Winner of the New Statesman SPERI Prize in Political Economy 2016

Friday 24 June 2016

The triumph of the tabloids

There is a lot of talk right now about an angry, mainly old working class who used Brexit as a way of kicking back at an establishment that had brought them nothing but grief over the last decade. The Leave campaign managed to channel that into anger at the EU, even though it had precious little to do with the EU. The key is to ask how did that happen, and why did it not happen just one year ago?

In the 2015 general election Labour highlighted the decline in UK real wages, and promised more money for public services. They were defeated - no angry electorate wanting to get rid of the establishment then. Did that electorate feel passionate about European migration? UKIP only managed to get one MP elected. 

In 2015 the electorate voted Cameron back in because they thought the Conservatives were more competent at running the economy, and that Cameron would be a better leader than Miliband. In the last few hours we can clearly see that both beliefs are incorrect, and some of us said it back then. But that cannot be the whole story because that same leader with the same economic competence has just been heavily defeated.

Did people just vote for the higher food and petrol prices that sterling’s depreciation will bring? Of course not. Nor did they vote for a possible recession. They did vote for lower immigration, but only in a small minority of cases because they dislike immigrants. People thought less immigration would lead to a better NHS, more secure jobs and higher real wages. They may get lower immigration, in time, but they will certainly will not get a better NHS and substantially better working conditions as a result.

It is tragic that we have left the EU. But what is equally tragic is that people who voted for that are very quickly going to find out that they were sold a pig in a poke. They have been deceived, and that will only increase the disillusion and disenchantment with the political system. Of course we should blame Johnson and Farage and the rest: the UK has paid a very high price to facilitate political ambition. Of course we should blame Cameron and Osborne for taking the referendum gamble and stoking anger with austerity. But a few politicians alone are not capable of fooling the electorate so consistently. To do that they need to control the means of communicating information.

In 2015 I argued that mediamacro had won it for Cameron and Osborne, and pretty well no one took this seriously. Just a year later, the united voice of economists has been successfully dismissed as Project Fear. Not by the people, but by politicians working together with most of the tabloid press, and a broadcast media obsessed with 'balance'. The tabloid press has groomed its readers for Brexit. If any good is to come out of this, it will involve defeating most of the tabloid press, and then forever reducing their influence. And given the power of that media, this can only be done by a united opposition that is prepared to cooperate in an effort to beat Johnson and Farage.

There is also a very big warning here for the US. Clinton may be ahead now, but do not underestimate the power of the media (which is still giving Trump much more coverage) to turn that around.

Brexit is perhaps the first major casualty of the political populism that has followed the financial crisis and austerity. That populism triumphed in the UK because the establishment underestimated its power and did nothing to tackle the resentment on which it feeds and the misinformation on which it thrives. It has been strong enough to turn a traditionally outward looking nation into one that turns its back on its neighbours. The leaders as well as the people of other countries should not make the same mistake as the UK just made.


  1. What amazes me about your post is that it blatantly ignores one fact (but actually alludes it to re the comment about UKIP) which explains the disconnect between last years election result and the referendum.

    Last years election was decided by the FPTP system whereas the referendum was a direct vote.

    You above all should know full well that, for many years, election results have not reflected the popular will. Mrs Thatcher never got more than around 43% of the popular vote and the only other right wing party was the DUP, a very minor addition to the total. Most people didn't want Margaret Thatcher and they didn't want the Conservatives last year.

    A referendum by definition is the popular will.

    You say that the tabloid press has groomed the electorate but seem to discount entirely the huge advantage enjoyed by the existing institutions who were putting out subliminal messages about accepting the status quo. In any case there is a huge inbuilt advantage to the status quo because most people simply do not like change.

    You seem quite unable to concede that under all the vested interests and manipulation there is a well of disquiet and anger among ordinary people.

    You mention Trump who has been excoriated by most of the US media as well as being declared a pariah by the GOP and yet you concede that he may well yet succeed. They may give Trump more coverage but that coverage is hostile so why should he succeed?

