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Our disgracious press

The Tory-supporting papers' reaction to the party's crushing defeat shows they have learned absolutely nothing

Image: TNE

Let us be gracious in defeat. Now he HAS to deliver. It was a “loveless landslide”. Our challenge to Labour in shaping Britain’s future.

The arrogance of it. The self-serving, self-important, self-indulgent delusion.

Who are you, the Tory-supporting papers, to tell your readers to be gracious? Who are you to assume that they see the election result as a defeat? Some of them voted for our new government. Who are you to issue orders to the prime minister, to demand a role in shaping a Labour future you fought tooth and nail to prevent?

The Conservatives, the Telegraph says, should take time to lick their wounds. You, their clients, should do likewise. Instead you are lashing out like a mortally injured tiger. But you can spit and you can growl and you can howl, it won’t make a blind bit of difference. Just go somewhere quiet and watch the football or the tennis or something. Leave us in peace.

You can’t though, can you? It’s not in you. Your lack of self-awareness is breathtaking. You don’t see that you are at least partly to blame for the agony you are feeling, an agony you presume is shared by the people for whom you claim to speak. You are the journalistic manifestation of the Dunning-Kruger effect. You think you know everything and you can’t resist parading this imaginary superiority.

But for the past five years (at least) you have resolutely refused to listen, to look at or to smell what has been under your noses. You thought the Johnson landslide was vindication of everything you stood for. You never questioned the preposterousness of the promise to build 40 new hospitals, that Britain would be anything other than a reinvigorated global force once Brexit was done.

And when anyone with a brain could see that things weren’t quite as rosy as promised, you were deaf, blind and dumb – the latter in the sense of being wilfully dense, for you were certainly never mute. 

The thousands of lives lost in the pandemic were anyone’s fault but Boris’s. The squandering of billions on faulty equipment from dodgy sources, the loss of billions more to fraud, the contracts for mates, the incompetence, the sleaze, the corruption – all should be overlooked in the interest of the bigger picture. Who could have done any better? And, of course, the cost-of-living crisis was all down to Putin’s war.

Even Conservative MPs woke up to the reality that you resolutely ignored, finally ditching their lying leader. But you railed at them for their ingratitude – and then urged them to replace him with Truss. That worked out brilliantly, didn’t it?

And so you lined up behind Rishi, the man you hadn’t wanted, and his final throw of the dice. This election is about the future, not the past, he said. And you parroted him. Set aside your recent lived experience, you said. But also heed the lessons of history.

The Tories may have made mistakes along the way this past 14 years, but we should stick with them because Labour can’t be trusted – look at what it was like when they were in power in the ’70s. Couldn’t you hear yourselves? Couldn’t you see the nonsense of that, the double standard?

Just who exactly are you talking to?

“Crushing blow to Tory party in election wipeout”? Was that honestly what you thought was the first thing on your readers’ minds the day after the election? Boris’s ten-point plan to save the Tory party (hint: do what I said I’d do, but never actually did)? Who’s listening?

Your readers aren’t interested in a crushing blow or a plan to revive the political party the country has just rejected. They really aren’t bothered about which party survives or withers, any more than they fuss about the corporate fortunes of their energy supplier.

They are invested in the product, not the conduit. It doesn’t matter whether it’s Scottish Power or EDF, they want a constant flow of electricity at a fair price. Similarly, they mostly don’t care whether it’s the Tories or Labour “delivering”, they just want to be able to get a doctor’s appointment, for the rivers and seas not to be awash with sewage, and for someone to mend the bloody roads.

Those of your readers with more of a social or moral conscience might also wish that fewer children were in poverty and that food banks were no longer necessary. But do be clear, the fate of the Conservative Party is not their primary concern. And you telling them that a vote to punish the Tories is a vote to punish themselves will not change that. If anything, it will get their backs up further.

So they didn’t take your advice. They went their own sweet way. And now you’re trying to put a gloss on that. Wary of going down the Trump road of openly calling into question the legitimacy of the result, you pussyfoot round the edges.

Labour got only 34% of the vote. (I don’t remember you fretting about Cameron getting only 37% in 2015 – where is the line between those three points that determines the acceptable and the undemocratic?) There was a low turnout, so it was 34% of 60%, which means only a fifth of the country wanted this government. Even Corbyn got more votes.

And look at the mismatch between Reform with its 4m votes and five seats and the LibDems who won 71 with only 3.5m votes. It’s not fair! As Sir John Curtice said, it was “the most disproportional electoral outcome in British electoral history”.

But hang on, didn’t you run special supplements telling people to vote tactically to get the result you craved? You wanted your readers to vote for candidates they didn’t support “to keep Labour out” or at least to deprive it of that mythical supermajority that was somehow going to gift Starmer eternal power.

Two can play at that game and the other side did it more effectively. Many did vote tactically; not to spite Labour, but to turf out the Tories. So yes, the Labour vote was smaller than it might have been – because its supporters were not only just as capable as yours of lending their votes to others to achieve the desired overall result, but also far more efficient at it.

Now you’re muttering about electoral reform and musing about the benefits of PR. Something for which the LibDems and the Greens and other small parties have been crying out for years.

Well, guess what? We had a referendum on that in 2011 and it was the “will of the people” that we stick with first past the post. You surely can’t be suggesting that we should think again? Because to go back on such a recent referendum would be a betrayal, anti-democratic. Even if it hasn’t turned out as we think it should have done. Even if the will of the people might have changed.

Labour and the LibDems played by the existing rules and won. Like a cricket captain who makes a decision based on the state of the pitch about whether to bat or field, or whether to play fast or spin bowlers, they looked at the political landscape and deployed their resources accordingly.

Last time around, you successfully rolled the pitch to your advantage, badgering Farage into standing down his Brexit party candidates to give the Conservatives a free pass. He wasn’t playing ball this time, so you turned on him.

Then you hailed your own success in “saving” 40 seats through your tactical voting guide, while mourning 170 lost seats where Reform split the right. Farage would probably say that it was the Tories who split his vote.

Now you’ll carry on pushing the narrative that the Tories lost because they were too leftwing. Because you’re still not listening. To the country. To tens of thousands of your customers (up to 43% of them according to a Redfield and Wilton poll) who were sick enough of the Conservatives to vote Labour.

But you never do. You’re like the pub loudmouth who shouts over everyone, the mansplainer who likes to tell women what they’re thinking, the boorish dinner party guest too busy mentally polishing his next pearl of wisdom to take on board what anyone else is saying.

Perhaps now would be a good time to shut up and listen for a change. You lost, get over it

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