On Tuesday, campaigner Peter Stefanovic posted a video exposing BBC News’ lamentable ‘framing’ of yet another Tory u-turn – this time Theresa May’s abject failure to keep a manifesto promise to cap energy prices, allowing British Gas to announce an eye-watering 12.5% increase in electricity prices:
But this wasn’t the only case of slanted narrative-framing that took place on the news channel on Tuesday.
BBC News spent much of the day running and re-running a video piece based on analysis – analysis the BBC itself had commissioned and for which it therefore set the terms of reference – of General Election results in relation to Brexit, in which it concluded that the election in June was the ‘Brexit election’.
Both the written article and the video segment mention the surge in Jeremy Corbyn’s popularity, but it’s treated as secondary to the main ‘Brexit election’ point. This was highly misleading – and just as highly unlikely to be coincidental.
The BBC concluded that Jeremy Corbyn was able to win swing-voters at a rate of 14-1 compared to Theresa May because those who would prefer to remain in the EU chose Labour, while Labour ‘picked up [only] a few leave voters‘. The article posits that this was because
the Brexit debate was not so much about Leave or Remain but about how to leave
making Brexit the central issue of the election.
The article also claims a majority of former UKIP voters switched to the Tories – which might be true overall, but – as commentators acknowledged as election results started to come in – UKIP voters who had switched from Labour to UKIP mostly switched back to Labour, confounding the expectations of pundits.
But the key sentence in the article is this one:
Of course, actions speak louder than words, and voters were not only concerned by Brexit but actually voted accordingly.
It’s probably true that those who switched to the Tories did so because of reasons relating to Brexit – but the reality appears to be that many of those who voted Labour did so because Corbyn made it hardly about Brexit at all.
By focusing solely on voters’ preference about leave/remain, the BBC’s presentation of the research neglects a key factor: how much people cared about their preference. And the fact appears to be that – at least for those who voted Labour – the answer to that question is ‘not much at all‘.
YouGov polling, released on 11 July but taken just after the General Election, while everything was still fresh in the minds of those polled, measured why those who voted Labour did so, and the results are remarkable:
The one thing missing from the list of reasons is… Brexit. Presumably it features, if at all, as part of that tiny 7% of ‘other’ voters.
Jeremy Corbyn did not attract remain voters – or leave voters – to vote Labour because of their Brexit position. He did so by making Brexit a non-issue for them – and by making his policies the main issue for most people.
When the Article 50 vote went through Parliament in January, this blog wrote that he had played a difficult hand exactly right – and even mainstream commentators agreed with this assessment in the aftermath of the election result that shocked them by his ability to increase Labour’s vote in both leave and remain areas.
The Establishment desperately needs to neutralise and re-write that success – and is trying to re-frame the narrative to persuade us that Corbyn’s success was only among remain voters. It can then attack his support among remainers by claiming some kind of u-turn or exaggerating division on the Brexit issue, when the reality is that Corbyn persuaded voters that there are more important issues to deal with.
The Establishment is extremely unlikely to succeed in undermining Corbyn and ‘his’ Labour on the NHS, on fairness, on policies or the other reasons that Labour voters said actually caused them to vote Labour.
So they’re setting up a straw-man for them to attack instead, so they can portray him as damaged when they attack something that is not actually the issue.
Corbyn’s ability to remove Brexit as an vote-factor for millions of voters was an incredible political achievement. But it’s the only thing his opponents have that they think likely to ‘gain traction’ against him.
And that’s why the MSM and right-wing politicians both inside and outside Labour are desperately trying to revive it as a supposedly key issue now.
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