Anyone not sure just how creepy, intrusive and downright nasty the attacks on Labour leadership candidates are going to get should be disabused of the notion that it’s all going to be Good Clean Fun by a particularly vicious hit job on the Mail website on Salford and Eccles MP Rebecca Long Bailey. This has taken the previous low bar for journalistic standards and set it much, much lower. And it will probably get worse very soon.
The headline, as befits the Mail, tells readers what to think: “Rebecca Long-Bailey's very middle class lifestyle revealed: Labour front runner lives in leafy village dubbed 'Monton Carlo' with £100k-a-year marketing boss husband sparking distrust among grassroots activists”. Labour leadership candidates can no longer be considered middle-class.
Ms Long Bailey and her husband live in Monton, which is in the constituency. The Mail article has decided this is “plush”. It isn’t. They have also talked of “grassroots Labour activists distrustful of her sudden emergence”, but cannot name one. She “counts judges, barristers and football stars amongst her neighbours”, but, er, no citation. Her husband’s Audi A5 is branded “top of the range”. But it isn’t.
They have a “joint income approaching £200k”, except they don’t. But the Mail has found one person willing to go on the record. He is “former Salford councillor Paul Wilson, a Labour member for 20 years”. Except Phil Wilson had a much-publicised falling out with his council colleagues and left the party. So he is no longer “a Labour member”.
Otherwise the article relies on “Another said …” and “Another Labour activist”. But the nudge-and-wink is the usual stuff from a highly partisan media outlet - until the article crosses the line into outright creepiness. First, Ms Long Bailey’s husband has been photographed in the street - and was clearly aware of the snapper. What is his relevance to whether or not she is a candidate for the Labour leadership?
Then the Mail goes rather too far. “Rebecca Long-Bailey lives in this four bedroom home in a well-heeled part of Manchester” it tells. Yes, her address has effectively been doxxed. And the Mail is not satisfied with just the front view of the property, which is just a larger than average Semi-detached. There is a rear view, and one of the kitchen. How did they get those? “She and husband Stephen bought this property for £588,000 in 2016”.
Off an estate agent’s website, perhaps? What the article does show, though, quite apart from the willingness to endanger a well-known MP by effectively doxxing her, is that the spiteful legacy of the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre (who owns not just one property, but three, including a Scottish estate which garners hundreds of thousands of pounds in EU subsidies) has endured, despite his taking an enforced back seat.
The Mail’s website is willing to plant falsehood and misinformation about politicians it fears, and Ms Long Bailey is one of whom they are scared shitless. And if she shows any sign of getting the Labour membership and Trades Unions on her side, it will get worse.
They wouldn’t do it to the Tories. They wouldn’t do it to their fellow hacks. So they shouldn’t be prepared to do it to anyone else. Leveson clearly changed nothing.
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