An important but overlooked factor in the last two UK general elections was the influence and role of financial and business journalism. In his new book Complacency and Collusion, Keith Butterick explores the history and development of financial and business journalism and how it influences not just political journalism but also sets the political agenda.
‘There is a new report focusing on media coverage throughout the May election written by the Centre for Study of Media, Communication and Power at King’s College London. It concludes that the, ‘Conservatives ‘won’ the battle to set the campaign agenda focussed on the economy rather than health, education or immigration.’ They noted that reports and commentary about the economy focussed first on spending cuts (1,351 articles), then economic growth (921 articles) followed by cutting the deficit (675 articles).
Interestingly, the study also demonstrated how the traditional print media set the political agenda rather than new media such as Twitter.
It follows then, that since 2005 the Coalition government and the current Conservative government have used the issue of economic management as a stick to successfully beat the Labour Party. Only last week Chancellor George Osborne was at it again, in the debate over the so-called fiscal charter he accused the Labour Party of wanting to run a permanent deficit. Once again Labour stood accused as being deficit deniers, or in other words, the party that couldn’t be trusted with the economy.
This link between financial journalism and politics is not new. For over 200 years, the financial and business pages have been important arenas where economic philosophies are promulgated and discussed. Adam Smith and John Maynard Keynes, for example, both used the print media of their day to establish their ideas. Continuing the trend in the late twentieth century, the financial and business sections have also played a crucial role in establishing the intellectual credibility of both neoliberalism and austerity.