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Opinion
Pankaj Mishra

Why the Media Keeps Missing Political Earthquakes

Mainstream pundits were too old, too rich, and too enthralled with their own thinking to call the U.K. election correctly.
But did they see it coming?

But did they see it coming?

Photographer: Justin Tallis/AFP/Getty Images

Last week, as the shocking results of the British elections arrived, the most over-used sentence in Britain seemed to be: "I was wrong." Another insurgent mass movement following Syriza in Greece, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump in the United States, and the Five Star Movement in Italy had caused a political earthquake. In one of the biggest political upsets in British history, Theresa May of the Conservative Party lost her majority in parliament, and her socialist rival Jeremy Corbyn led his Labor Party to its largest increase in its share of the popular vote since 1945.

Yet the eruption of mea culpas by political commentators following this seismic shift had a special pathos to them. For it was not only the British tabloids, reflexively and rowdily right-wing, that had been hostile to Corbyn and his young supporters. The center-right and center-left intelligentsia also unanimously saw Corbyn and his supporters as deluded cultists and dead-enders.