    The common element in both cases is, in my view, anger and disenfranchisement and I'm afraid it is far too glib to put this down to the wicked ways of the media. There is a strong argument that the likes of Murdoch follow, they do not lead.

    1. Sorry Robert Jones, but I think Wren-Lewis is entirely right. You seem to mix up cause and effect.
      Edouard Prisse, the Netherlands

    2. Mr. Jones,

      I like you're thinking. I would only add some shading to your critique that the referendum process might be closer to some sort of popular will. Since the Brexit voter turnout, though exceedingly high by American standards, was still in the low seventies, almost thirty percent of the people went unheard. In such a close vote, that thirty percent might have produced a different result. Consequently, your point is well taken, but referendums seldom get us to a pure democracy, though as you observed, they get us closer.

      I'm glad you mentioned Trump with the caveat that you did. I think you are dead on there. While a Trump presidency remains a possibility, the fact is the GOP's presumptive nominee means that something is broken. At the same time, while his poll numbers will rise and fall along with his opponent's before the vote in November, the tone of Trump's media coverage has changed considerably and now plays less to the public's fears than it does highlight those fears that are distinctly Trump's. The "Trump voter" is not, demographically-speaking, prone to change their mind based on press coverage, but the large swaths of the general public that he will need to win in an general election, are. His plunge in the polls after the media began reporting his statements with a negative spin are proof that, with Trump at least, the adage that bad publicity is still publicity, may prove like so many things with Trump's rise, little more than a worn out chestnut.

      I like both the blogger's points and your response because there's important truths in both it seems to me. I agree with you that this anger people feel is sincere and not manufactured. It is, no doubt, the remaining yet unresolved anxieties of crash in 2008. At the same time, the current granular and hyper-partisan nature of "the media" allows those who are angry to nurse that anger without the distractions of bright lights in tunnels or silver linings of any kind.

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts. For those of us in the States, looking at Brexit from all sides is important since we are not the most cosmopolitan of people to begin with and our knowledge of politics is often poor within our own boundaries, much less those of foreign shores.

    3. You're right that there is anger and disenfranchisement, but the key - absolutely key - influence of the tabloids is to pin all of that on EU and immigration. Whereas the financial crisis, austerity and the post-crisis productivity slowdown are to blame for that; and in some areas also a long-term structural decline which well preceded the EU enlargement. It is truly a sad day when the lies and scaremongering in the press bear their fruit and the country shoots itself in the foot, economically and politically, by voting out.

    4. You are wrong. It is surely the media. They are owned (at least here in the US) by very wealthy people running high-revenue-generating corporations. They make money only when they can attract viewer attention.

      Lurid stories of immigrant-linked crimes help sell advertising. Interviews with economists detailing economic impacts of policy (like Brexit) brings in no revenue.

      Similarly, "news reporter" examination of something like a Trump hate speech where stuffed shirts angrily parse and denounce everything that dope says, accomplishes 3 things:

      1.) The Trump name is promoted.
      2.) Trump supporters dig in deeper and become more motivated to promote their candidate because they interpret the events as ad hominem attacks by the establishment, who they blame (fairly correctly, I might add... accidentally correct, but still...) for their family's problems.
      3.) The media outlet generates a TON of ad revenue.

      The last point is half of the core problem. The media does not make money by collecting and delivering relevant facts. The media makes money by sensationalizing information and offering a "respectable" outlet for lies and propaganda to politicians whose policies coincide with favorable treatment of the corporation's ownership's fortunes. This helps control who is in power in government. If you haven't read any of the whistleblower accounts of how Fox News Corporation's ownership controls the "news" content and reporters, you really need to.

    5. "You say that the tabloid press has groomed the electorate but seem to discount entirely the huge advantage enjoyed by the existing institutions who were putting out subliminal messages about accepting the status quo."

      Remember that the media is, for many people, their only nexus between those institutions and the electorate. And it seems that parts of the media failed to inform, while others succeeded in misinforming.

      "You seem quite unable to concede that under all the vested interests and manipulation there is a well of disquiet and anger among ordinary people."

