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Richard Broughton @Richard_Ampere
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Thread: How are UK online news outlets covering #Brexit in 2018? An analysis, with data and charts!

Part 3: Who’s outperforming the Shadow Cabinet in terms of influencing the #Brexit debate?

Answer: A small handful of Conservative & Labour Backbench MPs...

For previous pieces (and methodology), see:

DExEU vs Shadow DExEU: and

Cabinet vs Shadow Cabinet:
So in yesterday's analysis, we saw how the Labour Frontbench had failed to drive column inches across online news outlets. Today, I look at how the Backbenchers and @LibDems are influencing the #Brexit debate.
In terms of headlines across 2000 #Brexit stories, the @LibDems take 1% of headlines referencing an MP, with @UKLabour ’s Backbenchers taking a further 1%. But overall, Brexit news is being led by Cabinet figures, who account for nearly 90% of citations.
However, within the articles themselves (a subset of 1300 #Brexit stories from Jan this year), we can see backbenchers begin to have a real impact...
Of the analysed references to MPs in articles, 25% are down to prominent Backbench MPs. Just 9 Conservative #Remain supporters account for 9% of all article references – about as much as the *entire* Shadow Cabinet. Labour Backbench #Remain supporters account for a further 3%.
The @LibDems @LibDemPress account for ~2% of all Brexit story MP references.
On the #Leave side, it’s a similar story. 9% of references (again, equivalent in scale to the entire Shadow Cabinet) are driven by just 10 Conservative Leave supporters. Labour Leave supporters like Kate Hoey and Frank Field account for an additional 2%.
So what about the individual MPs driving column inches – who’s impacting debate the most?
On Labour’s #Remain side, @Chuka Umunna, referenced in 6% of #Brexit articles, is ahead of *all* individual Shadow Cabinet members barring Jeremy Corbyn himself… @ChrisLeslieMP , @OwenSmith_MP and @DavidLammy also have meaningful volumes of references.
On the Conservative EU-friendly side @Anna_Soubry is the clear leader among Backbenchers in terms of driving the #Brexit agenda, with 7% of articles referencing her. That’s as much as Keir Starmer, Diane Abbott and Tom Watson combined - see .
@NickyMorgan01 and Dominic Grieve are also driving stories for the Conservative backbenchers, cited in 5% and 7% of #Brexit stories.
For the Lib Dems, @vincecable is on par with Keir Starmer in terms of impact on news coverage of Brexit, followed by @joswinson and @tombrakemp .
On the #Leave and hard #Brexit side of the spectrum, Labour’s backbenchers have a small effect – particularly Kate Hoey and Frank Field, but it’s really the #Conservatives that have a significant impact.
A startling 17% of the 1300 online news items assessed referenced Jacob-Rees Mogg (which to me seems wildly disproportionate to coverage of his pro-EU counterparts), with 4% covering Ian Duncan Smith.
So who’s covering the different ‘factions’? There are some differences across news outlets. In the chart, I’ve indexed the number of citations of a few MPs relative to the number of Brexit articles for each publication that I’ve analysed.
What does it show? Well, Conservative Leave Backbenchers are more likely to be cited in the Mail, as is the Shadow Cabinet. In fact the Mail references Conservative Backbenchers more frequently than Labour Frontbenchers (including Corbyn!)
Compared to other sites, the BBC is more likely to reference EU-friendly Conservative Backbenchers, while it less likely to reference EU-friendly Labour MPs. The opposite is true for the Independent, while the Guardian sits in the middle of the pack for most groups.
Buzzfeed favours the Lib Dems, while the Sun barely references them at all…
If we pick out a few of the top cited MPs, we can see similar trends across news outlets (see yesterday’s thread for the Cabinet and Shadow Cabinet). 23% of Mail items reference Jacob Rees-Mogg, as do 14% of the BBC’s and 16% of the Guardian’s.
Anna Soubry features in the Mail, BBC and Buzzfeed more prominently, while Vince Cable is favoured in the Guardian and Independent.
Broadly speaking however, despite some variation, most of the outlets illustrate comparable trends in coverage/citations of individual MPs – ultimately it’s really the tone and angle that differs.
In conclusion, Backbench MPs are having far larger effect on the tone and shape of the #Brexit debate than the Labour Frontbench.
So, the real opposition to a hard Brexit is not from the Shadow Cabinet. Just 16 x-party Backbench MPs fighting government policies around hard Brexit have achieved 31% greater impact on the news agenda than 27 Shadow Cabinet members combined.
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