By Daniel Margrain
The fact that Theresa May was only able to cling on to power with the help of the knuckle-dragging DUP because of the gains the Tories made from the SNP in Scotland, is extremely frustrating. Had the SNP fought the election primarily on an independence platform, rather than pretending to be all things to all people, the party would have almost certainly maintained its level of support.
What this illustrates is that the strategy to fight elections on the enemy’s chosen ground, is a flawed one. Offering the electorate competent technocratic managerialism rather than principled and ideologically-based policies, is a strategy of despair as the approach of the Blairites under Milliband aptly illustrated.
Yet, disappointingly this was precisely the retrograde step suggested by Paul Mason while arguing the case on the BBC after it became clear that Theresa May would not achieve an overall parliamentary majority. “Corbyn needs to bring Labour’s ‘hard-hitters’ back into the political fold”, argued Mason. Interestingly, the journalist and economist made his comments sitting next to former Blair spin merchant, Alastair Campbell, who was also quick to suggest that Corbyn should use his success to broaden his cabinet and his policy platform in order to bring the Blairites back onboard.
This kind of concession based on the false premise it will enable Corbyn to win power, should be avoided like the plague. The election proves that the ‘unelectable’ Corbyn who at 40 per cent gained a higher proportion of the vote than his predecessors (Milliband 2015, 30%, Brown 2010, 29%, Blair 2005, 35%), can win the next election on his own terms. In a rare, honest post-election commentary, Owen Jones wrote:
“Labour is now permanently transformed. Its policy programme is unchallengeable. It is now the party’s consensus. It cannot and will not be taken away. Those who claimed it could not win the support of millions were simply wrong. No, Labour didn’t win, but from where it started, that was never going to happen. That policy programme enabled the party to achieve one of the biggest shifts in support in British history – yes, eclipsing Tony Blair’s swing in 1997…The prospect of a socialist government that can build an economy run in the interests of working people – not the cartel of vested interests who have plunged us into repeated crisis – well, that may have been a prospect many of us thought would never happen in our lifetime. It is now much closer than it has ever been.”
It’s astonishing to this writer that Mason and others apparently fail to recognise that the left is desperate for an alternative to neoliberalism which Corbyn’s policies reflect but which Blairism helps augment. Any concessions towards those who have stabbed the Labour leader in the back over the last two years will totally undermine his alternative anti-austerity vision for the country.
Those who are genuine about the need for radical change, understand how important it is to undermine the hold the Blairites have on the party, not encourage them. The huge increase in turnout and votes of the 18-24 year old demographic up (from 58% under Milliband to 72% under Corbyn) that contributed enormously towards Labour’s 30 seat gain, was predicated on a vision of the country that rejects Blairism.
Had the media not been biased against Corbyn during the election campaign, had he not been hamstrung by two years of almost constant vilification from the liberal corporate media like the Guardian, and reinforced by Blairites within his own party (the kind of calculating careerist opportunists Mason alluded to), Corbyn would almost certainly have got over the finishing line.
The same media-political establishment who were relentlessly vilifying him in lock-step, now claim they all got it wrong. This is a fallback position in an attempt to obfuscate. The truth is, the media didn’t think he was ‘wrong’, rather they opposed him. As Media Lens posited:
“They were ‘wrong’ about his ability to generate support. They still think they’re right to oppose everything he stands for.”
In other words, the corporate media’s mass failure represents a structural flaw. They have virtually zero credibility. The revelation that the exit polls suggested a hung parliament, prompted Cathy Newman to tweet:
“Ok let’s be honest, until the last few weeks many of us under-estimated Jeremy Corbyn.”
This is disingenuous. The reality is rather different. As opposed to underestimating Corbyn, the truth is the media refused to give him a fair hearing because of what he represents to corporate hacks like Newman.
So-called corporate ‘journalists’ and commentators are, as comedian Dom Jolly argued,
“political PR prostitutes to a handful of billionaires with selfish agendas.”
One such political PR prostitute is Dan Hodges who in July, 2016 tweeted the immortal line:
“If Corbyn beats Owen Smith I don’t see how May doesn’t call an election next year. And that would be political armageddon for Labour.”
