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WON WHAT?! The press lost this election

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CITY: general election 2017, media, politics

IT WAS THE SUN WOT FUDGED IT. For the most part, the tabloids and broadsheets were way off the mark in their election coverage, and many voters evidently didn’t buy into the scaremongering.

As papers now rush to lambast Theresa May for her misjudged election call, readers will not forget that only yesterday, these same papers, from the Sun to the Daily Mail, were parroting her ‘strong and stable’ message’.

In Bristol, as elsewhere, the national mainstream media failed to recognise – or report on – the surge of grassroots activity that turned this general election from a Conservative sure-thing to a hung parliament amid a massive boost for Labour.

Across the city, an army of volunteers self-mobilised when the snap election was called. Young, old, people who had never engaged in parliamentary politics, found themselves knocking on doors, canvassing in their communities. Nationally, social media channels, pop-up websites, and innovative phone apps were harnessed by activists to help structure campaigning efforts and decentralise the workload on a mass scale, and to great effect.

Parliamentary politics was, for the first time in generations, shaped by a dynamic, self-organising grassroots coalition of people who were prepared to put aside political differences in order to bolster the chances of a Corbyn win and defend against a Tory landslide.

Charlotte Leslie, until today Bristol’s sole Conservative MP, has been ousted from what had been a bellwether seat since 1974 by Labour’s Darren Jones. And the city’s three other Labour MPs were not only re-elected, but recorded a steep increase in each of their majorities.

Thangam Debbonaire was re-elected MP for Bristol West with the biggest percentage gain of all constituencies in the country. Undoubtedly connected to this result is the fact that Momentum, the Corbyn-supporting national campaign network, has one of its largest branches in Bristol. A hunger for a different type of politics in Bristol was palpable in the weeks running up to the election.

Outspoken musicians like JME, Stormzy, and all the other artists who helped galvanize the vote, wouldn’t have been a thing, had the Labour party still been driven by the stale, centrist politics which had defined the party for so long. In a twist of fate, the swing to the Left, which had been met with trepidation and outright rebellion by many Labour MPs, has today secured the party’s future.

Over the next days and weeks the electoral data will come in, pundits will analyse and draw conclusions. The media conglomerates will self-reflect on why their words didn’t sufficiently sway the electorate. But the carpet is being pulled from beneath their feet, quicker than they can respond. Up and coming media organisations with rapidly growing online footprints, and independent social media platforms are making a splash on the scene.

Public interest journalism is expensive, takes time and can be risky.

But powering Bristol’s media co-op isn’t.

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