As the Labour Party conference continues today in the highly sound City of Liverpool, many who back leader Jeremy Corbyn may not be best disposed towards the press, or even the media generally. Their antipathy towards even the BBC - political editor Laura Kuenssberg has attracted considerable stick, not all of it deserved - as well as papers like the Guardian and Mirror is threatening to blind them to reality.
And that reality is that, whether you choose to engage with the media establishment or not, it is free to say what it likes and when it likes about your chosen political party. It may not seem fair, but for the press at least, it is not a question of fairness. Papers have an agenda. This much was recognised by the New Labour team, which so many in the Corbyn camp now revile. But they won, and it looks so far like Jezza won’t.
Perhaps you all think I’m being too harsh on Corbyn and his team? Well, let me give you all an example. Meet Abi Wilkinson. She is, whisper it quietly, a journalist. A freelance journalist. This means she has to sell her copy to media outlets willing to buy it. The security of a staff job, for her, does not exist. So she has no attachment to any one newspaper’s political agenda. She is at the Labour conference this week.
And this is what she said earlier yesterday on Twitter: “Journalists who stoke hostility towards benefits by finding minority, unsympathetic cases are complicit in destruction of the welfare state … Anyone could find ourselves unemployed, disabled, reliant on the state for survival. It's an act of collective self-sabotage. So stupid … If this continues we will eventually realise and be sorry, and it'll be too late [because the] original creation required extraordinary circumstances”. She is on your side, Corbyn fans.
You might not have thought this when Ms Wilkinson turned up to the Momentum meeting on media bias. As Adam Bienkov of politics.co.uk noted, “Abi Wilkinson says she writes for the Guardian and Telegraph. Some hisses. Audience member mutters: ‘the Guardian's as bad as the Telegraph’”. And there was more in the media hostility stakes.
Bienkov again. “Audience member tells Abi Wilkinson: ‘I can't accept that we should change how we approach you. You should change how you approach us’”. Ms Wilkinson took the whole experience in good part, reflecting this morning “Think a lot of audience members wanted to express anger and don't often have ear of a journalist, but it was mainly very polite tbh”. Indeed. Corbyn followers should be glad of that ear.
You only have to look at the more hostile part of the press to see that, as papers have either ignored the conference altogether - the Sun, despite three of its staff being in Liverpool, has kept it off the front page - or have been rabidly hostile, such as the Mail with its “LABOUR IN LA-LA-LAND” headline. Even the i has gone with “Labour’s Socialist Manifesto”, and “Socialism” is a term the press will keep using - very negatively.
You don’t engage with the press? They’ll make something up anyway. You don’t engage with the broadcasters? They have to either speculate or ignore you. This matters, because the people who read those papers and watch those TV programmes are the ones whose votes you need to get into power. I assume that Corbyn fans want to get into power.
Blair’s team understood this. They got into power. It is as simple as that.