Streets around the Palace of Westminster housing the Houses of Parliament - AFP
CAIRO- 9 June 2017: Watching the media circus that is any Western election unfold is always entertaining, and the antics surrounding tonight’s close call at the UK polls are especially amusing.
At last look across social media the UK exit polls seemed to indicate a number of different outcomes all at once: everything from a hung election to victory for the Tories (with Conservative being the largest party), to victory for Labour (who could well form the next Cabinet). If it were up to social media, then it’s be anyone’s guess, with news outlets free to post whatever line they want to push on Facebook and Twitter.
One thing is for sure: the Tories are in for a shock; when Prime Minister Theresa May called for a general election six weeks ago she was confident of a landslide victory—now it seems the tide has turned, with Labour likely to upstage the Conservatives or at least win a good number of seats from under the noses of the ruling party.
The British learned the hard way the importance of showing up at the polls: the Brexit referendum cost the UK a shock exit from the EU even though most of the population, had they turned up, actually would have voted to remain. Back then eligible voters, for the most part, didn’t even bother to cast a ballot, confident that the UK could never choose to leave.
Today, voters have not only take to the polls, they appear to have declared all-out war, with campaigning tactics reaching the lowest levels possibly seen in decades. This morning’s pro-Tory tabloid The Sun published pictures of Jeremy Corbyn popping his head out of a rubbish can with the headline “Don’t chuck Britain in the Cor-bin.” Readers were so offended they reportedly went out, bought up all the copies from newsagents and threw them in bins, taking victory pictures and triumphantly posting them all over social media in protest.
According to the Daily Mail, “The Daily Mirror reiterated its support for the Labour party with a front page headline of ‘Lies, damned lies, and Theresa May,’ while the Daily Express front page said: ‘Vote for May Today.’
“Thursday’s front pages come after the Daily Mail devoted 13 pages to attacking Labour, Jeremy Corbyn, Diane Abbott and John McDonnell on Wednesday under the headline ‘Apologists for terror.’”
The rallying, in the eyes of many, hits too low below the belt.
Low or not, the attempt to rally the public—in either direction—appears to have worked, with reports of healthy shows at polling stations, particularly among younger generations who queued outside polling stations, making sure their voices are heard.
A day before the elections The Independent revealed that record numbers of citizens had signed up to vote a day before registrations closed, “with more than 600,000 names added to the electoral roll in the final 24 hours.
On the last day that new voters could register, a total of 622,398 applications were received by the Government’s Individual Electoral Registration digital service. That exceeded the previous record of 525,254 applications on a single day, set before the EU referendum on June 7, 2016—a spike of around 20 percent.”
Last June many of the voters were in fact older citizens intent on “winning back” Britain. Today the new constituency shaping the nation will be the youth.
“The figures point to a sharp increase in young voters adding their names to the register, with around two-thirds—453,000—of the new voters to sign up on deadline day aged between 18 and 34,” according to the Independent.
The votes are being counted, with results already starting to trickle in. With the clear divide between younger and older generations it is clear that Corbyn is winning on social media, though traditional polls seem to favor May.
For the next few hours we’ll all just sit back and enjoy the circus and soon enough we’ll be able find out how accurate the media, whether mainstream or social, has been in predicting the outcome.