From the day Corbyn was elected as Labour leader, the agenda of political PR prostitutes like Hodges, Aaranovitch, Rentoul, Cohen and McTernan, has been to get rid of him. All those who are now crying wolf are doing so, not as part of a genuine principled display of collective remorse, but as a damage-limitation exercise in order to save their careers.
Ideally, they would have preferred Corbyn to have lost badly on the premise that the existence of the status quo is better than a Corbyn win which would have engendered career uncertainty. In this sense, the Westminster commentariat’s criticisms of the Labour leader were intended as a self-fulfilling prophecy.
A Tory landslide would have given those within the Westminster bubble like Polly Toynbee and Anne Perkins the opportunity to write their Corbyn obituaries and thus create an opening through which they would effectively have been able to take back control of the Labour party and reconfigure it in their own Blairite image.
Corbyn’s sensational electoral achievement illustrates how an increasingly informed and sophisticated public are seeing through the deceptions and lies. Consequently, the attempts by the political-media establishment to exercise their dominance over them, using the Labour party as their tool with which to achieve it, back-fired spectacularly.
Social and political historians will look back at the current period in which a mass social media, controlled by the people, overcame the corporate-media propaganda power of the state, as a watershed moment. The fake apologist tones of the liberal elite who used the pulpit of their employers to try to bring Corbyn and his supporters to their knees, are now trying to persuade the public that their supposed change of heart has nothing to do with reining in their loss of control and, by extension, the reduced revenues of their employers.
We see this, for example, in relation to the Guardian’s associate editor, Michael White, whose public back-tracking strategy on Corbyn days before the election that was intended to halt the decline in his papers readership, was as transparent as Claude Rains in the Invisible Man. This is also reflected in additional sympathetic and supportive Corbyn articles and tweets since it became clear that his pre-election poll ratings had dramatically began to improve.
It’s precisely the kind of cynical attitudes outlined, displayed by the corporate media in general towards its target audience, that creates a space for alternative social media of the likes of the Canary to flourish. The corporate press barons are rapidly losing the public’s respect in no small part due to their biased distorted reportage and crude, fake sensationalist headlines designed to demoralize and disorientate their readership. The tabloid depiction of Corbyn as a Jihadist sympathizer is an obvious case in point.
However, it’s a mistake to think that less overt forms of media propaganda do not also function as a political weapon by the state. As Noam Chomsky put it: “Propaganda is to a democracy what the bludgeon is to a totalitarian state.” The kinds of mutually-reinforcing propaganda in the liberal broadsheets are symptomatic of the broader decline in media performance.
Michael Savage, political editor of the Observer, for example, apparently thought nothing of tweeting the views of convicted fraudster and self-serving former MP Denis MacShane. The Blairite, MacShane and the Blairite, Savage were merely reiterating their respective anti-Corbyn views in order to implant in the public’s mind the notion that Corbyn is useless. This is also true of the wider corporate commentariat who reinforce their own prejudices which become a self-fulfilling echo-chamber. Dissenters who challenge this orthodoxy are often ridiculed, smeared or abused.
The media barons will continue to invest in traditional media propaganda only if at the end of it they can be assured they get the kinds of governments they want. The opportunistic careerist politicians and corporate journalists who operate within the Westminster bubble, know which side their bread is buttered and are only too willing to adjust their views accordingly, particularly if the corporate buck is large enough and the situation demands it.
However, the rise of Corbyn, concomitant to an increasingly politically active citizenship informed by alternative social media and a sincere and incorruptible form of politics, suggests the foundations upon which corporate greed and the establishment view of the world distorts human relations, are shaking.
It’s true the Tories are still the governing party. But their ability to shape domestic policy unhindered, premised on the existence of a corrupt media and democracy, has been greatly diminished. Theresa May is only able to cling to power by her fingertips because she is propped up by the DUP who have close links to loyalist terrorists who murdered 1,016 people between 1969-2001 and who shot someone dead in a car park in an internecine dispute during the election campaign.
The DUP are also climate change deniers, creationists, homophobes and anti-abortionists. There is only so much of this kind of DUP-Tory relationship the public, and even the media, will be willing to endure in the weeks and months ahead.
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