Jeremy Corbyn is not a socialist revolutionary and many of his ideas to tackle problems are closer to band-aids than radical solutions. However, his emergence as a determined and principled Labour leader has encouraged the tactics that various tenets of the elite sections of society would use if faced with genuine revolutionary popular politics. The absurdity of the Conservative Party’s declarations of overt concern for the safety of the country and the incoherent splatter-gun rhetoric from the right-wing media is simultaneously laughable and pathetic. Mr. Corbyn’s reluctance to engage with Sky News has left that channel floundering around in its own spittle as a succession of screaming heads ham act their way through poorly scripted diatribes. Somewhere, Chris Morris is yelling “The Day Today was satire, not a training video.”
Of course, no support for Corbyn is expected from the tax-avoider owned Times, Telegraph, Mail, Express, Sun, Sky, etc. But, the reaction from the rest of the media is interesting because of what it reveals about the fear that the liberal, centrist or <insert another term for wishy-washy> media luvvies have if faced with what they perceive to be a real challenge to the structural status quo of British society. Jeremy Corbyn is no more a revolutionary than Michael Foot or Tony Benn but he is widening the sphere of public discussion and presenting direct challenges on some political and social issues that have, for too long, been able to avoid inspection and dissection. Even such a mild tendency toward revolutionary politics has put the willies up the chattering hoards at the Guardian, New Statesman, Independent, etc.
Arithmetic and intra-party plots
As soon as Corbyn’s expected victory in the Labour leadership contest was confirmed plaintiff cries of “un-electable” were exclaimed. Oddly, although the non-Tory media screamed this cry as loud as anyone it could not back it up with numbers or facts.
Polly Toynbee, known most infamously for her devout atheism, stated that “the young, the poor and non-voters will not be enough” to win the 2020 general election. Clearly, arithmetic is not in Toynbee’s skill set – less than a quarter of the electorate voted for the Tory Party in 2015 general election – and her condescending tone toward new young voters, voters who have not previously been inspired to vote and “the poor” is beyond parody.
Tom Clark agrees with Toynbee that the 24% of the electorate who voted Tory should be wooed rather than the 76% who didn’t: “David Cameron notched up just over 11.25 million. Unless Corbyn can now turn some of his talk away from his own band of loyalists, to address the concerns of this much bigger group, then today’s victory will soon enough be followed by defenestration or defeat” Clark declares with no apparent awareness of his warped logic and arithmetic failure.
Asked by the Guardian to give his “verdict” on the Labour leadership election result, Matthew d’Ancona‘s self-choreographed dismissive attitude encapsulates many of the invented reactions to the result and to Jeremy Corbyn’s post-election actions. (Toynbee’s, Clark’s and d’Ancona’s comments are here: Four Guardian Columnists). According to d’Ancona, the leadership acceptance speech was an “angry, garbled bellow of a protester, an activist and a rebel” as if such characteristics were unquestionably unwelcome. He contradicts himself by stating Corbyn needs the votes that “eluded” Ed Miliband in 2015 while simultaneously objecting that he is different to Miliband. How does d’Ancona know that the votes that “eluded” Miliband are not potential votes for a Labour further left? He doesn’t know, he chooses to assume. D’Ancona insults the electorate by asserting that they will be easily led by media and Tory depictions of Corbyn and his policies, “they will form an impression extraordinarily fast and, in most cases, stick with it to the general election of 2020,” and berates him for not immediately playing the dumb media game. The theme of Corbyn not spending a lot of time and energy jumping through media hoops recurs a lot in the liberal criticism; this bemusement stems from the liberal commentators’ lack of respect for the intelligence of the public combined with an absurd supercilious awe of their own importance. “This was an almost comically bad start” is d’Ancona parting badly-aimed shot.
Stephen Bush echoes d’Ancona’s criticisms of Corbyn’s actions and non-actions in the days just after the election, and, like d’Ancona, he knows these criticisms to be without substance and he does not seek to justify any of them. In Bush New Statesman, he randomly says that “Jeremy Corbyn’s closest aides are exhausted and error-prone” as part of a claim that the new Labour leader has no talent to work closely with him in his office as advisors and support staff. What Bush doesn’t say is why he thinks Corbyn will not be able to replace anyone who has left or why he thinks the new leader’s choices of staff won’t be as talented and able as, if not better than, any staff who have departed. The appointments to the shadow cabinet are described as “chaotic,” another pin-in-the-dictionary-whilst-blindfolded word, and Bush makes the common ignorant error of describing the creation of the cabinet as a “reshuffle” – it wasn’t; no shadow cabinet existed after the election until the winner of the election formed such a cabinet. As an unspoken reference to Jeremy Corbyn’s age, a likely recurring theme of his critics, Bush states falsely that Corbyn didn’t do a lot of media work immediately due to “fatigue.” The rest of Bush’s drivel is a short work of fiction wherein he depicts deputy leader Tom Watson as pretender to the leadership.
