November 23, 2017
Friday, June 9, 2017

UK’s conservative press crucifies Corbyn but fails to inspire May Day

By James Grainger
News Editor

Right-wing media’s assault on Labour leader was amped up even further in final few days of inconclusive general election campaign

’Twas the day before polling, and all through the papers, were allegations and falsities and cries for a saviour. Yup, the British media was at it again this week as polling day approached. But the good news is that Britain’s general election has finally happened and, by the time you read this, it’s most likely been decided too. And I think we can safely wager that the vast majority of Brits will count their blessings that the campaign is finally over.

Britons’ third major trip to the polls since May 2015 has produced another general election campaign where — despite the best wishes of the voters backing Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn — the overall result has never really been in doubt. Theresa May was always likely to nominally win the contest and always likely to form a government as prime minister — the only questions were whether her majority would be large enough to prevent a hung parliament and smooth her domestic agenda through Westminster, as well as deliver her a boost ahead of those dreaded Brexit talks.

That outcome seems to have happened but if the result is anything like the exit polls that emerged the minute polling stations across the country closed last night, the gamble to call the election has backfired. Mrs May will no longer have that self-adorned tag of “strong and stable” hanging around her neck. It’ll probably be something more like “shaky and suspect,” as the knives of Tory leadership hopefuls are drawn behind her back and their recurrent predatory instincts kick in. The bookies will be offering slim odds that she will be prime minister this time next year.

For Corbyn, the narrative will now swing his way. Despite not taking Labour to victory, his surprise performance will give momentum to his leadership. And he did it while facing some of the most hostile press coverage yet. Over the past few weeks, the UK’s conservative tabloid press — under the command of Rupert Murdoch, Paul Dacre and Richard Desmond — have once again offered up fresh evidence that they are more willing than ever to savage whoever happens to be the Labour leader, stoke the flames of xenophobia and choose fiction over facts in their attempt to sway the nation’s voters. Last time it was poor old Ed Miliband, who even saw his bacon-sandwich-eating skills devastated on the frontpages. This time around, it’s Jeremy Corbyn. The competitors have changed, the seats may have moved around but the record remains the same.

The bulk of Fleet Street lined up behind Theresa May and printed pages upon pages devoted to attacking the Labour threat focused on Corbyn’s history, “radicalism” and his pitch toward improving the National Health Service (NHS), the railways and education.

The Sun and The Daily Mail ran pages after pages attacking Corbyn’s activist history and branded him “unfit to rule,” saying he sought to bankrupt the country and increase immigration, despite Corbyn’s televised statements that immigration would not go up on his watch. The newspapers repeatedly echoed the Tory prime minister’s demand for a “strong and stable” government and accused the BBC of bias in its televised political programming, suggesting it was unfair. They failed to criticise the PM for skirting a head-to-head debate.

It was closing days of the campaign, however, when things became really brutal. Attempting to marry their narratives with the tragic terror attacks in London and Manchester, both The Sun and The Mail went for broke. The day before the vote, the Daily Mail devoted 13 pages to Corbyn, Diane Abbott and John McConnell, branding them “Apologists for terror,” and accused the Labour leader of “cosying up to those who hate our country.” The Sun’s attack was classily branded “Jezza’s Jihadi comrades” and repeated a claim that when Corbyn addressed a pro-Palestine rally in 2002, some Islamic extremists were present. Not so much comrades, as onlookers then.

The Sun certainly didn’t pull any punches with its coverage over the last few weeks. Saying it didn’t believe Brexit would happen under a Labour government, it said putting Corbyn in Downing Street would be “the gravest mistake this country has ever made” (some might rank Suez or appeasing Hitler for a bit or some of Britain’s colonial actions pretty highly on that scale, but there you go).

The campaign trail did give birth to some surprising moments, however, both shocking and sad. Among the more depressing highlights must be the televised debate in which at least one voter, while questioning Corbyn, became increasingly more irate as he encouraged him to commit to the idea of using a nuclear bomb and found no joy (times have changed since the Cold War, it seems). Then there was the trips to BBC’s The One Show, in which Theresa May, the first prime minister who seems to be 100 percent automaton, told the nation that her husband did the “boys jobs” around the house (she, obviously, does the “girls jobs”). On his visit, Corbyn refused to bring his wife along and spoke lovingly instead about his allotment. Then he gave the presenters a jar of his own homemade jam. British politics at its finest.

It’s in these areas where Corbyn seems to have gained votes in the last few weeks. Painted as a mad Communist by the right-wing tabloids who feared he may become PM, the Labour leader scored pretty low with the population over the last few weeks. But as party election broadcasts kicked in and Corbyn was actually seen by people on TV, perhaps people realised he wasn’t the lunatic he’s been made out to be. His ideas, his reasoning resonated.

As the BBC’s election coverage was in its early hours, host David Dimbleby made the following observation about the polls: “If this is right, Theresa May hasn’t got the massive support from the country she was hoping to get, to allow her to do whatever it is she wanted to do which she never told us.” Corbyn, in contrast, has been clear about his plans.



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