There are strict rules governing elections in Britain designed to prevent corruption and undue influence over voters – so no intimidation, bribery, coercion, conflicts of interests or other illegal practices. There are also stringent limits as to how much money can be spent on “political campaigns” (and the electorate can’t be given food!). It all dates back of course to Gladstone’s time, some hundred and thirty years ago.
The regulations hence were all ensconced in a different era when the voting process needed to be protected against powerful landowners and politicians. But times have changed, haven’t they? Who is interfering in and manipulating the democratic situation in these modern days then – and getting away with it, as well? The newspapers of course – corruption and undue influence over voters with intimidation, bribery, coercion, conflicts of interests and other illegal practices?
You see we have an inspirational concept here in the UK for the freedom of the Press, and by heck don’t they abuse it when it comes to interfering in elections, don’t they? You see, newspapers are no longer simply perpetrators of the news (as perhaps hundreds of years ago), are they? No, they are personal & commercial comment and propaganda promoters, and public opinion influencers & formulators, to boot.
The problem we face in Britain is that our national newspapers have their own agenda when it comes to politics and their own personal or particular set of vested interests. For a start they aren’t really British, but owned by any spare egocentric megalomaniac billionaire with a lust for control and power, who happens to wander along. Secondly, the newspapers concern themselves predominately with their advertisers, who represent their main source of income. Finally they are focused on their readership, who not only provide another source of income, but a paper’s total circulation dictates the amount of money that can be raked-in for advertising space. Nowhere in the equation is anything to do with truth, impartiality, fairness, or public responsibility, is there?
When it comes specifically to a General Election, our newspapers are determined to lead their readers by the nose and convince them to vote for (or against) a particular political party. Therein lies the difficulty, as there are no constrains in place on newspapers about their behaviour, nor indeed does their victorious (or vitriolic) campaigning count towards election costs and expenses. That’s when it all becomes an unlevel playing field, doesn’t it? Because of their backgrounds and big business interests, it may perhaps not be surprising then that the vast majority of our newspapers (13) support the Conservative party and not Labour (3)? This means not only that there is a political slant in their news coverage in favour of the Tories (against all others), but that they blatantly (as well as subtly) exert undue influence over voters. This seems to be more than a trifle unfair when over the past twenty years the Tories have averaged only a third of the popular support in the Country, wouldn’t you say? You see the rules that our old-fashioned leaders thought-up and brought-in to protect the electorate (the Ballot and Corrupt & Illegal practices Acts) simply don’t seem to influence or apply to our newspapers, do they?
A number of our major newspaper titles are now owned by foreign nationals, which of course gives them immense POWER particularly at Election time. Some eighty percent of our so called ‘free press’ is in fact under the control of individuals overseas. Unbelievable, or what?
Rupert Murdock, an Aussie now resident in America, head of News International owns the Times, Sunday Times, the Sun and Sun on Sunday newspapers – giving him influence over five million voters (and his finger has been constantly in Britain’s political pie for a generation). In the 1992 General Election (surprisingly won by the Tories) he used his papers to campaign viciously against Labour’s Neil Kinnock, and afterwards the Sun had the effrontery and audacity to unashamedly pronounce on their front page headline “It’s The Sun Wot Won It” for the Conservatives.
Ex KGB spy agent, Russian national Alexander Lebedev owns the Independent & the iPaper titles as well as London’s Evening Standard, giving him well over a million voters to manipulate (the billionaire lives in Russia) – what other country would stand for that, eh?
In the right wing Conservative supporting camp, we have as main players the Daily Mail & Sunday Mail & Metro with nearly five million readers (owned by a non-dom billionaire living in France), plus the Daily Express and Sunday Express with a million followers (owned by a billionaire – made through porn), and the Daily & Sunday Telegraph also with another million (owned by two billionaire brothers living on Sark island).
The Daily and Sunday Mirror stand out as left wing Labour supporters, reaching two million voters (owned by a PLC).
It is a fact of modern life in Britain that printed newspaper circulations are dropping, as technology has increasingly favoured online and internet news dissemination – in conjunction with significantly enhanced television and radio coverage – but it remains an extremely powerful media that is being abused to circumvent the safeguards to our democracy and skew United Kingdom elections, wouldn’t you say? The Press is biased, opinionated, demonstrates excesses of bad behaviour, and is a law unto itself, as always.
[Rich British Press barons have “power without responsibility – the prerogative of the harlot throughout the ages” (Conservative Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin, March 1931). Nothing has changed, eh?].