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The City of London and Brexit

Significance in dismantling anti-immigrant propaganda and abuse of power during Brexit

Essay 2016 10 Seiten

Politik - Internationale Politik - Region: Westeuropa


The City of London and its significance in dismantling anti-immigrant propaganda and abuse of power during Brexit.

By Martin Mares

Six months has passed from the UK Referendum and so-called Brexit. When new Prime Minister Therese May declared that "Brexit means Brexit", she only makes it clear that nobody knows what to do and that there is, in fact, no real plan how to trigger the Article 50 and start to negotiate with the EU.Brexit and its impacts seem to be everywhere, though this paper intends to produce a fresh, unique and hopefully meaningful contribution to the larger field of post-Brexit scholarly works. This paper analyses different styles of propaganda, discourse and power related to the use of the language before and after British Referendum, particularly about the City of London. More specifically, this work aims to uncover reasons why London differs with 72% votes for Remain in comparison with overall British results 52% in favour of Leave. The entire topic is explored through instruments of discourse, power and propaganda with particularly strong emphasis on using the argument about immigration and struggle with EU policies as major arguments for Leave. Why did Brexit split the United Kingdom by bare 52% into two halves? Why do many Londoners see the decision to leave EU based on the results of Referendum as ‘pseudo-democracy '? How is it possible that strong anti-immigrants' propaganda popularised mostly by ex-UKIP leader Nigel Farage did not manage to influence Londoners as much as other parts of Britain, despite the fact that the greatest number of immigrants and foreigners lives in London? This work will try to identify and explain this oddity through the critical analysis of the language that surrounded British Referendum and how it managed to produce significantly different results in London compared to the overall results.

Furthermore, this paper tries to explain why British citizens living in London responded negatively to UKIP's strong anti-immigration propaganda how it is connected to identify and resists propaganda or fallacies. Hopefully, this work will be able to clarify London's pitiful, but important role in the transformation of vertical power into horizontal control. This analysis has been developed by application of concepts of discourse and power introduced by Teun van Dijk, Lakoff's theory political mind and Mooney's works on language, politics and power. Foucault's idea about Parrhesia and rhetoric's texts by Aristotle and Plato should be discussed as well in the context of UK Referendum campaigns and their moral outcome. Additional scholars such as Ossewarde and Fishman will be used to provide theoretical underpinning. Abovementioned theories and concepts will be applied to the Brexit campaign and why particular rhetoric techniques and tools of propaganda succeeded or failed in the City of London and how the discourse affected and shaped various London boroughs and communities. Moreover, both Remain and Leave campaigns will be analysed with particular emphasis on rhetoric styles, forms, genres and mind control of Londoners.

“The Golden Quill” and Responsibility

Despite the "fallout" of printed media all around the world, UK can count itself among countries that are still faithful to newspapers and tabloids when it comes to public discourse due to the fact that UK's high numbers of readership. London has traditionally enjoyed a prominent position of tabloid's bastion since all available British newspapers are being sold there in hundreds of thousands of copies, which makes newspapers the most authoritative "opinion makers" along with TV stations BBC and ITV. It is evident that British people still rely significantly more on printed press and classic form of TV as oppose to new media, social media or private broadcasting channels. In following paragraphs, this paper presents detailed analyses of above-mentioned opinion makers during the UK Referendum campaign.

Daily Express staunchly supported vote for Brexit because it is economically controlled and owned by Richard Clive Desmond, who belongs to a group of British billionaires strongly advocating for Brexit. His tabloid had repeatedly preached that phrases such as "We must take advantage of this opportunity and vote to leave the EU" and "If we stay in the EU we slide ever deeper into that political quicksand from which there will be no escape"1. However, these headlines had proved to be rather ineffective in the circulation of Daily Express is limited to few thousand pieces in London, and therefore its accessibility to channels of discourse within London's media landscape had been significantly lower compared to influential tabloids like the Sun or The Guardian. Nevertheless, Daily Express had been accompanied by Desmond's other gossip magazines such as Daily Star, Star Magazine, OK! and New! that had collectively offered space to British celebrities supporting Leave during May 20162. Consequently, yellow style journalism and sensationalist approach of such products to e.g immigrants or National Healthcare System help to spread alarming messages and influence public discourse by spreading fabricated headlines like "Quit the EU to SAVE our NHS: Top cancer doctor says migrants are bleeding it dry" (February 9) or "Britain's 1.5 million hidden migrants" (May 13)3. Talking about immigrants as others as Teun Van Dijk puts it "The ideological polarisation between ingroups and outgroups— a prominent feature of the structure of ideologies" had been employed numerous times by Daily Express4. By the end of the Referendum campaign, Daily Express even launched series of small articles under a label called "Daily Express Crusade - Get us out of EU" featuring a drawing of a small equestrian knight, which creates rather a warmongering symbolism connected to awkward biblical diction emphasising the word "Crusade". Consequently, Daily Express used a strategy of semantic presupposition to incorporate and solidify their "truth" regarding messages targeted to immigrates5.