      I think virtually everyone, including SWL, agrees there is much disquiet and anger in the population.

      "You mention Trump who has been excoriated by most of the US media as well as being declared a pariah by the GOP and yet you concede that he may well yet succeed. They may give Trump more coverage but that coverage is hostile so why should he succeed?"

      In this political and economic climate where people are receptive to sound bites from outside-the-establishment figures, I think the adage "there's no such thing as bad publicity" rings true.

      "it is far too glib to put this down to the wicked ways of the media."

      Leave won 51.9% vs 48.1%. So one need only attribute a tiny two-percentage points of Leave votes to media misdoing to see that it made all the difference.


    6. I agree with you – the referendum was a once in a lifetime opportunity to vote for something concrete.

      For me it was a vote against the whole neolib era, which is now coming to an end. The rise of Trump is but another aspect of this. We have to face facts that the politicians have failed to deliver on prosperity for enough of the population.

      If you want to blame someone, I would pick Blair – who had a huge mandate for change in 1997 but delivered more of the same doctrines.

  2. Hi, I live in Australia, and have 3 British colleagues and friends, all of whom seem reasonably intelligent, educated and all of whom tell me they are for Brexit. Two of them seem firmly for Brexit, while one chose Brexit after considering the arguments, acknowledging the economist consensus there is a cost. I do not think any of them are swayed by tabloid papers. I do not know any British colleagues or friends against Brexit.

    Maybe you should not rule out so quickly that the majority of British voters have good reason to vote for Brexit.

    1. Indeed. I see the euro débâcle pushing Germany and the Whole EU elite after 2010 towards increasing lunacy, ideology, authoritarianism and arrogance. See what they did to Greece for ex. in June 2015. And the euro, by the way, is politically impossible to reform, so it will continue to require increasing doses of authoritarianism. So Britons said we don't want to be political partners with countries where there is such a big democratic deficit. Democratic control is important for long term growth, whatever the short to medium term costs. I don't know if this line of thinking is correct; but it could be somewhat rational ex-ante. What do you think?

    2. Did they share any key reasons? It'd be interesting to get some insights from Brit voters based Down Under.

    3. The Brexit vote boiled down to a single issue - immigration that was out of control. A majority felt that the possibility of a recession and a temporary lower standard of living was a price worth paying. The most recent forecast was for an increase in the size of the population by almost 30% in the next 20 years with the UK government having no control over this. If these figures were even half realistic then sadly the EU rules gave the electorate little choice.........

  3. Maybe this is for another post, but most of the major players behind the Leave campaign seem to have been Oxford grads. Seems important to think about for the future.

    I am of course, as always, in total agreement with you about the malign influence of the press on this debate.

  4. Frankly, if voters didn't realise that they were going to get Boris Johnson and Farage by voting Leave then they are beyond help. Cynicism is justified. Sunderland voted over 60% leave when they have more reason than anyone to stay in the EU.

    1. Seems a tad harsh, given Cameron stated more than once in the campaign that he would carry on regardless of the result. I voted Remain, but know at least a couple of Leavers who say they wouldn't have voted that way had they known Boris would take over.

      Wonder if knowing Cameron's intentions beforehand would have made a small but hugely significant shift in the vote?

  5. The tabloid press lives of scandals and delivering blame. It's an industry raising and herding scapegoats. It's business in a sense is agriculture.

    Who will the tabloid press appoint for scapegoat when the UK economy sinks? Immigrants, the scapegoats in Brexit? Unlikely. It will be difficult to find a scapegoat for the downturn. Or will it? Will it blame France, Germany, the EU? Will it go into crazy nationalism mode?

    So, if the UK experiences a recession as a direct result of the error of segregation, the role of the tabloid press recedes with it and so will mediamacro.

    Labour stands a good change with the next elections. The error of segregation will not increase the changes of Johnson or Farage. They are pretty impopulair.

