As highlighted in our last blog, Tony Blair recently emerged from the dark side to warn Labour supporters against taking “a lurch to the left” in the leadership contest and to advise “people who say their heart is with Corbyn (to) get a transplant”.
He reflected the shock and horror of the party’s “New Labour” wing at the unexpected insurgency of Jeremy Corbyn, the anti-austerity outsider candidate. The Blairites of New Labour, disdainful as ever of everyone veering from the “centre ground” mire, have heaped a torrent of condescension and abuse on Corbyn supporters inside and outside the party. Corbynites apparently run the gamut from being “petulant children” in the midst of a temper tantrum to “morons” suffering from mass delusion and emotional spasms. They are scolded, told to end the Corbyn madness and get behind “anybody but Corbyn”.
A suspect “poll” – a new low?
And just when we thought the whole sorry mess couldn’t get any worse, the Tory-lites opted to plumb new depths with (it must be said) a pathetically transparent attempt to manipulate the findings of a poll on Labour’s election loss. The Guardian was quite happy to donate column inches to the “story”, which read like a poor piece of propaganda for the austerity-loving candidates, Burnham, Cooper and Kendall.
The first clue was in the awkwardly worded headline and the clunky accompanying sub-head: “Anti-austerity unpopular with voters… Independent review shows abiding concern over economic deficit, and may fuel doubt about policies of Labour leadership frontrunner Jeremy Corbyn” [our emphasis].
According to Labour MP John Cruddas, who commissioned the report, for Labour to “reconnect with the electorate” to win in 2020 “will mean accepting some difficult truths. The majority of voters in England and Wales supported the Tories’ austerity measures”. (Really?)
Campaign Company, the polling firm that conducted the research, confirmed the message and who it was for: “the unpalatable truth for the left is that the Tories did not win despite austerity, but because of it”. The difficulty we had was in understanding how Cruddas and Campaign Company had deduced these “truths” about the public’s view of austerity in a poll asking “groups inside the party” a question that didn’t even mention “austerity”.
Who could blame us for being suspicious when The Guardian went out of its way, with no prompting or cause, to assure us that Cruddas is “respected across the party” (though no “truths” like his support for austerity and the Blue Labour tendency of the party). Or when we checked out Campaign Company (which we’d never heard of) to find it is not a member of the British Polling Council and from its website looks like a marketing company driven only by what messages its clients wish to communicate.
Truth to tell, The Guardian seems to have been the main pusher of the poll. The Independent sought Corbyn’s view and grouped comments from dissenting voices on social media under the headline: “Jeremy Corbyn – Poll that claims voters are pro-austerity actually shows the opposite” and RT News reported on a number of economists who “rubbished the poll”, but the rest of the media didn’t really take it on.
Guardian readers take issue with bias
The Guardian is letting down its readers on the issue of the Labour leadershp. In fact the day before the offending poll article, the so-called “liberal” paper ran an analysis of the balance of its Jeremy Corbyn coverage. Apparently “a sense that The Guardian had been unfairly dismissive” about Corbyn’s candidacy had “generated powerful feelings among some readers”.
Chris Elliott, who conducted the analysis, conceded that “in the early days of Corbyn’s charge, the readers rightly got a sniff that on occasions we weren’t taking him seriously enough” but he said that has changed. Elliot couldn’t find any evidence “that the negative pieces outnumber the positive pieces by as much as ‘five to one’, although that view is strongly held by some”. He further asserted that “tallies of positive and negative pieces are a dangerous measure, as The Guardian should not be a fanzine for any side.”
But what’s really going on?
Meanwhile, the “children” have refused to heed the “mainstream Labour figures, who fear that Corbyn would veer even further to the left than Michael Foot”. If anything the abuse and patronizing finger wagging has galvanized Corbyn’s supporters to new heights of enthusiasm. Despite reiterating the tired old tropes that Corbyn is “causing alarm among established party figures” and asking “if he wins, can he hold his party together?”, Nicholas Watt in The Guardian’s Saturday interview hits the nail on the head when he suggested that Corbyn’s “unspun approach appears to be cutting through to new voters who are tired of the soundbites and perfect presentations of established figures”.
Corbyn tells him: “This is about hope. … It is opposition to economic orthodoxy that leads us into austerity and cuts. But it is also a thirst for something more communal, more participative.”
Now who can argue with that?