There’s no doubt that the result of the June 8th British General Election of 2017 once again showed that the face of politics has changed dramatically. The media and political analysts got it totally wrong once again. This follows their less than successful predictions for the 2015 General Election, the EU Referendum, and the Donald Trump’s rise to power in the USA. But are the broadcasters and newspaper owners looking for new people who might do better?
Of course not, it’s business as usual for the well-paid hacks and pundits. Most businesses reward competence with promotion and pay rises, and those who perform less well are shifted to the sidelines. The thing is, not everyone gets it wrong.
It’s hard to say how effective negative publicity can be. In the UK it is generally conceded that the Labour Party and its leader, Jeremy Corbyn, have been given a hard ride by practically every media outlet. Conservative-supporting newspapers such as The Sun and The Daily Mail blatantly pin their colours to the mast. On the day before the 2017 General Election, both led with provocative headlines blatantly designed to stop readers from voting Labour:
Other media is more subtle. Ever since Jeremy Corbyn was first elected as Labour Party leader, the supposedly impartial political pundits at the BBC have been making no secret that they believe a general assumption exists that he is incompetent and, at best, not a great leader. This sentiment was never uttered by any presenter, except maybe by way of questioning, but it was implicit in almost every political item they covered.
The Sunday Politics on BBC-1 on Sunday morning is a case in point. Never mind that its presenter, Andrew Neil, is a former Murdoch and Conservative Party employee — to be fair, he does cover it up very well and can ask Tory ministers equally probing questions — its editor is a man called Robbie Gibb. In fact, Gibb is in charge of all political coverage on BBC television. In his youth, he was a vice-chairman of the rightwing Federation of Conservative Students, which led to his becoming chief of staff to the Tory MP Francis Maude. You can draw your own conclusions from that.
The way the bias works is that the Sunday Politics heavily weighs its team of three commentators to the anti-leftwing viewpoint. They typically might include Sun political editor Tom Newton-Dunn (an example of his journalistic achievements shown on right), Isabel Oakeshott (who co-wrote a hatchet-job biography of David Cameron with Lord Ashcroft) Julia Hartley-Brewer (right-wing shock-jock on TalkRadio), and Janan Ganesh (George Osborn’s official biographer and co-author of a book called Compassionate Conservatism: What it is — Why We Need it). Two of these unrelenting Conservative supporters will be joined by a third person, supposedly to achieve balance. Usually, this will be liberal Steve Richards or, if he’s not available, The Guardian‘s Polly Toynbee, who has always been critical of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party.
Then there are the guests invited on to the programme. Conservatives are ubiquitous, as are Ukip, despite them not having a single Parliamentary seat. Labour gets less attention. Minor MPs who are known to be antagonistic towards Jeremy Corbyn are given first shot, and if there’s any time left for Shadow Ministers, they will usually be asked questions that personalities instead of policy.
This system ensures that every event is discussed through an overwhelmingly blue Conservative prism. The people involved justify it to themselves, saying it’s what the vast majority of people are thinking. The myth that thousands of Trotskyites piled into the party simply to vote for Jeremy Corbyn has been widely trumpeted on the media. I hope that the results of the 2017 election show how absurd this view is: there genuinely aren’t enough extremists in the UK to be able to influence a membership of over half a million.
The Labour Party is united at the top and at the bottom, with only a small number of MPs still showing dissent against Jeremy Corbyn. The rebels who voted for Chuka Ummuna’s amendment on Europe on June 29th, 2017, included many of the usual suspects: Ben Bradshaw, Chris Bryant, Ann Clwyd, Neil Coyle, Stella Creasy, Margaret Hodge, Peter Kyle, Chris Leslie, Jess Phillips, Andy Slaughter, and Wes Streeting. It was a pointless gesture, as it defied the leadership (the whip was to abstain), and stood no chance of getting through.
What’s the betting that these MPs will be the ones the media chooses to invite onto our screens to discuss Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party over the coming weeks and months?