  6. My condolences.

    With your NHS piece it seems that like how in the US the modern "tea party" movement was a conservative force directed against the Democrats/President Obama when instead they should have focused on the mostly conservative politicians who had supported deregulation and neoliberalism (although you can argue equally that Democrats in the US were key to this movement as well), the sentiment for Brexit was a response to the austerity policies of the Conservative Party, misattributed to the EU (which do have their own austerity issues, obviously).

  7. "UKIP only managed to get one MP elected". Oh please. They got four million votes in a single member simple plurality system which meant that most of those four million knew there vote was symbolic, and still went ahead and did it. UKIP won the European elections, or is that an inconvenient truth? Why does it have to be a triumph for the tabloids, as opposed to a triumph for democracy? The long gilt is down in yield and up in price. The economists who agreed with you, and who provided the Remain campaign with a chorus, took a view. The economists and analysts making five to twenty times as much are taking a different view. That's got to hurt a bit, hasn't it?

  8. One thing everyone seems to be ignoring: a vote in the general election is not equal to a vote in this referendum. The former is shaped by FPTP and decades of gerrymandering. The latter is a simple unfettered majority, so the voices that get heard are very different.

  9. I cannot remember the tabloids selling in England-Wales (as I shall now preemptively call the land which used to be part of 'Britain') being more explicitly linked to a single policy than their anti-EU campaign.

    My region voted Leave 68.9%, and is one of the least well-educated in this Wengland.

    I presume it is to these tabloids that the aspirational class baby boomers now turn for their land of milk and honey.

    For the first time, these Tory-anarchist journalists rather than a bunch of politicians will be held responsible for their policy, their mess, and their careerism.

  10. People are worried. Corbyn should say he'll do whatever it takes to ensure everybody has a job, everybody has a decent living income, everybody has a house, everybody has free health and education up to and including postgraduate education, everybody has a good pension. And then watch the votes flood in.

    Or not. After all I am just a stupid uneducated person.

    1. You can't have "free health and education" as it simply doesn't exist. If you pay tax you are paying for that "free" health and education.
      Not arguing against State funded programs just pointing out that getting someone else to pay doesn't make them "free".

    2. What exactly is the point of this post? And why mention Corbyn? Sorry to say, but it really does make you sound clueless and uneducated ;)

  11. It's the hangover of media macro. Cameron instituted austerity for his own ideological reasons, but he needed a way to explain away the negative effects without blaming his own economic policy. He decided to wink, wink, wink, nudge, nudge immigrants and immigration (as well as the "work-shy" natives) as the reason for the decline of the beloved welfare state.

    Once this referendum came around Cameron couldn't now say the immigrants that caused all those problems before are now vital to the economy. It was just too big a 180 to be believed. Since no one believes Labor (who were telling the real truth about austerity) because it's common knowledge there is no money and debt is bad what else were voters concerned about the decline of the services they rely on supposed to do? This was their chance to improve their services without spending more money (that they have been told isn't available because austerity, debt is bad, etc.) by kicking out some of the people who use those services.

  12. Surely it can't just be tabloids can it? Please – there must be something more to it than that?
    Anyway having had the longest commute in history yesterday apparently caused by a bit of rain and spending the night in a banking panic I have just got home and have got my Bach cd going to calm my nerves. What alcohol would anyone care to suggest as the best way to numb this one?

    1. Scotch, while you can still get it...

    2. Ditto Irish whiskey

  13. Now maybe someone who really understands Keynesian econ might run the B of England, Professor Wrenn-Lewis?

  14. I think it happened because xenophobia had taken hold and was given free reign on a single issue. For years the myths about Europe had been stoked. We were always going to "defend our interests" or "bat for britain" or get a good deal", implying they were out to screw us. We never seemed to work with our partners for win win, it was always shown a zero sum game. No politician would say Britains but the French are better at this, we can learn from them.

    Well we have paid the price all right for this diet of junk. I don't disagree the Mail, Sun etc fed this monster, but its part of a wider move in all western countries to jingoistic nationalism.

  15. Simon, in your opinion, if the vote had been conducted in rounds somehow (I don't know how that would work, or if it would be legal), do you think subsequent rounds of votes would have corrected for early pro-Brexit rounds once the world economic consequences were immediately made evident?