The Sun - best-selling among British newspapers with impressive impact of 1.74 million readers had been chained by Rupert Murdoch's anxiety related to UK Referendum because his publishing and entertainment empire might suffer from Brexit and therefore The Sun itself had been sitting on the fence throughout the entire Referendum campaign6. As a result of Murdoch's innate lamentation over financial profits, which inevitably led to ambivalent contribution with subjective arguments for both Remain and Leave voters, the Sun embodied extremely neutral and secure role within British media landscape. If we put in consideration the prominent and leading position among British tabloids, the Sun withdraw itself from any serious attempts to express clear opinions about heated debates including immigrants, policies of the EU or National Healthcare System. Thus, the Sun apparently failed to take advantage of the largest percentage of readership in London to influence public discourse, and in turn, it offered its prominent position to pro-Brexit Daily Mail with approx. 1.65 million readers7. UCL Questionnaires implies that 28 out of 83 people, who checked the Sun for information regarding Brexit stopped reading articles in The Sun after they realised that this tabloid intentionally presented contradicting opinions to avoid siding with either Remain or Leave8. This case perfectly demonstrated that the most dominant players in media discourse rely too much on global and interconnected economic ties that put limitations on the actual way how and what they can comment without harming their reputation and global profits.

As it was mentioned earlier, the Sun due to its ambivalence toward UK Referendum willingly let Daily Mail respond with a strong emphasis on Euroscepticism, though such messages were less sensational compared to The Daily Telegraph or Daily Mirror. Daily Mail and its online offshoot followed more or less prescribed model for moderate nationalistic propaganda that focused on the idea of Britain's exclusivity, sovereignty and (future) economic excellence. In other words, Daily Mail channelled the good old idea of British greatness as a manifestation of nostalgia for imperialistic times. However, traditional socioeconomic nationalistic mumbo-jumbo had been accompanied by rather nasty and distasteful anti-immigrant propaganda ranging from complete fallacies such as “Open borders let ISIS into Britain, warns US spy chief” to misrepresentations like “Criminal convictions for EU migrants leap 40% in five years: 700 found guilty every week in the UK but less than 20,000 foreign criminals have been deported”9. Daily Telegraph dipped into even more controversial waters with infamous visualisation of the canyon under the headline "The gap between the official migrant figure and the truth is a wide as the Grand Canyon. We are owed an apology". Infamous front page from 13 May 2016 underlined the worst anti-immigrants propaganda, which was in fact carried out in a rather fancy way with “reliable numbers”, though the entire article was based on distorted statistics shaped to serve Telegraph's pro-Brexit campaign10.


1 Daily Express - "Political quicksand" see Germany-Lottery

2 For ownership of featured magazines see -

3 Daily Express - cancer-research-collapse-NHS-health, see also

4 Van Dijk, Teun A. "Ideology and discourse analysis."Journal of political ideologies 11.2 (2006): 115­140.

5 Concepts called “semantic” and “pragmatic” presuppositions were introduced by Anabelle Mooney - see Mooney, Annabelle, and Betsy Evans. Language, society and power: an introduction. Routledge, 2015, p. 50

6 Information about readership -

7 Readership data of Daily Mail -

8 UCL questionnaires - see Appendices Daily Mail - “Criminal Notifications..” -­convictions-EU-migrants-leap-40-five-years-700-guilty-week-UK-20-000-foreign-criminals-deported.html, see also - "ISIS Report"

9 Clapper-Director-National-Intelligence.html,

10 The Daily Telegraph “The gap...” -, Detailed analyses of The Daily Telegraph was elaborated by INFacts - eight/,


ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Buch)
Institution / Hochschule
University College London
London Brexit Politics Lingusitics Discourse Power Political Philosophy United Kingdom Great Britain



Titel: The	City of London and Brexit