Quite surprisingly the Labour leadership contest has turned out to be pretty interesting — almost entirely because of Jeremy Corbyn. I’m not going to run down why Corbyn is easily the best candidate, with easily the best policies. He’s a principled man with a deep commitment to building a better society.
What interests me is the reaction to his campaign in the mass media. At every election it focuses on the trivial rather than policy, but in the leadership contest this has been even more obvious. There’s been an almost blanket refusal to engage with Corbyn’s policies (save our paper) — despite mass public support.
A good chunk of the past few weeks has been spent fretting about supposed infiltration of the Labour Party by the “hard left” and Tories. (The Guardian’s reference to the Communist Party is wrong.) The funniest part of this was the Telegraph urging its readers to skew the vote, before remembering that people are smart enough to recognise policies that are in their interest so it’s best not to draw attention to them. But the actual cuckoo in the nest is right-wing party-within-a-party Progress, as Solomon Hughes writes:
The press and television have been mesmerised by the non-existent conspiracy of 150,000 co-ordinated “hard leftists” paying their £3 memberships to join Labour. At the same time they have ignored a million-pound operation to stop Corbyn and boost Liz Kendall — an operation that even one of its leading members calls “an unaccountable faction dominated by a secretive billionaire.”
The real fear, as shown by that second Telegraph link, is that if Corbyn wins it will drag the centre of political debate to the left — which the right openly acknowledges. It’s this (as well as apprehension about the unwashed masses mucking in) that has spun the Guardian and Observer — the “left-wing” papers — into a frenzy. For them, the three right-wing candidates are far enough apart to have a reasonable contest, which should focus on tactics, anyway.
This kind of behaviour should raise flags for anyone who’s read Manufacturing Consent — still the best book on the media after 27 years — where the role of the New York Times as serving as the boundary of acceptable “left-wing” thought in the US is made clear: “thus far and no further.”
Thankfully, this barrage hasn’t deterred tens of thousands of people registering as Labour supporters to back Corbyn, packing out rallies to the point where he has to speak to them in the street. There’s much work left to do — we still face a united ruling class that is carrying out ever more savage attacks on us — but it’s nice to have some good news.