would be one of “the many benefits” of the UK’s divorce, without actually saying what the other benefits are.
In a Commons address, Lord Frost used the return of imperial measures as “proof that the gloom-mongers” have been proved wrong following the UK’s departure from the EU. Which is funny, because I don’t recall weights and measurements ever being one of the hot topics prior to the referendum.
It seems the Brexit minister, like many of our mainstream news outlets, is a few oranges short of a bushel. They promised the land of milk and honey and delivered a land of ounces and gallons. Only time will tell if he/they will come to their senses.