Our free and fearless press has a short memory: before the General Election, its bet-selling and right-leaning members, mainly the Rothermere Daily Mail and Murdoch Sun, devoted page after page to screaming, cajoling, hectoring, abusive and often borderline dishonest knocking copy - all aimed at one person, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.
After all, the trick had worked before: the welter of abuse and spite had done for Neil Kinnock. It had done for Pa Broon. It had finished off Mil The Younger. So, by the press’ iron will, it would see off Jezza. We now know it didn’t work. Worse for those who scrabble around the dunghill that is Grubstreet, it is becoming clear that Labour fought what has been described as a “holding” campaign. Had the party taken a bolder stance, they could have picked up many more seats, pegging back the Tories yet further.
But only a month and a half later, all this is forgotten: back has come the belief that the right-wing press only has to open up the big guns on Labour, and The Red Team will fold its tent and slink off. And so it came to pass that the already discredited claim that Jezza had promised to write off student debt was exhumed at the weekend and flogged for all it was worth. The effect is clear from this morning’s headlines.
Yes, Tory HQ has clearly been hard at work after Jezza appeared on The Andy Marr Show (tm) yesterday morning: the Sun manages a teaser telling “Corbyn in U-turn” on its front page, while the Mail declares “CORBYN’S STUDENT DEBT HUMILIATION”, as those one-on-one dinners at Downing Street where Theresa May entertained the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre bear a little more of their poisonous fruit.
The supporting article tells “Corbyn admits he had no idea how much it would cost when he told students he would 'deal with' their existing debts and DENIES the statement was meant to be a promise”. It wasn’t a promise. It very clearly wasn’t a promise, but the Tories and their backers clearly think they are on to a winner here. The Sun goes further.
The Murdoch goons at the Baby Shard bunker claim “Labour leader insisted he didn’t promise to write it off during election campaign but Education Secretary is calling on party to apologise for misleading people”. Tories are rank opportunists No Shock Horror. And the belief that The Blue Team has found the magic bullet is reinforced by “Mr Corbyn’s shock success in the poll was put down in part to his key vow to abolish graduates’ bills”.
But he didn’t “vow to abolish graduates’ bills”. And many of the comments under that article show that a significant number of the Sun faithful don’t believe what they are being told. This should be no surprise: remember, a majority of the paper’s readers didn’t even bother to vote, and of those who did, around 30% voted Labour.
Still, the paper backs up its attack with an editorial claiming “Jeremy Corbyn’s U-turn on tuition fees debt is jaw-dropping and only a ruse to persuade voters”. But for both the Mail and Sun, a problem enters: the people who at whom they are aiming this message did not listen in the run-up to the General Election, and are highly unlikely to listen now.
They know the abuse didn’t work then. It won’t work now. But good to see the level at which the next election campaign will be pitched: dirty, dishonest and abusive. So no change there, then.