Naomi Law explains
On September 15th 2015, following the resignation of Ed Milliband, Jeremy Corbyn took up his role as representative of the UK Labour Party constituency. In the days surrounding his election 494 news and editorial pieces were published by UK media. Of these, 60% were negative, 27% neutral and a mere 13% positive. He was called a ‘court jester’, his policies a ‘potty plan’ and the prospect of his election expected to signal the start of the ‘1,000 days that destroyed Britain’. Despite Corbyn winning the Labour election by a land sliding 215,000 votes, contrasting David Cameron who received just over half this figure in the Conservative Party’s leadership election, a systematic onslaught of negative press from British media has continuously subjected Corbyn’s image to ridicule.
This surge of journalist hatred has been perpetuated by our nation’s leaders, with David Cameron commenting in his 2015 Tory Party Conference address that Corbyn is a ‘security-threatening, terrorist-sympathy, Britain-hating’ ideologist. He was greeted by a standing ovation. This same man, our country’s leader, when prompted in Parliament to comment on the junior doctor contract crisis responded by encouraging Corbyn to ‘buy a proper suit, do up your tie and sing the national anthem’.
The leader of our country chose to disrespect a man on the way he dresses, whilst himself spending more money on a suit than he expects a disabled person to live on in a year. The man they’d blasted for not wearing a tie put one on for a Battle of Britain memorial service and proceeded to boycott the VIP state dinner with the Prime Minister and instead to stay and welcome veterans from the parade and personally thank them. Watching the British media launch a propaganda-esque smear campaign against arguably the most progressive left wing leader our nation has seen, I am left wondering why.
Before discussing the effects that the negative tyrade upon Jeremy Corbyn represents for our wider possession of democracy, it is important to consider the man behind the name. Jeremy Corbyn has consistently rallied against austerity, opposed benefit caps, rallied to provide free education, challenged sexism, warned against dangerous rhetoric on immigration and proposed the reintroduction of a 50% deficit tax for high earning individuals.
This is the man that former labour leaders to sympathetic journalists have adopted the mantra ABC- Anyone But Corbyn. On-the-fence voters have been swayed by media claims that his change in policies brand him as an untrustworthy leader- the man that will lead the Labour party ‘over the cliff’ into long-term obscurity. He has been criticised for his ‘Corbynomics’, proposing that the plan to scrap tuition fees and raise corporation tax is an ideological yet unrealistic notion. Yet 35 economists from Britain’s leading universities signed an open letter this month which credited Corbyn for his ‘stimulating discussion’ of ‘management of money in tackling inequality’. He is criticised for not taking British parliamentary processes seriously, yet in the 1980’s he commented ‘Late at night here it’s quite disgusting, after the dinners are over and the division bell rings for 10pm, fleets of limousines draw up and out get large Tory MPs with even larger stomachs wearing dinner jackets, and they stride in to vote’, I cannot help but think this man has been fighting for the class of democracy the UK population desire to a greater extent than any other individual in the House of Commons for 30 years. He has been insulted by the press for his ‘naive-pacifism’ regarding his opposition of the £100 billion renewal of Britain’s Trident nuclear missile system, yet two thirds of Brits want to see an international convention on banning nuclear weapons.
Whilst I will always be an avid supporter of freedom of speech, it is important to challenge the strategically vilifying processes employed by a media opposed to progressive policies in order for individuals voting in the 2020 election to make informed political decisions. A sense of disenfranchment in those holding legitimate views, that are treated as anything but, has lead to the silencing of Corbyn supporters. In the current climate, a balanced rational discussion about Corbyn’s leadership seems utopion- but this should not be the case.
The onslaught of attack on Corbyn does not only raise questions regarding what we, as citizens of British society, aspire for our leaders to prioritise, but also calls into spotlight the democratic processes embodied in our journalism. From the distorted Blairite line of the New Statesmen, to the lies published in supposedly neutral outlets such as the Metro, from the Sun screaming for Corbyn’s head to the same paper’s blatantly fabricated ‘exclusives’ with Labour MPs, the media class have combined in unanimity in their ferocious anti-socialism. Regardless of your views of Corbyn’s policy, until we, as a society challenge the ‘bourgeois’ administration of our media, we will never have true democracy. Until our media enhances democratic values by publishing full and honest accounts of political policy, we will never be able to trust in our government.