It’s obvious why the media isn’t reporting John Cleese’s extraordinary takedown of Theresa May


It’s pretty obvious why the media isn’t reporting John Cleese’s extraordinary takedown of Theresa May. Cleese accused the sitting Prime Minister of being in “cahoots” with the press.

In a scathing attack on May, the co-founder of Monty Python called out media ownership in Britain:

Cleese is right, newspapers are generally controlled by billionaires in the UK. A quick glance at media ownership shows how rich, vested interests monitor the information millions of Britons see:

  • Billionaire Rupert Murdoch owns The Sun and The Times.
  • The Barclay brothers, worth £7.2bn [paywall], own The Telegraph.
  • With a fortune of £2.5bn [paywall], Richard Desmond owns The Star and The Express.
  • Viscount Rothermere, whose family is worth almost a billion [paywall] runs The Daily Mail.
  • Russian billionaire Alexander Lebedev owns The Independent with his son.

‘Most appalling’

Cleese has some form here. In 2013, the veteran actor brutally attacked sections of the UK press as the

most appalling, depraved, disgusting, amoral creatures you could find anywhere…

A massive impact on our election

An investigation into the media’s current election coverage lays bare how desperate newspaper barons are to keep May in number 10. Part two of Loughborough University’s audit shows hostility towards Labour is through the roof across eight out of ten national newspapers. The following graph, looking at data from last week, shows the extent of negative coverage these billionaires bring to Labour:

As the graphic shows, the press is overwhelmingly anti-Labour, like Cleese alludes to. Last week, only The Guardian and The Mirror’s reporting on Labour was more positive than negative.


Senior executives from Rupert Murdoch owned companies met either the Conservative Prime Minister or Chancellor ten times in a year. More broadly, News Corp executives met senior government representatives 20 times between April 2015 and September 2016. This list, examined by 38 Degrees and the Media Reform Coalition at Goldsmiths University, does not include government meetings with journalists who work at Murdoch-owned newspapers.

Maggie Chao, a campaigner with activist group 38 Degrees, said:

These findings show that Murdoch continues to enjoy astounding access to senior politicians. But more importantly, they throw into question the government’s – and [culture secretary] Karen Bradley’s – judgment when it comes to the UK’s most powerful media baron.

Conflict of interest

Under May’s watch, most of these newspaper barons are maintaining and increasing their wealth, according to the Sunday Times rich list [paywall].

Express owner Desmond, for example, is a “serious player” [paywall] in the London property market. He’s currently engaged in a £1bn [paywall] property development scheme, including 722 homes. In other words, Desmond is making huge profits from skyrocketing house prices facilitated by the Conservative government. So it’s no surprise billionaires like Desmond are so hostile to the social housing policies of Labour.

In general, Britain’s top 1,000 families have increased their fortune by over 155% since 2009. For the rest of the country, real wages are down 10.4% since 2010.

So it’s no wonder the Conservatives and the press barons work under a mutually beneficial arrangement, spoken or unspoken. The media keeps the Tories in power, the Tories keep the media rich. Simple.

Unless there is a groundswell of conversations between real friends, families and local people to circumvent media power. Then, this cosy set up will fall apart.

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Featured image via Luc Van Braekel and Policy Exchange

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