“Power, and power without responsibility” is how three time Prime Minister, and then Leader of the Conservative Party, Stanley Baldwin, described the press in 1931.
85 years on the phrase could apply just as well to the response to yesterday’s ruling on the Parliamentary vote for Article 50 by a number of right wing papers.
Robustly criticised for their violent rhetoric – The Express called for action saying “… rise up people of Britain, and fight, fight, fight” while The Sun declared the judges as ‘enemies of the state’. This is just four months after Member of Parliament, Jo Cox, was murdered in the run up to the Referendum, yet we find ourselves in the extraordinary situation where newspapers are using violent rhetoric against members of the judiciary.
While there were hopes for a ‘kinder politics’ we have seemingly neglected to hope for request for a kinder press, or even a kinder public.
The Editors’ Code of Conduct sets out that journalists must not engage in “intimidation, harassment or persistent pursuit”. Whether these editorial slants will depends greatly on the way these stories are developed over the next week. Proof of ‘persistence’ may well be the key to any meaningful action against editors, and it is clear that action is what many wish to see.
What is clear is that these editorial decisions have been taken reading the mood of their readership – and we must ask whether the public is hungry for an aggressive and charged press agenda.
Irrespective of the press sphere’s general sentiment, if the sales of today’s papers are at a peak, then we can expect to see far more of this oppositional news.