Few predicted the result—but the media's brazen dismissal of different possibilities should concern us allby Gary Younge / June 16, 2017 / Leave a comment
Two days before the election I wrote a column for the Guardian arguing that despite the received wisdom, the campaign of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party had shown that it was electable. I thought I’d been careful. I didn’t argue Labour would win, only that its chances could not be dismissed. Drawing on two month’s reporting in Harrow and a month in Muncie, Indiana, for last year’s elections in the United States, my point was that “electability” is not a science: the attributes that candidates and programmes need in order to win change with the times and our current times are volatile. I gave the full range of polling evidence—from Labour taking a drubbing, to a hung parliament. “It seems, from reporting and the polls,” I wrote, “that even if Labour doesn’t win under Corbyn, it is a viable electoral force.”
The next day, Paul Waugh, the Huffington Post’s Political Editor, not known as one of the lobby’s more sectarian members, wrote: “There is real anger at pieces like Gary Younge’s in the Guardian.” In a blog entitled, “Surge Me, Gov” Waugh quotes “centrist” and “senior” Labour sources mis-representing my article as a prediction of a Corbyn win, while insisting “There is no surge!” and predicting a Tory majority of 80-plus. The day after that, the Tory majority was cut to minus eight as Labour soared by 10 points to touch over 40 per cent.
I am not a clairvoyant. I had no special knowledge. I would not have guessed at that result myself. Waugh’s source(s) could have been right. The distinction between myself and him and his sources is that I believed this result to be possible. That belief was not plucked from the sky. It was not faith-based. I am not a “believer”; I’m a journalist. Rather, evidence had to be brushed out of the way before the potential of the eventual result could be so casually dismissed.
The fast-established excuse of journalists has been that nobody saw this result coming. That is not true. The range of polls before election day ranged from a one-point Tory lead up to 13 points, from a hung parliament right through to a landslide. There was other conflicting evidence, too. Yes, Labour had made a…