Heard about Corbyn’s NHS 'Day of Action'? Of course not, because Labour has no mainstream media strategy

A strategy revolving around social media, new media outlets and the occasional sympathetic centre-left columnist isn’t enough 

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The Independent Online

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.

Jeremy Corbyn launched a huge campaign and no one noticed

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.

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.