I enjoy a pint of bitter but Dan Hodges is several barrels. He continues to claim that he assumes that a Corbyn-led Labour have no hope in any election without ever attempting to justify his chosen assumption and he is saddened that Corbyn appears to have support throughout the Labour Party members. To amuse himself Hodges has invented a master plan he claims exists within the parliamentary Labour Party to remove Corbyn from the leadership, described here: Hodges bodges. Like Stephen Bush’s story about Tom Watson as a plotter, Hodges’ article is the sort of hackneyed fiction that even the most desperate literary publisher would respond to with a terse two-sentence rejection. I don’t think Hodges or Bush is a skilled enough candidate to be Katie Price’s new ghost writer.
In Cohen, Nick Cohen also invents a plot against Corbyn within the Labour Party and repeats the unproven assertion that the “far left is triumphant, [but they are] nowhere near as popular in the country as their deluded supporters imagine.” Again, this is presented as fact with no attempt to prove its validity. Cohen continues: “however much you deplore the Tories  do you in your heart fear a Cameron or an Osborne government less than the Corbyn administration? You only have to raise the question to know the answer millions of voters will give.” Is that the 76% of the electorate who didn’t vote Tory? Perhaps Nick Cohen has been reading too much Lewis Carroll recently. The remainder of Cohen’s article is a bizarre and ludicrous comparison of Corbyn’s willingness to engage with Iran with George Lansbury’s pacifism in response to Hitler in the 1930s.
The liberal observers are happy to offer advice to Jeremy Corbyn, which is nice.
Tom Clark’s concern is that a clear, consistent and non-contradictory political outlook will not be understood and, thus, it needs to be spun. In Clark spinning he lists four reasons why a spin doctor is required by the new Labour leader. On ‘Europe’, Clark claims “Labour’s stance towards the European referendum is in chaos.” It isn’t, but why let facts interfere with a spurious point that you want to make. His advice is inconsequential; his remark “so if [Corbyn]’s got an issue where he’s in line with the mood on the streets of Nuneaton, he ought to be pointing that out” is another gormless repetition that Tory swing voters are more important than the 76% who didn’t vote Tory in 2015. On ‘Women’, Clark thinks Corbyn could have avoided accusations of sexism if the entire shadow cabinet had been announced at once. As the said accusations were made only be people seeking any reason to criticise him, why should Corbyn pander to their demands? John McDonnell’s appointment as chancellor should have been delayed, according to Clark, to prepare people, within Labour and without, because, apparently, his appointment is controversial. Again, why the hell should there be any concern about the views of opponents? McDonnell’s swift appointment was a strong statement of intent. Clark adds that a spinner would have spun the parliamentary Labour Party’s reaction to Corbyn winning to lessen claims of division in the party.
Clark has a low opinion of the intelligence and analytical ability of the British public and he thinks Jeremy Corbyn should worry always what the right-wing media thinks of him, his policies and his actions. It should be clear that he couldn’t give a damn what the Mail, Express, Sun, Times and Telegraph think, and the British public do not need spun presentation to understand what is happening. Clark’s final line reveals how out of touch he is: “But hired it [a spinner] must be, or else he will risk crashing and burning even faster than anyone imagines.”
Matt Dathan describes five things that he thinks Jeremy Corbyn got wrong in his first week as leader, Dathan five things; (he also mentions five things he thinks he got right). Dathan includes the delay in appointing a spin doctor, with similar concerns as Tom Clark. Not singing God Save The Queen and not confirming whether or not he will wear a red poppy on Remembrance Day are two other examples of wrongdoing according to Dathan; “alarmed moderates” and “widely condemned” expose the tone and imagination of Dathan. He purposefully ignores the fact that wearing a white poppy and not singing that awful dirge are political decisions and reasons that people support Jeremy Corbyn. Dathan repeats the lie that women are not sufficient numerically in the cabinet and he grasps wildly at ephemeral rumours that McDonnell is very unpopular in the parliamentary Labour Party. His dismissive attitude to McDonnell is the only section of the list where Dathan reveals his true stance – he is opposed to McDonnell’s anti-capitalist tendencies.
Themes and motivation
All the examples above make the deliberate and insincere statement that a Labour Party led by Jeremy Corbyn will not win a general election. The proof of this assertion is not sought. With this assertion in place, as an axiom, the writers’ criticisms and observations follow set themes.
- Discord in the parliamentary Labour Party with consequential plots to usurp
- Amateurish decision-making and presentation
- It’s protest politics
- Concern about Tory swing voters
- John McDonnell
- You must play the media game
It is clear that these observers cannot view politics as the majority of the people of Britain do. They don’t understand that people are sick of slick robotic untrustworthy spivs who spin successfully via the media. Coupled with their willful ignorance of arithmetic, the writers concoct lazy unconvincing arguments and conclusions that are, at best, embarrassing. What they never do is state their motivation for this behaviour.
The behaviour of the liberal writers echoes the behaviour of the Labour elite during the leadership election. I described that in the section ‘The horror of popular support’ in Election despair and Labour’s death. The motivation for this behaviour is also the same as the motivation of the Labour elite: It is not that they fear a Corbyn-led Labour will not win an election, what they fear is that he could win an election. A government that might offer a challenge to capitalist exploitation and gangsterism is not what the Labour elite want and it is not what the liberal media wants. That is the motivation for the tone and the quantity of the non-Tory media attacks on Corbyn.
