It seems Jeremy Corbyn is competing with Islam for the media moniker of public enemy number one. Not since 7/7, when Islam was constantly conflated with terrorism (and still is), have I witnessed such naked hysteria and repugnance in the British media.
On Saturday, Caroline Lucas stepped in to kill a “manufactured media storm”, orchestrated to attack fellow progressive politician Corbyn. She lambasted the media for deflecting from “real news” stories, like climate change, the NHS and poverty.
The obvious way of describing the divisions in Labour is along ideological lines. Jeremy Corbyn represents the overwhelming majority of Labour supporters who gave him a landslide victory, and with it, a mandate to lead the party to the left, in line with its founding principles. There are those, more aligned to the Blair ideology on the right, who, despite being in the minority, are resisting change at all costs. Even if it means letting the Tories off the hook.
If the media was seeking to be impartial, it would refer to both factions in line with their ideological leanings - one being left-wing, the other right-wing.
But while the term “left winger”, “loony leftie”, “trots”, and “terrorist sympathisers” is regularly used to depict the Corbyn majority, the right-wingers (who support air strikes on Syria and austerity, which has spawned the rise of child poverty, food banks and poverty-related suicides) are described in the media as “moderates” and “modernisers”. Some media seem to think that, if they don’t refer to the right-wingers in the Labour party as being well, right-wing, then we might not notice the oxymoron.
The media would have us believe that Hilary Benn is a leader in waiting. I think not. If you find yourself unable to oppose your political opponent on the grounds that you have more in common with them than not, that’s a pretty good indicator that you’re in the wrong party. The government of the day needs to be held to account by a robust opposition (the clue is in the name). Without it, there is a democratic deficit.
Corbyn’s leadership style is inherently inclusive and is loathed by those who seek to maintain the fear and control of old school politics. Ironically, those Corbyn traits that are depicted in the media as “weakness” - listening to ordinary people, engaging with Labour’s grass roots, ignoring demands to ingratiate himself with the press - are the very traits that have inspired and engaged a hitherto disaffected public, young and old.
But the party faithful who gave Corbyn his mandate will not tolerate him floundering over his handling of the saboteurs in his midst. They had their chance and in return for being given a seat at the top table of the shadow cabinet, they plotted to derail the progressive direction of Labour. The dignified response would be for them to go of their own accord - but if they don’t, they should be shown the door.
A degree of dissent and disagreement is healthy within any organisation. The challenging and questioning leads to better decisions and combats group-think. If the level of dissent however, is to such an extent that it becomes catatonically dysfunctional, preventing the organisation from being effective, decisive action is called for.
Taking on the Tories and their toxic austerity agenda requires every shred of Labour’s focus. Either respect the democratically elected leader and his left, progressive mandate, or join one of the many other options out there. Tory, Lib Dem, Ukip - take your pick.
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