Is Piers Morgan misjudging the public mood?

15 May 2020

 

In a world full of despair with the deadly coronavirus, we all need a bit of hope and positivity from those in the media as we endure one of the biggest domestic challenges in decades.

 

Perhaps I am contradicting myself in saying this, but the media’s number one job right now should be to serve the public, just like those in the public sector do. Information should be clear, with no spin or sugar coating.

 

Despite the tragedies that are happening around the country every day and the fact that every death should not just be included as a statistic, there has to be a correct balance between good news and bad news – not just reporting headlines that aim to shock people.

 

There is a major underestimation in how much power the media can have over some people. Regardless of how often people read the news, all of us are likely to consume media content in one way or another every day. Whilst some will follow government advice, others will choose to listen to the media instead.

 

Coronavirus is not the only battle we currently face in the United Kingdom. We face huge challenges with people who struggle with their mental health, as well as people who need treatment for physical medical problems. 

 

Scaremongering is the last thing we need in the UK – especially for those currently suffering from serious diseases such as cancer. The last thing we need is for people to be scared to go to their appointments even when restrictions are lifted.

 

A lot of people seem to think that Piers Morgan is one of those who are spreading panic throughout the four nations whilst using his method of interrogating government ministers on Good Morning Britain.

 

Therefore, the question we have to ask is: are journalists like Piers Morgan misjudging the public mood?

 

There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that our government needs to be held to account – that is how a great democracy functions. At this time especially, where lives depend on the government making the correct decisions, it’s so important that ministers answer all the important questions from our free press. The decision to allow the Cheltenham festival to go ahead is one example of a poor decision that Boris Johnson made in March.

 

However, so-called “government-bashing” and shouting over those who are interviewed on Good Morning Britain has left Piers Morgan as someone who is dividing opinion of the ITV breakfast show’s viewers.

 

In his defence, he did praise Matt Hancock for ramping up coronavirus testing. One more argument that Morgan is more in line with how the public feel than I first thought is a scene from Channel 4’s Gogglebox

 

Whilst I am sceptical about whether some participants exaggerated their opinion because they’re on television, there are people out there in the UK who are enraged by the government’s decisions surrounding this virus. In the government’s defence, I do not think Johnson’s mention of our ‘success’ was exactly their finest hour.

 

How many people are currently angry with the government though? One thing we have to remember is the fact that Boris Johnson, perhaps thanks to First Past the Post, secured a hefty majority in December’s general election. 

 

People who voted for the Conservative Party will be very reluctant to criticise Boris Johnson, rightly or wrongly, so early on in the government’s five-year term. His time in intensive care will have also drawn a lot of sympathy from the public. 

 

Not all the public, but most probably a reasonably large proportion of people. I’m not saying that being in intensive care is a free pass for Johnson, but there will be sympathy for him nonetheless. 

 

What Johnson has also seemingly managed to do, which David Cameron and Theresa May did not, is build up an army of fierce supporters, just like Donald Trump has done in the United States.

 

Even though some comments made by both the media and those on social media platforms may not have intended to point score, people can often assume that it may have been the motive behind it. Political debate with Brexit over the past couple of years, the 2019 election and now Covid-19, has seen fierce (and sometimes unpleasant) debate on social media.

 

The thing that most people do not want right now is political point-scoring amid this crisis. Hold the government to account by all means – but we need to come together as a nation to defeat this virus and save lives. 

 

Johnson and the government have made both good and bad decisions. Whilst we can praise the government for introducing a lockdown and ramping up testing, we can also hold them to account for their lackadaisical approach at the start and allowing the Cheltenham festival to go ahead, as I mentioned earlier.

 

The toughest thing about talking about the public mood is that you are making an assumption. My instincts about how people felt about Brexit were right, as demonstrated in the last election, and I cannot help but feel my gut instincts this time are right as well. 

 

Piers Morgan’s view on defending democracy in people’s attempts to thwart Brexit was spot on – but I fear that he currently holds a minority view in this situation. Only time will tell when we get the chance to look back on this time of crisis.

 

Holding the government to account could save lives, but it must be done fairly. Otherwise, the gulf between Twitter and real-life will only grow larger.

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