Corbyn has proved a fearless foe to a hostile right-wing press that’s determined to misrepresent him, writes RABBIL SIKDAR
JEREMY CORBYN was never supposed to be in the contest. He rose out of the shadows to offer an alternative but it seemed it would be dismissed, the last nail in the coffin for the political left. He wasn’t supposed to win the contest. The idea was too incredible for the neoliberal establishment. But now Corbyn stands on the edge of victory.
He is cut from a different cloth than politicians: humble, honest, grounded and hugely principled. Politics is a battleground of ideas but one aspect of Corbyn that has pulled people towards him like a magnet is his personality, different from the polished Oxbridge-educated crop the public have been subjected to in recent years.
Victory, now surely an inevitable conclusion unless Yvette Cooper injects enough fear into people to prise them away, has also been achieved from tapping into people’s resentment, anger and despair by turning it into hope and optimism. Corbyn has spoken of a fairer and more equal society and he has laid down a detailed plan for it: a national education service, abolition of tuition fees, a statutory living wage, higher taxes on the wealthy, reversal of welfare cuts and investment in renewable energies. The others haven’t been able to move past their criticisms of Corbyn and warnings about how Labour needs to become electable again.
But there is an enemy lying in wait that has already poked a few times at Corbyn with just teasers of its potential viciousness. Five years of it are beckoning for Corbyn’s movement: the monopoly media. For years its anti-immigration, anti-welfare and anti-Muslim rhetoric has fed into the politics that divide and conquer society — immigrants, benefit claimants and Muslims have been demonised beyond imagination.
It comes at a time when we lose around £30 billion a year to tax avoidance, £93bn to corporate welfare, £11bn pumped into tax credits to bail out supermarket bosses depriving workers of a living wage and £3bn spent rescuing a failing private railway industry.
Yet the cold bare figures do not lead to anger even if they should. Relentless stories about immigrants and welfare claimants do lead to anger because these are stories preying on ordinary and voiceless people around us. It’s harder to stoke up anger against the super-rich coalition of corporate executives, shareholders and bankers when they are holed up in skyscraper buildings and never seen.
The media has shifted political opinion hugely to the right. It battered Ed Miliband for years, presenting him as a geek disconnected from society and not to be trusted with people’s finances. The myths of deficit, welfare and immigration left Labour badly bruised, to the point where they accepted the narratives rather than challenging them.
Corbyn will challenge them and therefore he will meet the media head on, fighting fire with fire. A principled socialist who’s spent his life fighting against inequality, apartheid, racism and wars does not suddenly retreat from a zealously right-wing media. This is why the media fears and loathes him. It has seen the magnetic pull he has. Hundreds turn up to Burnham rallies but thousands come to see Corbyn. No-one has inspired people like he has in recent times. Entire halls are packed out, with people erupting into spontaneous standing ovations when they see him. This is the man who can rejuvenate Scotland with hope in Labour again, the man polled as most electable by Ukip voters and the man who has had Green voters streaming in their numbers towards the party they once regarded as being part of the fabric of the neoliberal elite.
Whereas Miliband fought with depleted support, stripped of backing in Scotland and deeply wounded by the performance of the Greens and Ukip, Corbyn will suffer little of that. If there is anyone who can win back Middle England, it is Corbyn. His movement and message of an inspiring and inclusive vision is contagious. Middle-class families have suffered enormously during austerity and no-one wants to be saddled with student debt or have to pay ridiculous rail fares. Corbyn offers an alternative.
This is something the media is sensing. Already we have seen accusations of anti-semitism levelled at Corbyn for appearing on platforms with bigots at some Palestine liberation meetings. They will berate him for supposedly pandering to Muslim fundamentalists, for jeopardising relations with the US and for endangering the country by scrapping Trident. Corbyn is entrusted (or burdened) with changing the extremely complex narratives surrounding Muslims, immigrants, welfare and refugees. On almost each of these issues, Britain has become angrily individualistic, refusing to extend a hand of compassion and care to some of the most vulnerable in our society and in the world. If Corbyn becomes leader, the media will spend five years hunting him with quotes it can twist out of context regarding these situations.
Corbyn faces a huge battle to overturn the collective psychology of a country scarred by an overflow of bile provided by the likes of the Daily Mail and Express. Can he change opinions on immigrants, refugees and Muslims? Can he unite middle-income and low-income families? Can he bring solidarity to a splintered society and remind them that the true enemies are the banks and corporations, carving billions of profit at the expense of social needs?
If anyone can, Corbyn can. He will have the backing of millions. Unlike Miliband, there is more spine and grit in him too. It was galling to see Ed Miliband, the son of immigrants, go pandering to the Ukip crowd by half-heartedly offering tough anti-immigration proposals. He never won them over. Corbyn is winning the Ukip crowd over but he’s doing it by sticking to Labour principles — the very thing many Ukip voters never saw in New Labour.
The media has been at the heart of the neoliberal agenda. Low taxes, welfare cuts and mass privatisation have all been disastrous but the effects have been hidden from society. Instead it has been pitting the working class against the middle class, the working poor against the unemployed, public-sector workers against private-sector workers, the young against the old, the indigenous poor against the immigrant poor, Muslims against non-Muslims and Britain against refugees of the world.
It’s the politics of divide and rule and something Malcolm X warned about when he said: “If you’re not careful the media will have you hating the people who are being oppressed and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.”