  16. Yes, Professor, there was misinformation. But there also was an almost entire lack of information coming from the EU, from Brussels, aimed at electorates, about what it is doing and why that is actually mostly quite good. Civil servants over there are still not able to explain this in understandable terms, nor is what they write easily findable on the web for the average, the normal citizen. I feel we, on the continent, are a bit at fault too. Brexit, what a waste! Edouard Prisse, Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

  17. Prof Wren_Lewis,

    Long time reader; first time poster from the U.S. Some of us had anticipated a revolution from the latest version of the gilded age. Some of us have also seen people hoodwinked occasionally into voting against their own self-interest. I, for one, did not anticipate these two events would come together in the manner that they have. Now it is clear that the election of Donald Trump no longer seems like a far-fetched possibility. Yes, a concerted, united, serious effort will be needed to prevent this. However, I cannot see such an effort being successful if it is perceived to be led by intellectual liberals shouting from the rooftops telling people how wrong they are and how they do not know what is good for them. I still have not heard or read about what more effective approach would be. Thoughts?


  18. "Did people just vote for the higher food and petrol prices that sterling’s depreciation will bring?"

    Food prices go up people buy less, so the supplier has to maintain prices in Sterling to maintain market share. Loss in FX. You never explain where the exporter is going to sell stuff other than here in a world short of demand.

    The impact is on the exporter to the UK, who can't shift their goods/services. Really need to ban bank lending New money for force speculation.

    1. Very nice to get this kind of comment just showing how out of their depth leave voters are, still trying to cling onto the lies that everything will be fine with the economy. I mean if your argument about market share was correct prices would never go up for anything, but you know what, they sometimes do, when external conditions and prices of inputs of the firms change, so it's not optimal to choose the same market share-price mix as before. The rest of the post makes absolutely zero sense and just underlines the ignorance. Just feeling sad that the leavers managed to enforce this ignorance on the other 48%, who now have to live with fewer international job opportunities, no equal treatment in other EU countries (health insurance etc), more expensive education and lower incomes at home.

    2. Sorry mate....but oil is priced on global market in Dollars and doesn't care much about the demand from puny little old Britain!

  19. It's all so sad. Cameron's gamble seems the worse decision since Gallipoli.

  20. Yes, it could happen in the US. And the Founders very much worried about it.... To paraphrase Hamilton--in the Federalist Papers, not the musical-- this whole representative democracy thing is a big experiment.

    1. As John Cleese said once, for democracy to work you need a literate populace... that is not the case for a lot of Trump voters...and GOP and right wing feeds on this illiteracy... less education is good for their party's future

  21. It's not just that Cameron "stoked anger with austerity." His responsibility goes much deeper. He's been directly stoking anti-immigration, anti-EU forces for years.

    Cameron spent months, during his renegotiation in the immediate run-up to the vote, insisting that EU migrants were essentially spongers bleeding our benefit system dry. His insistence on a fantasy immigration target at the GE was a cheap ploy to hold off UKIP and paint Labour as weak, and it effectively told the country that actual migration levels represented a crisis with only one solution.

  22. Everything you say here applies perfectly to the USA.

  23. I understand that much of the British press is foreign-owned, & therefore perhaps more ready to lie for a shilling. Yet it was the American William Randolph Hearst who is credited with creating the American War of 1898. So money is money & there seems no way to control the free press, unless you go to certain other nations like Turkey or Russia. What suggestions do you have?

  24. "UKIP only managed to get one MP elected."

    I think you have a point in general but this is a bit off - you have to remember that UKIP got ~ 5 million votes, so it was only because of our FPTP system that they didn't get many more MPs.

  25. I came here from Krugman's blog. I think that you both have it right.I would add that the EU is not completely innocent. You mentioned austerity, which applies both to the UK and the eurozone. There also appears to be a lack of a true democratic process in the EU. Hopefully things will change somewhat, ideally with a fiscal union as well as a monetary one.

    1. I don't think Krugman really understands European issues and the Euro - although he is very quick to comment on them. I am not optimistic about the outcome of this. The odds are now that the EU implodes.

