Prior to the Labour Party’s ‘Care for the NHS’ campaign, I felt incredibly optimistic about how we could engage and captivate the general public on what is a highly salient issue, and over the course of the day itself, I was inundated with encouraging updates and accounts from activists and MPs.
More and more people are not only becoming increasingly defensive of the NHS, but scared of what it might succumb to under the current Conservative government. We are suffering from longer waiting times with A&Es at breaking point and hospitals devastatingly understaffed. Moreover, the Junior Doctors’ strike action received an unusually positive response from the British public and it is evident that the pressures on mental health services across the country is resulting in one of the biggest public health crises in a generation.
It was wholly right for Jeremy Corbyn and Labour to propose this day of action and stand up for what the Labour government of 1945 created. Going into communities across Britain in the extensive way that Labour did to campaign on this issue was a wise political move and a fantastic cause to rally behind, and encapsulates many of the positives of Corbyn’s tenure. Days of action sprouting up all over the country will have undoubtedly got their message across to people nationwide.
However, this action was barely covered by the mainstream media. In fact, it was reported that The Guardian, The Huffington Post and The Morning Star were the only outlets to actually cover the launch event. Admittedly, in the ever chaotic world that is 2016, something was bound to supersede its importance and newsworthiness on the day. But even taking this into consideration, the amount of airtime it got in the national press was pitiful. As someone fully supportive of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, I believe it essential to critically analyse why this was.
The first issue here is a potential media bias. In this case, the proof is in the pudding. All one has to do is look at the comprehensive and detailed study illustrating that a systemic media bias exists and purposely targets Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour to realise that this deafening silence is no surprise. For much of the press, Labour going into communities to passionately defend a national institution that is coming under ever increasing threat by private interests is something that should be downplayed as much as possible.
Sadly, it would be disingenuous of me to say that this paints the whole picture. As much as it pains me to say, the Labour Party’s political communication strategy, especially within the mainstream media, is verging on non-existent. A strategy revolving around social media, a reliance on new media outlets or occasionally sympathetic centre-left columns can sometimes be enough. On a day as important as the NHS day of action was billed up to be – it’s not.
The most ridiculous claims made about Jeremy Corbyn
The most ridiculous claims made about Jeremy Corbyn
1/11 He called Hezbollah and Hamas ‘friends’
True. In a speech made to the Stop the War Coalition in 2009, Mr Corbyn called representatives from both groups “friends” after inviting them to Parliament. He later told Channel 4 he wanted both groups, who have factions designated as international terror organisations, to be “part of the debate” for the Middle East peace process. “I use (the word ‘friends’) in a collective way, saying our friends are prepared to talk,” he added. “Does it mean I agree with Hamas and what it does? No. Does it mean I agree with Hezbollah and what they do? No.”
2/11 ‘Jeremy Corbyn thinks the death of Osama bin Laden was a tragedy’
Partly false. David Cameron used this as a line of attack at the Conservative Party conference but appears to have left out all context from Mr Corbyn’s original remarks. In an 2011 interview on Iranian television, the then-backbencher said the fact the al-Qaeda leader was not put on trial was the tragedy, continuing: “The World Trade Center was a tragedy, the attack on Afghanistan was a tragedy, the war in Iraq was a tragedy.”
3/11 He is ‘haunted’ by the legacy of his ‘evil’ great-great-grandfather
False. A Daily Express exposé revealed that the Labour leader’s ancestor, James Sargent, was the “despotic” master of a Victorian workhouse. Addressing the report at the Labour conference, Mr Corbyn said he had never heard of him before, adding: “I want to take this opportunity to apologise for not doing the decent thing and going back in time and having a chat with him about his appalling behaviour.”
4/11 Jeremy Corbyn raised a motion about ‘pigeon bombs’ in Parliament
This one is true. On 21 May 2004, Mr Corbyn raised an early day motion entitled “pigeon bombs”, proposing that the House register being “appalled but barely surprised” that MI5 reportedly proposed to load pigeons with explosives as a weapon. The motion continued: “The House… believes that humans represent the most obscene, perverted, cruel, uncivilised and lethal species ever to inhabit the planet and looks forward to the day when the inevitable asteroid slams into the earth and wipes them out thus giving nature the opportunity to start again.” It was not carried.
5/11 He rides a Communist bicycle
False. A report in The Times referred to Mr Corbyn, known for his cycling, riding a “Chairman Mao-style bicycle” earlier this year. “Less thorough journalists might have referred to it as just a bicycle, but no, so we have to conclude that whenever we see somebody on a bicycle from now on, there goes another supporter of Chairman Mao,” he later joked.
6/11 'Jeremy Corbyn will appoint a special minister for Jews'
False so far. The Sun report in December was allegedly based on a “rumour” passed to the paper by a Daily Express columnist who has written pieces critical of the Labour leader in the past. The minister did not materialise in his shadow cabinet.
7/11 ‘Jeremy Corbyn wishes Britain would abolish its Army’
False. Another gem from The Sun took comments made at a Hiroshima remembrance parade in August 2012 where Mr Corbyn supported Costa Rica’s move to abolish it armed forces. “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if every politician around the world…abolished the army and took pride in the fact that they don’t have an army,” he added. The caveat that “every politician” must take the step suggests Mr Corbyn does not support UK disarmament just yet.
8/11 Jeremy Corbyn stole sandwiches meant for veterans
False. The Guido Fawkes blog claimed that the Labour leader took sandwiches meant for veterans at at Battle of Britain memorial service in September but a photo later emerged showing him being handed one by Costa volunteers, who later confirmed they were given to all guests.
9/11 He missed the induction into the Queen’s privy council
True. After much speculation about Mr Corbyn’s republican views and willingness to bow to the monarch, his office confirmed that he did not attend the official induction to the privy council because of a prior engagement, but did not rule out joining the body.
10/11 Jeremy Corbyn refuses to sing the national anthem.
Partly true. The Labour leader was filmed standing in silence as God Save the Queen was sung at a Battle of Britain remembrance service but will reportedly sing it in future. Mr Corbyn was elusive on the issue in an interview, saying he would show memorials “respect in the proper way”, but sources said he would sing the anthem at future occasions.
11/11 He is a member of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Cheese
True. The group lists its purpose as the following: “To increase awareness of issues surrounding the dairy industry and focus on economic issues affecting the dairy industry and producers.”
For people who weren’t in a town centre and felt like having a chat (as a former face to face fundraiser I can attest they are few and far between at times) or on Twitter – the message was largely absent. Despite the surge in popularity of alternative media, the vast majority of the country still engages with the mainstream media. While their monopoly on news distribution remains disappointingly steady, Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party must play their game.
Corbyn’s populist message and the policy platform he advocates for the Labour Party can bring electoral success. Despite this, without reaching out to the wider populace via a streetwise and imposing media strategy that emphasises the necessity of days like Care for the NHS, the Labour Party will not be able to reap the indispensable rewards of these vital campaigning efforts.