You need to don a pretty hefty moral armour before immersing yourself in the comments section of the Daily Mail, but this general election has seen a huge disconnect between the toxic propaganda that the Daily Mail pumps out, and the views of its readers. I should make plain that historically there is no evidence whatsoever that the Mail’s more left wing readers are more likely to leave comment. The threads are usually dominated by strong support for the Tory/UKIP narrative. But this election campaign has seen growing evidence of swelling dissent from the Tory campaign and the line it is taking.
Tonight the Mail has posted as its headline political story, a claim by Amber Rudd that the election of Jeremy Corbyn would increase terrorism. This is pretty appalling, crude stuff set out in the way the Mail believes will appeal to its readers.
But the readers’ reaction is not at all what the Mail is expecting. The Mail has a useful system whereby people can both upvote and downvote a comment and both scores are shown. The most popular comment on this article is the pithy “While her boss sells arms to the Saudis” by Jill in Kent. A large majority of the comments abhor the Tory exploitation of the terror attacks. When even Daily Mail readers find you too tastelessly right wing, you really are in trouble.
The mainstream media continue to move in lockstep. After the social care debacle they appear determined to continue to push terrorism as the dominant issue in the election. The calculation is that perceived Tory strength on this issue will arrest the Tory slide, and it might be argued from recent opinion polls that the Tory decline has at least become less steep. But public distaste at this Tory shroud-waving will accelerate the longer it continues. Expect the media to try to shift the narrative again on Monday, probably back to Trident.
The Tories’ house magazine, the Spectator, has not waited until the election is over to turn on Theresa May. Again the comments sections are worth perusing – while paid-up Tories will still vote Tory, they are not happy at all. May’s paranoia and self-regard are reflected in her choice of dullards for her senior colleagues. The result is that many of the smarter people in her party are feeling excluded. That was not a problem when she was romping home on a carpet of media-induced artificial popularity. But now the going is getting tough, the Tory Party is not a happy place. To mishandle the campaign so badly the Tories are losing Daily Mail readers, is an act of extraordinary political ineptitude.