  26. You and Krugman are much too smug. Yes, many voters were misled, but the UK has reached a tipping point, not a tipping point to begin constructive domestic politics (not much of that in sight) but their resentment with both labor, at least the Corbyn component, and Conservatives has boiled over and they don't care what is destroyed. Last year's election was indeed different, you are too smug. I am American who twice lived for five years in the UK. No, the brexit meaning for the US election is unclear except in one way- the daily front page coverage of Trump and Clinton (he said, she said) is stupid froth concealing profound discontent. Our voting population is far more heterogeneous than I've seen in the UK.

  27. The tabloids are a convenient scapegoat, which is ironic, because the tabloids like to create convenient scapegoats themselves.

    But to be honest, populism has been on the rise everywhere, that is, everywhere in the West. Trump in the USA, Brexit/UKIP in the UK, AFD in Germany, Front National, the Greek radical parties, and so on. Though there's not only conservative populism, but liberal populism as well (Bernie Sanders, PODEMOS, Syriza, maybe even the SNP).

    The rise of populism is a universal phenomenon in the West, and I think it happens because the relative position of the West is in decline. This is the way the big power blocks of the world shift their ranks. The Asian economies combine protectionism with heavy investment in infrastructure. The modern infrastructure in combination with "freedom from regulation" (because of underdeveloped civil societies) creates cities, subway lines, airports where previously was nothing but dust, clay or sand. Be it Dubai or Shanghai, these regions are on the rise, relatively and absolutely, while the West is in relative decline, and PARTIALLY also in absolute decline. With quick growth at an end, the capitalist promise of a better life within a single lifetime evaporates.
    Plus, the neoliberal promises of the benefits of the free movement of people, goods and capital have not been fulfilled for many. I'd guess that Jeremy Corbyn hasn't been that enthusiastic in his support for REMAIN, because he has realised that the Washington consensus in his anglicized/europeanized (?) version has not been ideal for many people.
    The economic benefits of the Washington consensus have not been fairly distributed (would it still be the Washington consensus if they were?). The talk of experts rings hollow to many, because for a long time politicians did what they were told by them.

    The tabloids are there to deflect attention from the systemic problems of the Washington consensus. It's obvious now that they succeeded.
    Immigration is a wonderful strawman to cristallize the rise of other parts of the world. The "others" take over.

  28. Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups. I would know. I'm an American.

  29. "Did people just vote for the higher food and petrol prices that sterling’s depreciation will bring?"

    Just like it did after the biggest financial crash in human history Simon?

    GBP/USD went from 2 all the way down to 1.4 Simon a huge drop.

    Inflation went from 5% to 0.4%

    You need to go back to your drawing board Simon.

  30. “… people who voted for that are very quickly going to find out that they were sold a pig in a poke. They have been deceived …. Of course we should blame Cameron and Osborne… mediamacro had won it for Cameron and Osborne…. The tabloid press has groomed its readers for Brexit…. If any good is to come out of this, it will involve defeating most of the tabloid press…. “

    You seem to be taking the viewpoint that it is the politicians' and media's fault that the vote didn't go the right way. But perhaps the fault lies with the people who voted. In the end they took the bait because they were hungry for it. I would argue that the defeat you are looking for will only come through education and taking responsibility - democracy isn't easy. Perhaps the next few years will provide that education; and sometimes the tuition needs to be high. It should be an interesting natural experiment.

  31. Why would anybody want to be restricted by the EU

    Protocol 5 of the growth and stability pact.

    60% debt to GDP ratio

    3% defcit of GDP

    Which in plain English is never ending austerity and why the Eurozone is in the mess it is in.

    That's the real issue here as the Germans see the Weimar Republic around every corner and under their beds.

    Just ask China, Japan and the US and all of the central banks around the world how hard it is to inflate in reality.

    They've spent Gazillions and can't even make a dent.

