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Nigel Farage has been elected as MP of Clacton-on-Sea. The Reform leader’s victory came on a night that saw support for the far-right party surge. Its chair Richard Tice, who stepped aside as leader so Farage could take the reins midway through campaigning, won Boston and Skegness in Lincolnshire. Tory defector Lee Anderson successfully defended his seat in Ashfield, and former Southampton FC chair Rupert Lowe won his seat in Great Yarmouth, which had been held by the Conservatives since 2010. After a recount in the Basildon South and East Thurrock constituency, James McMurdock won the seat with a majority of just 98 votes.

A jubilent Farage boasted that “this is the beginning of the end of the Conservative Party”, and claimed his anti-immigration party was “coming for Labour” next.

As the reality of Reform’s success sinks in, the media’s coverage of Nigel Farage during the election campaign, even before it was announced he was standing as a candidate and had taken over as leader, has been called into question.

Despite having no MPs at the time, the Reform leader received significantly more airtime and column space than the leaders of other smaller parties. This was the finding of research by Loughborough University which composed a series of reports on UK-wide television and print media reporting in the 2024 general election.

The analysis found that Reform UK earned 10 percent of overall press quotations compared to 2 percent for the Lib Dems, and ‘the Greens, SNP, and Plaid Cymru collectively accounting for less than 1 percent of quotation time.’

Des Freedman, Professor of Media and Communications at Goldsmiths, University of London, described how the ‘media’s obsession with Farage,’ has ‘only served to normalise right-wing arguments on immigration and the economy and to further marginalise candidates with progressive ideas.’

The media’s disproportional devotion to Farage during the last six weeks did not go unnoticed by the public.

“Who did most to enable Reform? Probably the media, who relentlessly and disproportionately plugged Farage and his minority party and their toxic politics of misinformation and fake fear of foreigners,” Alex Morss, ecologist and children’s author wrote on X.

Conservationist Stephen Barlow agreed, saying: “Without the media, the Farage/Reform bubble would never have happened. Firstly, the BBC repeatedly, unnecessarily platformed, Farage even though he’s only just become an MP. Plus, Farage has been parasitic on the right-wing propaganda in the Tory press.”

“Nigel Farage won thanks to billionaire owned media. Jeremy Corbyn and 4 Green MPs won thanks to OUR movement – which runs on people’s passion, commitment and solidarity alone. No wonder they’re so scared of us,” said Grace Blakeley, a political journalist and commentator.

“The media pretending to be shocked about Reform winning so many seats / coming 2nd After they gave Farage wall-to-wall in-depth coverage for weeks amplifying his hateful message day after day after day,” was another comment.

But Farage’s hogging of the media limelight, and, more importantly, the media allowing him to hog the spotlight, is nothing new.

In 2018, he reportedly set the record in achieving the joint most Question Time appearances this century by making his 32nd appearance on the BBC show. The tally was matched only by former Chancellor Ken Clarke. Analysis at the time showed that since 2010, UKIP had appeared on almost one in four Question Time programmes in the last seven years, despite never having more than two MPs. The Greens, meanwhile, who unlike UKIP had consistently had a MP for years, had only appeared on 7 percent of the shows.

Question Times’ panel this week also raised eyebrows for failing to have a representative from the Green Party, despite having figures from Labour, the Liberal Democrats, Conservatives, and Reform.

“Question Time has constantly showcased Nigel Farage and other far-right creeps and crooks,” wrote lecturer and writer Tom Scott in response to the July 5th show.

Following Farage’s win in Clacton, concern has also been expressed about how much airtime he will get now that he is an MP. As Christian Christensen, a Professor at Stockholm University said:

“So, Farage won. Since the BBC gave him massive coverage allowing him to promote his bigotry when he wasn’t even an MP, I can only imagine how much airtime they will now give him.”

Gabrielle Pickard-Whitehead is a contributing editor to Left Foot Forward

The post Mainstream media blamed for Nigel Farage’s win and surge of support for Reform appeared first on Left Foot Forward: Leading the UK’s progressive debate.

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