‘Mainstream’ media presenting local election results as confirmation UK has swung to remain/new referendum. There are several compelling reasons they do not
The so-called ‘mainstream’ media have been guilty of gross – and scandalous – misrepresentation of this week’s local election results in their portrayal of a handful of Labour losses as equivalent to the worst Tory results in a generation.
But that’s not their only misrepresentation – at least as far as the more liberal part of the media is concerned.
Graphical representations of the results have focused on gains and losses – additional councillors won or existing councillors lost – to support a narrative by the BBC and others that the results indicate a swing toward a remain position among the population.
But gains and losses only tell a part of the picture. The numbers – and an acknowledged expert on the numbers – tell a different story. Below are three reasons the local election results disagree with the narrative of the BBC and liberal media.
Councillors in place
Gains and losses tell part of the story – and are all that the BBC’s results page has depicted in as a chart graphic – but the number of council seats won overall are an important part of a balanced understanding of the results. And a compelling part – as the chart of the total seats won by party reveals:
This week’s elections were weighted heavily toward the ‘Tory shires’ – and the Tories held the majority of seats before voting began.
After all results were declared, the Tories had lost over 1,300 councillors – their worst results since 1995. They lost an enormous 27% of their councillors – but still retained 73% of what they had before, over 3,500 councillors.
Labour lost less than 4% of their councillors – and now have over 2,000 councillors in the seats contested this week.
Both Labour and the Tories have a policy commitment to respect the 2016 referendum result. Over 5,500 councillors represent parties whose declared position is to enact Brexit.
And in fact the number is considerably higher. There are now almost 1,200 independent councillors – many of whom were formerly UKIP candidates who left that party because of its swing to the extreme right, but who are still committed to Brexit and would probably have represented the new Brexit Party had it been formed in time to stand candidates this week.
By contrast, the Greens and LibDems combined now have 1,615 councillors in the seats contested on Thursday – fewer than a third of the total of those respecting the referendum result, even excluding the pro-Brexit independents.
Who gained what
When looking at gains, the independent candidates are also relevant. Of the council seats gained from other parties, the LibDems won 45% and the Greens 12% – but the predominantly pro-Brexit independents won 42%:
The expert’s view
Highly-respected elections expert John Curtice looked at the results this week – and concluded that gains for the pro-remain LibDems were a result of their rehabilitation as a ‘protest vote’ party and not a manifestation of some surging remain sentiment:
Curtice told Radio 4’s Today programme:
The Liberal Democrats used to be the traditional party of protest, and then they went into coalition with the Conservatives and they rather lost that mantle.
It looks as though they are beginning to recover that mantle, particularly in areas where until recently they had quite a lot of strength.
But when you actually look, is there any evidence that the Liberal Democrats are doing better in remain areas than in leave areas? The truth is that the evidence seems to be lacking.
So it seems easier to interpret this as evidence of Liberal Democrats recovering from the coalition, being the party of protest, and that’s the basis of their success, rather than necessarily a rush of enthusiasm for the idea of a second EU referendum.
The ‘mainstream’ media’s fundamental dishonesty has been writ large over the last two days – and centrist politicians have been transparent in their attempts to amplify and exploit a narrative that turns out to be unsupported.
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
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