Discredit the reaction to the criticism
The supporters of the new Labour leader and others with similar or more revolutionary politics have responded with gusto to the nonsense that the liberal commentators have spouted. The drivel emitted has been analysed, ripped apart and thrown back in their faces, with ease. Such a response has upset their delicate souls and, as therapy, some have expressed their hurt in the only way they know how: Deliberate misrepresentation, misdirection and insults.
Martin Robbins points at Corbyn and his supporters and coughs out “left-wing UKIP.” That is it. He isn’t suggesting similarity of political views. Robbins’ complaint refers to how he wants to depict Corbyn’s (and Farage’s) relationship to parliament and government and how he wants to discredit the intelligence and political nous of the supporters. In Robbins complaint he claims that “like many UKIP supporters, Corbyn occupies an anti-political ground.” So Robbins thinks that UKIP, a offshore tax-dodger-funded political party that seeks, ultimately, to complete the transition to corporate fascism, is “anti-political.” Obviously, his description of Corbyn as “anti-political” is wrong, and Robbins knows it is an false description, but he uses it as a cerebrally-simplistic method of discrediting one of the few members of parliament who has a clear political vision.
Robbins equates UKIP’s encapsulation of immigrants as the main threat to British people with a “left-wing” view that bankers are the main threat. That is, he is asserting that highlighting the mundane fact that the structure and methods of capitalist exploitation are the enemy of most people is no more useful than claiming immigrants are the cause of all the ills in Britain. All Robbins does with this crass equation is reveal his own political outlook; he is, of course too cowardly and too ignorant to express his opposition to Corbyn’s politics with honest argument.
Like other ardent supporters of the exploitative status quo, Robbins enjoys throwing the word “paranoid” at anyone who recounts knowledge of the state of the political or economic world. It is an old fraudulent argument used against anyone who isn’t politically blinded. Robbins quotes extensively from conman Richard Hofstadter’s hamfisted 1964 essay ‘The Paranoid Style;’ the purpose of that drivel is to deny that mass capitalist exploitation exists by denigrating the intelligence and sanity of those who observe it, and Robbins is happy to continue that tradition.
Robbins adds racist US politician Donald Trump to his concoction of deceit. Again, Trump is “a firmly anti-establishment candidate.” Has Robbins forgotten that Trump is a very successful businessman who wants to perpetuate and enhance the exploiters’ piece of pie? Robbins lists some of Trump’s off-the-scale stupid comments and follows this with “Trump is closer to Farage than Corbyn in policy, but they share a common style and attract people for similar reasons.” The clear message that Robbins is defecating out is that considered, informed opposition to capitalist gangsterism, (Corbyn), is no more intelligent than uninformed wilfully-ignorant comments about Barack Obama’s heritage or the intentions of Muslim immigrants in the USA, (Trump). Robbins takes a long time to say he thinks that there exists a status quo, godlike and immutable that must not be questioned and, if you do question it, you are a paranoid weirdo. He concludes with a general insult: “In many areas of public life, the front line has become simply too difficult and too professionalised for members of the public to have any real impact.”
Before he finishes Robbins joins in with the aforesaid misunderstanding of arithmetic. “Corbyn is popular because he refuses to compromise, and it’s precisely that trait that will ultimately cause him to fail, because persuading ten million people to vote for you involves compromise by definition.” Again, 76% of the electorate didn’t vote Tory.
Marina Hyde is a competent football journalist but her foray into political analysis is misguided. As a companion piece to Robbins’ comedic turn Hyde also equates the attitudes of UKIP supporters with those of Corbyn supporters, and adds SNP to the mix. Hyde’s objective is to create a similarity between some supporters’ reactions to comments about Corbyn with those of UKIP, and she tries to explain her invented comparison by referencing an essay on the use of language by Nancy Mitford. Hyde’s cumbersome analogy is here: Hyde. She meanders on to attempt to justify her dislike of Corbyn supporters’ use of the word “smear” when they should say “difference of opinion.” As explained above, a key facet of the cricisim of Corbyn is that it is not an expression of a difference of political opinion, because the critics are too cowardly and dishonest to a engage. Smear is, often, the correct word.
The remainder of Hyde’s piece is an expression of fear. The cosy chattering world is being ignored. The acceptance of the status quo is diminishing. And Hyde keeps equating support for socialism with support for dumb bigotry of the right, just so it is clear that any left-wing threat is positioned as unintelligent and uninformed. She ends with “politics is becoming markedly less civilised, and increasingly driven by an irrational emotionalism that threatens – often literally – to spill over into mindless violence.” Hyde doesn’t make clear which violence she thinks is mindless and which isn’t. Perhaps non-state violence is mindless?
The fear that Hyde has is common to all the liberal observers of any revolutionary fervour. That they feel that fear even for a traditional Labour leader like Jeremy Corbyn reveals how useless and pathetic they are. In any revolution, these types are the first to be cast aside, and they know that.