In 1992, after thirteen years of Conservative power, the Labour Party seemed in prime position to rise from their slumber. There was an understandable sense of impending victory in the Labour camp, as the majority of opinion polls predicted that Labour would narrowly defeat a weak Tory government. This sense of triumphalism was particularly evident when Neil Kinnock hubristically declared 'We're alright!' during the now famous Sheffield Rally.
After the votes were counted for the 1992 general election, a week after the Sheffield Rally, the Tories surprisingly gained their fourth consecutive term in office. What happened, one must ask, to Labour's projected victory?
For many commentators, Kinnock included, Labour's impending victory was destroyed by a demonising, hyperbolic and excessively bias right-wing press. Kinnock, in conversation with Owen Jones, claims that 'the editors of the tabloids got together on the Thursday before the poll to organise a sustained attack against the Labour Party.' Two days later, The Sun, The Daily Express and The Daily Mail published spurious headlines about Labour's ostensibly 'open-door' immigration policy. In certain marginal seats, Kinnock claims, The Daily Express even gave away thousands of free copies of their newspaper. Furthermore, on the day of the election, The Sun ran the typically hyperbolic headline: 'If Kinnock Wins Today Will the Last Person to Leave Britain Please Turn Out the Lights'.
Kinnock wasn't the first or the last Labour man to be demonised by the right-wing press. Now, it's the Marx-loving, freedom-hating, immigration-inducing 'Red Ed' Miliband's turn. Miliband has been facing, and will continue to face, a ceaseless and unyielding beating at the hands of the right-wing media. He has made the ostensible mistake - as Kinnock did in the early 90s - of criticizing the Murdoch media monopoly. This, of course, has been interpreted as a declaration of war and thus Murdoch and his army have decided to issue a barrage of pre-emptive strikes.
The Daily Mail called Miliband's father - a man, we should remember, who fought for our country during World War Two - the 'Man who Hated Britain'. The Sun ran a campaign claiming that 'Red Ed' didn't support veterans - like his father - because he wasn't seen wearing a particular wrist band. And, perhaps most surprising of all, Miliband was deemed unable to run this country because he is pretty shit at eating a bacon sandwich. Of all these attacks, at least this last one has an ounce of credibility - he is, after all, pretty shit at eating a bacon sandwich.
Unlike Kinnock, however, Miliband has at his disposal a democratic opposition as powerful as the right-wing press. He has that grand old world of social media. While the right-wing press is monologic, centralized and undemocratic, the internet is for the most part dialogic, decentralized and democratic. Social media can offer alternative opinions that challenge the established hegemony as perpetuated by the Murdoch clan. The recently trending #webackEd campaign demonstrated such an alternative. The prime reason for 'backing Ed' - at least as far as this avid tweeter is concerned - was his stance against the Tories' privatization of the NHS - something Murdoch's media have felicitously ignored. Indeed, the second most popular reason for 'backing Ed' was Miliband's criticisms of the Murdoch media monopoly.
There is no doubt that traditional mainstream media will continue to play a huge role in the upcoming election. Yet the right-wing tabloid press will not possess the same strength as they did when Kinnock was seeking power. Social media can challenge the power of private influence over our collective consciousness. Social media, and the internet more generally, can liberate the population from the monologic, undemocratic and unaccountable media that has historically played too large a part in dictating our political future.Suggest a correction