  32. As a fellow economist I was really disappointed with the arguments put forward in the campaign. I can understand that many people don't trust experts but the most important issues in this campaign were things people didn't have to take on trust - I could show people the evidence for the gains from trade or the fact that immigrants pay more taxes than they take in benefits or services. So why wasn't any of this in the campaign? It's either the Remain campaigners were inept or the media didn't present the facts.

  33. Also a long-time reader and first time poster from the US.

    I don't think enough emphasis has been given to the perception of the EU as both incompetent and indifferent to the plight of average people that was created by the Greek crisis and the migrant crisis--both of which had outcomes that protected financial elites as ordinary people were left helpless. Some might find it difficult to vote to remain part of that.

    I only followed the arguments in the Brexit debate for the last two weeks, but it sounded to me as though the "Leave" campaign were making impassioned calls to "take back our country" while the "Remain" message was "the EU is flawed but stick with it and you'll make more money." I think that may have hurt as well--making the referendum seem (falsely) to be a contest between ideals and filthy lucre.

    In short, while the tabloids were a malign influence, I view David Cameron (whose reckless incompetence in calling the vote in the first place should assign him a place in the doghouse of British history) and the leaders of the EU as the primary architects of this disaster.

  34. I've always thought the EU was a misguided concept that stifles Europe's best attribute -the diversity we have. IMO, the way that the people of Europe can make the best use of all of our talents is within independent nations that are free to each do things differently.

  35. Paul R Millette24 June 2016 at 21:33

    I live in the USA, my mother was confined to a nursing home, she normally read The Boston Globe, it is a broad sheet, she had a lot trouble reading it, so I started getting her The Boston Herald a tabloid style paper, it is a conservative paper, I was appalled at how fast her opinions changed, she was speaking badly about President Obama all because of the news paper she read.

    Do not underestimate the power of biased newspapers.

  36. You are right Simon, this result was a tragedy for Britain. But even worse it is a tragedy for Europe. I don't know how they are going to keep it together. Note the first thing that Germany said was that it must protect the Eurozone. This might be the beginning of a two speed Europe. The Eurozone will now go for political and fiscal union. This will end austerity in that area. However, I am not sure they can pull it off. 20 years ago when the EU had widespread support it might have been. After years of austerity, people across the Union are fed up. They are not going to allow closer union. I think it just might be the beginning of the end of a very noble European project.


  37. Modern life is shaped by the idea of convenience and economy: It is simply more convenient and efficient to blame who is available--immigrants--than who is out of reach (but actually responsible).

  38. Just saying...

    Why was the top Google search from UK 'What Is The EU?' AFTER the Brexit vote? You have to wonder if the ALL voters really understood the issue very well if they did not even know what the EU was.

  39. The complaint that the EU is undemocratic has some truth bot is not completely correct.

    The European Parliament is directly elected so is democratic, but the number of votes to elect an MEP is weighted in favour of the less populated countries.

    The Council of Ministers is made of of Ministers from each Government who are democratically elected - so that is democratic.

    The Commission is made up of commissioners appointed by each Government, so sort of democratic. Each Government could have them directly elected if they chose but none do so. So lack of democracy is done to each Government - not the EU.

    Britain is a democratic country whose Government was elected by 36% of the popular vote - so a democratic deficit there. The other arm of government, the second chamber - the House of Lords, is a hereditary peerage system going back to feudal times. So no democracy there then and it is not part of the EU's undemocratic structures. Why did they not tackle that first?

    The bureaucracy of the EU is part of government structures and it has grown far too much and need pruning back. That is a reform that needs to be taken seriously with urgency.

  40. There is a serious problem with the media, which thrives on conflict as a means of creating drama, which in turn creates false equivalency; the "he said/she said flat earth argument" you have mentioned.

    As far as US cable news, good luck fixing that. They are purely profit driven. They literally have no public responsibility - heck, if the house burns down that's a better story. There are some exceptions, but generally they are out for eyeballs.

    But I think you are too kind to the voters. There was a story that many were googling "what is the EU" after the vote. If one person did that, that to me is crazy.

    In the end, I think voters get what they deserve. They were lied to by Farage, who pivoted immediately about the funding of the NHS from the accrued from the EU transfer withdrawals. He lied to them. In America, we call these people suckers.

