Room: 
Room 0.26, Law & Politics Building
Time Slot: 
Wednesday 28th March 11:00 - 12:30
Panel Chair: 
  • Professor Heather Savigny (De Montfort University)
Panel Members: 
  • Professor James Curran (Goldsmiths, University of London)
  • Dr James Morrison (Robert Gordon University)
  • Dr Paul Rowinski (University of Bedfordshire)
  • Mr Neil McNulty (Glasgow Caledonian University)

The papers in this panel examine aspects of the relationship between the media and political polarisation. At times of change, the media play in key role in guiding public sentiment, not always successfully.  The role of the press in the ‘neoliberal transformation of Britain’ initiated by Margaret Thatcher 1979-2017 was accompanied by a majority of the British press in support of a remade Britain, singing the virtues of the free market. However, the press failed to win popular support for the neoliberal transformation of Britain with key tenets of the post-war social democratic settlement continuing to have majority backing. Polarisation is a key characteristic of the post-Brexit state and the disdain shown by British newspapers for facts has been corrosive for the UK press, appealing to the public’s emotive Eurosceptic or Europhile presuppositions, without challenging or informing readers. The tribalism of post-truth rhetoric intensifies on social media, leading to a beleaguered press, desperate for attention, shouting all the more, and damaging the social fabric of a country polarised over Brexit. Labour’s post-Corbyn emphasis on online recruitment and campaigning has also intensified that polarisation, even within political parties. Labour introduced online voting for the first time in leadership elections in 2015 and the increased use of social media by young supporters has enhanced Jeremy Corbyn’s authority but polarised the Labour party to an unprecedented extent. The final paper in this panel assesses whether the ‘counter-discourse’ against UK austerity and the rejection of neoliberal modes of welfare governance is overstated. Much has been made of the growing assertion of counter-discursive voices, and received wisdom has it that the sustained build-up of a coalition of countervailing voices has engineered a shift away from a previously widespread acceptance of neoliberal orthodoxies. This paper argues that much of the trumpeted counter-discourse is qualified and partial.