Mary Horner discusses the lack of media coverage after news broke that Boris Johnson lied to the Queen.
On 28 August 2019, the Queen granted the prorogation of parliament with the expectation of a speech being integral to the preparation of parliament amidst the looming countdown to Brexit. The Queen’s speech is a time when the Queen addresses Parliament with the laws that the government wants passed. Boris Johnson claimed that this was set in order to prepare for a “worst-case scenario” Brexit. “We need a Queen’s speech,” he argued, “we need to get on and do all sorts of things at a national level.” So was this really being unlawful, and if so, was it intentional?
After reading countless articles on the subject, and watching interviews from a variety of sources, I have to say that I agree with Boris’ initial intentions behind the prorogation. He claims that he wanted to get bills on education, the environment, and health passed. “We need to get on with it” he stated. I agree that parliament needs to act now, for instance the public has been protesting continuously to make climate change a priority, but how seriously is it being taken? What I disagree with is Boris’ methods. He took away the voices of MPs when he terminated the parliamentary session, which essentially denied the public a say. And we’re still here questioning why! No one will ever know what his true intentions were, but one cannot help but speculate that it was an opportunity for him to pass bills that he wanted to before the UK supposedly leave the EU on 31 October.
It’s clear to say that finding an unbiased answer is challenging, especially since the major newspapers can’t help but display their political slant. Let’s look first at The Sun: they dedicated an entire article to showcasing their readers’ views on the matter, all of which support Johnson. It’s hardly surprising that The Sun would dedicate an article to those who opposed the supreme court ruling as they are notorious for switching political alliances as and when it suits.
At least they addressed the symbolic political event, which is more than can be said for others, including The Daily Mail. According to a survey conducted by YouGov, 70% of Britons who were asked, figure excluding those who answered with “unsure”, labelled The Daily Mail as the most rightwing mainstream newspaper. After searching through their headlines, I could only find two articles with the name “Boris” mentioned, two with “supreme court” and one with the word “parliament”. Quite frankly, I find this shocking. It not only showcases a lack of interest in politics, which governs our daily lives, but also raises the question as how many of their daily 8.2 million readers actually care about the effects parliament has on their lives.
What I find particularly noteworthy is the fact that The Sun, Daily Mail, Telegraph and Daily Express all chose not to report on the news that Johnson was charged with lying to the Queen about the reasons behind the prorogation. It’s no surprise that all of these newspapers are known for their rightwing alliances. To counter this, I looked at The Guardian, voted the most leftwing mainstream newspaper in 2017. I was impressed to find that they had clearly marked articles written based on opinion, which I personally believe should be more evident in all news sources. Without it, we are conditioned to fall into the trap of relying on everything we read without questioning its integrity.
Maybe the papers have grown tired of reporting on the politics surrounding Brexit. Who can blame them? It’s almost numbing for the reader to lay eyes on yet another news article surrounding Boris and his Brexit promise.
Even so, our prime minister was found guilty of breaking constitutional law. Let’s just be clear here, Johnson won’t face any jail time, like some headlines lead you to believe, because he did not break criminal law. But this was the first major prorogation in over 20 years! So why did news coverage seem so apathetic? Whilst some newspapers have a clear political slant, as discussed earlier, many refrain from showing any explicit favour towards a certain politician or party.
Although I truly support the value of an unbiased political piece, I think it’s vital for writers to express their beliefs. How are readers supposed to develop and reshape their own opinions on the subject if the majority of articles remain neutral? Neutral articles are a great way to inform people on the subject at hand, which many newspapers seemed to take quite lightly when it came to Johnson and the Queen, but the best way, I feel, to develop your initial opinion is to educate yourselves on the opinions of others and their reasons behind it.
People are arguably more politically charged than they have been in decades. It’s our responsibility to ensure that we are educated on the political agenda of our parliament and the effects of their actions. No matter what political ideology you support, it’s imperative to question what you read and look at a variety of sources before establishing your opinion on the matter.