I daresay Laura Kuenssberg is beginning to regret that fateful day all those years ago, when she, fresh-faced and eager, turned up to talk career choices at school with a member of staff, and, having considered all options available to her, decided that what she really wanted in life was to become the devious, politically biased Wicked Witch of Westminster. No doubt her careers adviser thought it odd, too, but young Laura was adamant. Political point-scoring was her passion, and, damn it, she would not rest until the world knew just how partisan and devilish she was.
Fast forward to the arrival of little Jeremy Corbyn, and Kuenssberg, now a high-flying pariah, saw her moment to cement her place as the greatest purveyor of misinformation since Judas Iscariot told the chaps he was just popping outside for a fag. For months, she has kept up a vicious campaign of vitriol against the poor, embattled Corbyn; whenever she’s not asking him probing questions, she sends legions of flying monkeys to harry him and disembowel his brainless, heartless and cowardly friends.
“I’ll get you, my pretty!” she screeches from atop her broom, “and your little Seumas Milne, too!”
It’s little wonder, then, that the Munchkins of Momentum Land don’t like wicked old Laura very much. Who could ever like such a mendacious creature? The poor munchkins have tried everything. They complain, they wail, they launch petitions to get her removed. Nothing seems to work. All they can do is hope and pray that Corbyn takes power in the Emerald City, and propels a righteous bucket of water at her. Or that maybe she’ll be squashed by a falling house price.
Except, of course, Laura Kuenssberg isn’t a wicked old witch. She doesn’t fly a broom, she isn’t devilish, and, my solicitor wishes me to make clear, has never, to the best of my knowledge, incited anyone to disembowel anyone else, doesn’t own a troupe of winged apes, and has probably never called Jeremy Corbyn “my pretty”.
What is she? She’s just a journalist working hard to do her job to the best of her abilities. Boring, I know, but that’s pretty much it. But to Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters she might as well be the Devil himself.
It really was rather unedifying to hear the reaction of Labour activists when Kuenssberg was called to ask a question at a speech by Jeremy Corbyn on the EU earlier today. Boos and hisses greeted her name; the Leader smirked, but to his credit, silenced them with a wave of his hand. This isn’t however, the childish opprobrium dished out to Michael Crick by Boris Johnson a few weeks ago at a Eurosceptic rally. This is really nasty stuff. The sort of nasty stuff that led to the petition against Kuenssberg on the platform 38 Degrees being suspended because of a litany of sexist abuse.
It wasn’t just Kuenssberg, either; Heather Stewart of the Guardian tweeted throughout the event, suggesting that she had “rarely been made to feel so uncomfortable while just doing [her] job”.
Two things stand out here: a deep-seated suspicion among his supporters that all journalists covering Jeremy Corbyn must be biased, and the impression that though all who speak out against him are fair game for abuse, women are fairer game than men. It isn’t limited to journalists; just take a look at the stuff Jess Phillips and Stella Creasy receive from people on the left. It’s also not even limited to those who speak out, as this event shows; in Kuenssberg’s case, she merely committed the crime of trying to be objective. Yet that has, in the eyes of many, marked her out as deserving of a deluge of profanity.
Now, personally, I am always, and shall always be, of the opinion that all free speech must be tolerated, no matter how disapprovingly it is looked upon, unless it incites violence. I am not suggesting for a second that journalists (or politicians) are delicate flowers, and must be protected from the realities of the world. That would plainly be ludicrous.
What I would suggest, however, is that if the supporters of Jeremy Corbyn feel that his chances of establishing the Democratic People’s Republic of Oz any time soon are being harmed because of negative coverage in the press, the last thing, the very last thing, they should be doing, is engaging in behaviour which becomes a story in itself. Like victimising hard-working journalists, or revealing hard-wired sexist attitudes. All that does is make Corbyn’s supporters look childish and brutish, and takes away from whatever message he has to offer. If his supporters think the electorate will forgive incompetence, bullying and sexism, Labour’s strategy for 2020 might as well be to tap their heels together, thinking of Number 10, and mutter, “There’s no place like home”.
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