Labour miss out on majority in Wales

Wales fails to provide any consolation for Ed Miliband, as Labour miss out on majority by one seat.

UPDATE: Labour have failed to gain a majority in the Welsh Assesmbly. With 30 seats, Labour fell one short of a total majority. Looks like Ed Miliband's day is not going to get much better.

Labour's struggles in Scotland and the Liberal Democrats' battering in England will dominate the news today. In Wales, however, the election is on a knife edge.

With nine constituencies still to declare, Labour is seven seats away from a clear majority and being able to dump its coalition partner, Plaid Cymru. Surprise Conservative gains have, however, put these hopes on ice.

The results in Wales seem to be a microcosm of attitudes towards the coalition. While the Liberal Democrats have fallen out of favour, the Conservatives have quietly made gains. The Liberal Democrats have taken all of the flak at the ballot box, and the Teflon Tories have got away with it.

Any gains in Wales are a relatively surprising bonus for the Tories. They won't care, though. Labour's defeat in Scotland, and winning the AV vote, are both far more significant for the Conservatives' cause. For Labour, on the other hand, Wales is the last ray of hope for today.

A Welsh majority, however, will do little to heal the damage of the party's failure in Scotland. But on a day like today – with a very poor showing in Scotland, a looming defeat on AV and so-so results in council elections – Ed Miliband will take what he can get.

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The economics of outrage: Why you haven't seen the end of Katie Hopkins

Her distasteful tweet may have cost her a job at LBC, but this isn't the last we've seen of Britain's biggest troll. 

Another atrocity, other surge of grief and fear, and there like clockwork was the UK’s biggest troll. Hours after the explosion at the Manchester Arena that killed 22 mostly young and female concert goers, Katie Hopkins weighed in with a very on-brand tweet calling for a “final solution” to the complex issue of terrorism.

She quickly deleted it, replacing the offending phrase with the words “true solution”, but did not tone down the essentially fascist message. Few thought it had been an innocent mistake on the part of someone unaware of the historical connotations of those two words.  And no matter how many urged their fellow web users not to give Hopkins the attention she craved, it still sparked angry tweets, condemnatory news articles and even reports to the police.

Hopkins has lost her presenting job at LBC radio, but she is yet to lose her column at Mail Online, and it’s quite likely she won’t.

Mail Online and its print counterpart The Daily Mail have regularly shown they are prepared to go down the deliberately divisive path Hopkins was signposting. But even if the site's managing editor Martin Clarke was secretly a liberal sandal-wearer, there are also very good economic reasons for Mail Online to stick with her. The extreme and outrageous is great at gaining attention, and attention is what makes money for Mail Online.

It is ironic that Hopkins’s career was initially helped by TV’s attempts to provide balance. Producers could rely on her to provide a counterweight to even the most committed and rational bleeding-heart liberal.

As Patrick Smith, a former media specialist who is currently a senior reporter at BuzzFeed News points out: “It’s very difficult for producers who are legally bound to be balanced, they will sometimes literally have lawyers in the room.”

“That in a way is why some people who are skirting very close or beyond the bounds of taste and decency get on air.”

But while TV may have made Hopkins, it is online where her extreme views perform best.  As digital publishers have learned, the best way to get the shares, clicks and page views that make them money is to provoke an emotional response. And there are few things as good at provoking an emotional response as extreme and outrageous political views.

And in many ways it doesn’t matter whether that response is negative or positive. Those who complain about what Hopkins says are also the ones who draw attention to it – many will read what she writes in order to know exactly why they should hate her.

Of course using outrageous views as a sales tactic is not confined to the web – The Daily Mail prints columns by Sarah Vine for a reason - but the risks of pushing the boundaries of taste and decency are greater in a linear, analogue world. Cancelling a newspaper subscription or changing radio station is a simpler and often longer-lasting act than pledging to never click on a tempting link on Twitter or Facebook. LBC may have had far more to lose from sticking with Hopkins than Mail Online does, and much less to gain. Someone prepared to say what Hopkins says will not be out of work for long. 

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