UK Media colluded to Deny, Labour and Jeremy Corbyn's Socialist Society

The media has always been accused of bias, but the last four years have taken it to an unprecedented level. As numerous academic reports demonstrate, our media is no longer fit for purpose and the current government has taken full advantage.

Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn speaks to supporters in Glasgow, as part of his general election campaign, Britain, December 11, 2019. REUTERS/Russell Cheyne
Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn speaks to supporters in Glasgow, as part of his general election campaign, Britain, December 11, 2019. REUTERS/Russell Cheyne
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LONDON (Labour Buzz) - Looking back to 2017 it was a slightly different story. Labour still had to counter bias and misinformation as in almost every election campaign since the war, but it wasn’t universal. Theresa May struggled to ignite the passions of the Conservative press and her slogan ‘strong and stable’ quickly became a laughingstock thanks to the debacle of the bedroom and dementia tax. 

In most ways the overall landscape is similar. Employment has risen, but so has poverty, even for people in work. In some parts of the country even people with full time jobs are struggling to afford to rent let alone buy. 

In other words, after the most sluggish of recoveries post 2008, work has finally returned but it is not the kind of work which puts food on the table. British people are struggling to make ends meet, they are stressed, anxious and understandably angry. They’ve played by the rules; they’ve done everything asked of them, but it’s still not enough. 

What’s different are the personnel. While the Tory press seemed to relish in May’s downfall, they’ve their man and message in the shape of Boris Johnson. This time there were no ifs or buts. The entire media, from the Daily Mail to the BBC were firmly in the Tories’ corner. Unsubstantiated claims were tweeted unchecked by respectable journalists, lies when unchallenged and the Corbyn hate dialled up to 11. 

Crisis at the BBC 

The BBC had a nightmarish election. Today it finds itself besieged on all sides with even its very future in jeopardy, but it’s hard to feel any sympathy. This once great institution stumbled from aberration to aberration. 

Here are just some of their catastrophes against Labour: 

  • Editing out laughter from Johnson’s answers on Question Time. 
  • Swapping unflattering footage of him looking hungover and laying a wreath upside on Remembrance Day, with something slightly better from a previous year. 
  • Retweeting claims from Number 10 sources unchecked, including one which falsely accused a campaigner of punching an aide. 
  • Allowing Johnson, a friendly interview with Andrew Marr, despite his continual refusal to face Andrew Neil, even after Jeremy Corbyn had done so.
  • Emily Maitlis retweeting claims about a Corbyn Cult.
  • Laura Kuensberg possibly breaching electoral law.

Out going Director General Tony Hall describes claims of bias as conspiracy theories, but younger staff are said to have been shocked by the behaviour of their more senior colleagues. 

In more general terms, they allowed coverage to veer towards Boris Johnson’s chosen ground of Brexit rather than health or the environment which were much stronger for Labour. They failed to hold the government to account, allowed lies to go unchecked and abandoned the BBC’s proud tradition of impartiality. 

In a study for the Reform Media Coalition, Justin Schlosberg, found remarkable imbalances in the way the BBC reported on Labour versus the Tories. 

Despite all this evidence, the response from the BBC was complacent and arrogant. It’s an attitude even more disappointing given the government’s apparent plans towards the Corporation. Rather than face the consequences of what he’s ushered in, Tony Hall has turned tail, leaving his staff to face what he admits will be tough times. It has indeed been a shameful episode for a once great organisation and it’s one which, if Dominic Cummins, Johnson and Murdoch get their way, will spell the end of the broadcaster as we know it.  

Unintentional bias 

To call the BBC’s behaviour an intentional conspiracy goes a little too far. Instead it was the result of subconscious bias translating itself into coverage. The BBC’s problem is that its journalists all too often come from similar privileged backgrounds which leads to a dangerous ‘group think’ and unbalanced coverage. 

It meant Labour was scrutinised more heavily than Conservatives. Claims of antisemitism in the Labour party dominated coverage while rampant Islamophobia within the Tory party was met with a shrug of the shoulders. 

The media highlighted negative statements from the IFS about Labour’s manifesto while ignoring more positive reports from academics and economists. They also gave relatively little importance to the IFS’ scathing assessment of the Tory manifesto. 

Knocking through the wall 

That the media was biased during the 2019 election is clear, but what might be a little surprising is that it had such a dramatic impact. In 2017 Des Freeman, Professor of Media and Communication Studies at Goldsmiths University in London wrote that media bias had hit a wall. 

In other words, Theresa May had the usual backing of the Tory press, but it didn’t do her any good. Labour and Corbyn managed to break through the barriers created by mainstream media and got their message to the people. 

Part of the reason is that media attacks were more universal and vicious than in 2017. Even left-wing outlets such as the Guardian joined in the fray. Loughborough’s comprehensive study showed that negativity towards Labour was almost universal except for the Mirror. 

Even leading broadcasters such as Robert Peston and Laura Kuensberg abandoned their democratic duty to fact check statements from Number 10. 

The result is Boris Johnson can now lie with impunity, whether it’s making claims about new hospitals, new homes or poverty levels, the media just smile and wave every falsehood through. 

Labour, of course, didn’t help themselves. In 2017, Labour managed to pull off a difficult balancing act over Brexit which just about pacified both Brexiters and Leavers. This time they couldn’t and haemorrhaged votes to all sides. 

Their manifesto was muddled and overloaded with arguably too many good policies, whereas 2017 had a clear and compelling message to the electorate. In 2017 they heard daily news about how Labour would make life just a little easier. This time, they heard, seemingly fantastical offers of free broadband they didn’t particularly need that would “bankrupt” the country. 

The energy and sense of insurgency of 2017 was gone. Even though polls initially narrowed at the same rate as they had two years ago, there was none of the excitement about the campaign. Labour failed to energise its base and turnout, as a result, was down.   

The Labour leadership deserves plenty of blame for what happened. However, to ignore the influence of media bias is dangerously naïve at best. