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Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Corbyn’s Vision - But Who Will Listen?

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has, by most accounts, done his reputation and his party a whole lot of good this afternoon with the kind of conference speech many wished he had made not just at last year’s party conference, but at one or more times in the intervening 12 months when he had the chance to do so. It was rapturously received, and should play well on the TV news bulletins during the evening. The party faithful will return home happy.
But Corbyn has one major problem: he needs to get some positive coverage from the press, which despite steady falls in circulation, still has the ability to shout its way to the top of the news agenda and bully the broadcast media into pushing its chosen talking points up the agenda. Jason Beattie of the Labour-supporting Mirror gave a broadly positive reaction, which will cheer Team Jezza.

This was an assured performance by the Labour leader. He looked comfortable on the stage … He talked the language the delegates wanted to hear … He is convinced of his mission” he reported, before sounding the obvious caution “What is not clear is whether he can persuade the voters outside the hall to join his crusade”. And standing in his way is a viciously hostile cadre of vested interest, who won’t like his proposals at all.

Not least of these was the commitment to stop selling arms to the Wahabist régime in Saudi Arabia, a brutal theocratic dictatorship that for too long has had Britain’s leaders paying homage to its ruling elite while ignoring the appalling abuses of human rights, subjugation of women, and routine exporting of war to adjacent countries, including most recently Yemen. But the Saudis also have oil.

The Saudi question will be an issue to watch: papers like the Mail, Telegraph, Express, Sun and Times, if they mention it at all, will either frame it as the kind of practical price we have to pay for British jobs - part of the Trident argument - or ignore it altogether. When Beattie talks of “more housebuilding, investment in education, higher business taxes to pay for skills and training and an emphasis on research and development”, the hostile part of the press will immediately talk of taxes, and warn they would be too high under Labour.

What benefits might accrue will, of course, not be told: readers will be assailed by routine abuse - “loony lefty, Islington socialists, metropolitan liberals, out of touch”, along with sneering comments about the kinds of food they might serve at mealtimes, and the price that Corbyn’s house might fetch were he to sell it.

Yes, this is crude and gratuitous, but it is this against which any Labour leader must make his or her pitch nowadays. That is why cutting through using broadcast media, before the press gets to work demonising the speech, is so important. And why, once the leader’s line is set out, it must be held unswervingly while getting after the Tories when they gather in Birmingham next week, with discontent all too obvious and Theresa May vulnerable.

The task for Corbyn and his party is not, and never will be, Mission Impossible. But there is no point in pretending that it is other than a very big ask indeed


asquith said...



Rivo said...

I totally agree with your analysis Tim; Corbyn has in that past been to reluctant to engage with the media as a whole, and that has done incalculable damage to his and Labour's prospects.

Everyone knows the likes of the Mail, the Torygraph and the Murdoch papers are, and always will be, hostile to him, but there is common ground to be had with broadcast media, provided he approaches them correctly, and avoids the gaffes of last year.

LiamKav said...

I agree with Rivo. The problem is far too many of the more extreme Corbyn supporters seem to hate the BBC more than the Murdoch press, and essentially end up dismissing all media. That's not a long term strategy for success.

(cue rants and arguments about spivs and Blair's war crimes etc etc...)

Anonymous said...


Cue rants that dismiss the deaths of millions and the destruction of their societies.

Everything'll be all right when Blair-Brown come back. Or other glove puppets.

LiamKav said...


No-one is dismissing the deaths of millions. Or wishing Blair came back.

Okay, I am willing to bet that the majority of people reading this blog are left leaning. In fact, I'm going to say that 90% of the people here have two desires.

1. Get the Tory party out of government
2. Make society fairer.

Now, not everyone will agree with HOW those two things are done, but they will almost certainly agree with them. Which leads us to the Labour party, who are (still) the best chance of making those things happen. The frustration a lot of people will have with Corbyn will be that they don't think he's capable of doing either of those things, for a variety of reasons. That doesn't mean that they want him to fail. Most discussions about Jezza are very popular due to people's frustrations... they want Labour to succeed, and they can't see that happening.

However, the leadership election is over, Corbyn is the leader for the forseable future. The arguments have then shiften on to HOW to get him more support. The centre/right of the Labour party need to recognise where Corbyn is and support him, but Corbyn also needs to recognise the people to the right of him and at least acknowledge their fears. And the same applies to the media... he needs to make friends with the parts of the media that, if they are not where he is, are at least closer than the Mail/Sun/Telegraph etc. He is never going to win over the hard-right. But by not engaging with the Guardian, BBC etc, he's not winning over any of the centre or centre-left either.

No-one is sat there reading this blod thinking "okay Tim, but when are you going to start talking about Tony Blair and all those excellent wars he had. I loved them. They were all great." Any conversation about Blair is framed in the context of "he did terrible things, but he also did some good. How can we get the good without the bad stuff?" It's attempts to have conversations, discussions, and yes, even arguments about the best way to go forward. Simply saying that people are "waking up" and posting other comments from the Beginner's Guide to Anarchy doesn't help. There's no evidence the population are "waking up". There's no evidence that the population are embracing Corbyn. All evidence shows that we are potentially in for at least a decade of Tory rule with the lives of anyone who earns a below average wage about to get much, much worse. We want to stop that happening, and doing the online equivalent of standing on a street corner holding up a sign saying "nuclear war is bad and will cause the end of the world" doesn't help.

I know you won't listen to this. I keep trying because I keep thinking that if I can get through to you, then I'll have unlocked the secret to getting through to other Corbyn supporters. If we can do that, if we can get everyone on the same page, then we'd actually have a good chance of smashing the Tories.