The High Court decision of 3 November, which blocks Prime Minister Theresa May from invoking Article 50 without parliamentary support, has aroused the passions of the mainstream media. With the majority of UK newspapers controlled by wealthy oligarchs, the range of analysis is narrow and inflammatory. Most have resorted to outright tub-thumping.
The front pages
The UK’s most read daily, The Daily Mail, owned by Viscount Rothermere (whose personal wealth is estimated at over £1bn), printed pictures of the three judges, while describing them as “enemies of the people”. Its front page article went on to describe the matter as an “outrage” which served to “thwart the wishes of 17.4 million leave voters”:
In a similar vein, The Daily Telegraph, owned by the Barclay brothers (whose combined wealth is estimated at £4bn), also printed mugshots. Below the pictures, it ran an accusatory piece by former UKIP leader Nigel Farage, which claimed, without a shred of irony:
Brexit supporters feel that their views are being ignored and their verdict thwarted by a rich elite
Of course, The Sun is the property of Rupert Murdoch. Murdoch’s News International global media empire has helped him to amass a fortune of around £11bn and exert influence around the world. Prior to the EU referendum, Murdoch famously said:
When I go into Downing Street they do what I say; when I go to Brussels they take no notice.
Unsurprisingly, the front page of his flagship paper, read daily by 4.5 million people, took umbrage at the decision. “Who do you think EU are?” screamed the headline, followed by a subheader of “Loaded foreign elite defy will of Brit voters”.
Again, little sense of self-awareness is displayed – loaded foreign elite? Multi-billionaire Murdoch is an Australian. Who appointed him to speak on behalf of the British people?
But the prize for the most hysterical reaction of all goes to The Daily Express, owned by billionaire Richard Desmond. Its eyesore of a front page bore the words “We must get of the EU” in block capitals, emblazoned over a Union Jack. The shrieking editorial began:
This country faces a crisis as grave as anything since the dark days when Churchill vowed we would fight them on the beaches
The will of the people?
The outrage of these outlets is at odds with reality. 52% of the people may have voted for Brexit, but as admitted by Nigel Farage, such a narrow majority did not give a clear mandate. 17 million people voted to leave, but a very similar number voted to stay.
It must also be asked what those 17 million people voted for. Both Leave and Remain campaigns were largely devoid of actual content. Any real analysis was lost as the media amplified the empty slogans of politicians. What does ‘take our country back’ actually mean, for example? Leave even peddled outright lies, such as £350m a week for the NHS, or an end to immigration if we left, which were immediately abandoned.
In truth, there are valid reasons both for staying in and leaving the EU, but few of them were discussed. The electorate was kept in the dark.
So what actually happened was that a deliberately misinformed population voted extremely narrowly for a certain outcome. That cannot, by any means, be seen as a triumph of democracy.
On that basis, it was always somewhat mysterious that new PM May appointed fringe hardliners like Liam Fox and David Davis, then pursued a hard Brexit, hell for leather. What were her grounds for doing that? On whose justification?
The Prime Minister claimed to be promoting the “will of the British people” yet was unable to say which precise form Brexit would take. How could the people have willed something as yet undefined?
In this way, the ruling of those three judges should be welcomed. They were defending democracy, not denying it. Perhaps parliament will be able to have the reasoned Brexit debate the public could not. Because when the people had the opportunity to choose, our democracy was truly thwarted, as it so often is. And yes, it was largely by wealthy elites, some of whom are foreign. But they are not in Brussels.
They are the ones who run our press.
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