The media have been doing a hatchet job on all things Corbyn. Solomon Hughes looks beyond the hype.
Source: Morning StarThe best political reporters working for the top newspapers and magazines looked at the Corbyn phenomenon, and thought about their mission to understand and explain the world and come to the conclusion that Corbyn could only be supported by a deranged killer or, more generously, someone who has lost touch with reality.
So the Guardian said Corbyn voters were best understood as being like members of the Charles Manson cult.
Manson’s “family” was a gone-wrong commune in late ’60s California, which under their crazy guru’s lead murdered nine people in gory ways encouraged by home-made apocalyptic beliefs.
Manson had a beard, so the parallel with Corbyn and his followers is almost exact.
A more sympathetic approach to the Corbyn supporters from the press is that, while not being insane murderers, they are completely detached from reality.
While London-based journalists know what’s going on, the Corbyn supporters live in a “bubble” where they only read what they want on Facebook or talk to each other at rallies. They don’t talk to their friends or workmates or family members or watch the news.
The very size of the Corbyn rallies just shows how detached they are. Their refusal to read the amazingly convincing words of our great journalists must be the only reason they have not immediately agreed to drop Corbyn and repeatedly refused to support the recommended candidates. They could not possibly have read them and not been convinced.
Only a boy in a bubble or girl in a cult could not agree.
It’s quite alarming news — it looks like over half of Labour’s members, around 250,000 people — are set to vote for Corbyn.
Labour may be struggling to win over swing voters, but polls suggest around 47 per cent of existing Labour voters back Corbyn (versus 25 per cent for Smith) so that’s around four million people.
Manson’s “family” had only a couple of dozen members, so that’s a quite surprising gain for the murderous psychotic community.
If this breakout of mass delusion seems unconvincing, maybe there is another reason. It’s barely said in the newspapers, but perhaps some people support Corbyn for rational reasons.
The place to start — which almost nobody in journalism does — is the last Labour government. It isn’t just about “winning the next election,” but also “what for.”
The last Labour government did some very good things. It introduced the minimum wage. It made big increases in social spending — hiring more nurses and teachers. It built or refurbished schools and hospitals and other social infrastructure that were in a bad way after the Thatcher-Major years. It refurbished many council houses under the “decency threshold.” It helped out a lot of poorer people through tax credits. The Education Maintenance Allowance helped a lot of young people stay in college.
But there were also some very bad things. Labour set Atos on the disabled. It stuck asylum-seekers in dodgy prisons run by G4S. It gave scandal-hit firms like A4e hundreds of millions to “help” the unemployed. It introduced student fees.
Labour started talking about the “end of council housing,” bringing council house building to a near dead stop — causing the housing crisis we now have.
In a lot of cases the good things were done in bad ways. The schools and hospitals were refurbished, but only by being privatised through the PFI, which was a terrible, expensive mistake.
NHS queues were shortened, but through privatising the NHS, as more and more operations were handed over to profit-driven companies.
Worst of all, Labour ministers and MPs pushed Britain into the disastrous Iraq war, a murderous, incompetent conflict built on lies.
In most cases, Corbyn, the Labour left and grassroots opposed all these gross, avoidable errors at the time, but were ignored and bullied into silence.
The mainstream of the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) majority got their way and in each case they were wrong. The “Labour” things the last Labour government did were mostly good. The “New” Labour things they did — war, privatisation, deregulation, backing the bankers — were mostly wrong.
So Corbyn supporters, it is true, don’t want to win at any cost. They are not keen for a Labour government to win and then go into mad wars or wasteful privatisations or bullying the disabled or handing asylum-seekers to profit-making prisons.
They want Labour to be involved in positive social change — which isn’t easy, doesn’t automatically get good press, might involve policies and people that are initially unpopular and might be resisted by the Labour right.
The over-the-top reaction of the PLP to Corbyn’s victory shows that Labour really does need a shake-up.
To some extent Owen Smith’s candidacy seeks to deal with these real issues. Smith’s policy pledges recognise the mistakes the last Labour governments made. They also address the sometimes hazy way Corbyn has codified policy. They are a good platform for Labour. Smith can make a good case for something a lot more positive than the last leadership election.
But Corbyn supporters wonder if he — and especially some of his backers — are genuine. It’s a shame that there is a “trust” issue here, but the last Labour government undermined trust by using “spin” even when it came to issues like war.
The continued attacks on members — suspending branches, accusing them of all kinds of terrible behaviour — makes it difficult for some to fully trust some of the big PLP figures now arguing for a vote against Corbyn.
Smith’s claim that the last Labour government was naive about the way the Tories would use their NHS “reforms” as a Trojan horse to privatise the NHS looks unconvincing — Corbyn warned against them at the time. If the PLP were that “naive,” maybe they really need a Corbyn-style shake-up? This is why the idea that Corbyn is “genuine” weighs so strongly.
When PLP complainers point to all Corbyn’s rebellions, many Labour members look at what he voted against and think he was right. The pressure to accept a more “moderate” but “electable” candidate also weighs less when it seems candidates like Smith don’t have the promised immediate access to good press and electoral popularity that is promised.
So members backing Corbyn aren’t “mad.” They are trying to get a Labour Party that doesn’t do mad wars and crazy privatisations.
It’s a struggle and involves conflict and opposition from the mainstream commentators.
It might mean getting the policy right first and struggling with electability later. That might have big risks. But who said social change came easy?