    If we Americans elect Donald Trump, I might partially blame the media as using him for click bait (and he is that).

    But I'm going to mainly blame Americans. He's been totally exposed for what he is. You vote for that, you deserve it; and I'll be OUT.

  41. "They may get lower immigration, in time, but they will certainly will not get a better NHS and substantially better working conditions as a result."

    They might get a better NHS: the new PM has to make this work so I predict that government spending will increase.

  42. The Brexit vote could mean a lot, and it could mean very little: I'm going for the latter.

    As long as Britain can get a good deal on trade, nothing much needs to change, except for the better.

    Britain is not little Norway, and doesn't go to the negotiating table as a supplicant; it has a strong hand to play, and if it chooses to play it well, it can still come out well ahead of the game.

    Most of the threats of 'punishment' that we are hearing now come from the Brussels-based bureaucrats, who can safely be ignored. The real decisions will be made by pragmatic businessmen, who don't want to lose access to the UK market, and see their massive capital investments here stranded, and by national politicians, who now have even more reason to look nervously over their shoulders and the cranky old bear waking up from his hibernation, and will appreciate that Britain continues to remain key and critical to their national security.

    At the end of the day, it's in everyone's interests to keep the UK as fully engaged as possible within Europe, even outside of the EU, and once tempers have cooled, that will be where the focus lies.

    As for Scotland, a 60/40 split is hardly a landslide, and if leaving the EU is problematic for the UK, then surely leaving the UK with oil prices at $50 or lower, would be immediate financial suicide for an independent Scotland.

    So, all in all, I'm not too worried.


    "Yet another industry shakes off the shackles of Europe. Now that Britain's fishermen are no longer bound by quotas handed down by Brussels, the fishing industry is booming again.
    Eurocrats are already moaning about over-fishing depleting stocks."

    Daily Mail 16 August 2018

    The tabloids will soon be getting to work to create a favourable impression of Brexit, so you're going to see a lot of articles like this in the years to come.

  44. Certainly Tabloid Terrorism has kept the anti-foreigner fires burning; certainly it has spread fear and mistrust of people with knowledge with its consistent rubbishing of experts in the guise of scientists over global warming; certainly it has attacked, belittled and undermined the EU and anything European for decades; but Osborne and Cameron really must take much of the blame for the current situation. Cameron is to blame not only for his years of spreading fear and pushing austerity, but also for his weakness in fighting his Eurosceptic backbenchers by calling for the referendum in the first place; Osborne is to blame for consistently scapegoating innocent parties for failures with his own policy failures, firstly the previous Labour government, and then when that wore thin the EU. It then only took someone with the morals of Farage to link people's lack of money with the EU and to persuade people that leaving the EU would solve all their problems. The press then fell down in their duty of protecting democracy by not pointing out the fallacies of these arguments, but just reporting whatever would most enflame opinion and forgetting facts.

    What it boils down to is an almost complete loss of integrity, honesty, and public spiritedness amongst the ruling elite (media and politicians combined).

  45. It’s too easy to blame the tabloids, even if in a close vote they might have tipped the balance. This was an accident waiting to happen. The populist xenophobia that dominated the Leave campaign convinced me to campaign for Remain but we should not be surprised that many people took the opportunity to reject an EU that seemed to epitomise their exclusion. As people realised that this time politicians would not be able to ignore them they were determined to make their voice heard.

    I also found the media coverage frustrating, particularly that given to Farage, but seeing this as just a media issue is a refusal to come to terms with what has happened.

  46. Time will solve this problem. Young people are not interested in tabloids, and this must partly explain the dramatic age trend in the voting.

  47. I'm not sure that the tabloids still have the political power that they did. Many people now get "news" and opinion from the echo-chamber of social media - not from news-stands where they might (at least via front pages) see a variety of views. My suspicion is that paying for a particular newspaper that has been edited by a news team (whatever its ideology) is not at all the same as clicking on a "free" news feed that is driven by advertising clicks.


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