The Media Class, the Liberal Democrats and the UK Election

The Media Class, the Liberal Democrats and the UK Election

Martin Bright: The Media Class Goes Liberal Democrat

So the Guardian newspaper, the voice of liberal Britain, has shifted its allegiance from the Labour Party to the Liberal Democrats. There is no doubt this is a significant moment. Earlier last week, a group of writers and intellectuals traditionally associated with the Labour Party signed a letter to the same newspaper urging readers to vote Liberal Democrat. These include novelists John Le Carré, Philip Pullman and Jeanette Winterson as well as influential thinkers David Marquand and Richard Sennett. It is possible to dismiss such interventions as self-serving media gestures that do little to shift votes in bulk. But, at the very least, they give a sense of the direction of travel of polite metropolitan opinion. When it becomes possible to admit you plan to vote Liberal Democrat at north London dinner parties without the risk of being laughed at, something has changed in British politics.

This is not a flippant point. The very same people run all the major newspapers in Britain. There is no great cultural difference between the senior executives of traditionally right-of-centre papers such as the Times and the Daily Mail and left-liberal titles such as the Guardian and the Independent–indeed the personnel are often quite literally interchangeable.

Though there are some influential media figure on the wilder fringes of political opinion (and the influence of Rupert Murdoch can’t be underestimated), the political class is a relatively homogenous centrist lump. This means that the virus of Liberal Democrat acceptability has seeped well beyond the walls of the Guardian. It has not quite infected the Times, which came out for the Conservatives. But Lib Dems and their leader Nick Clegg now have that most precious of political gifts: credibility.

Nearly six million people voted Liberal Democrat when they were ridiculed by the metropolitan media class. Millions more will now do so now they are taken seriously.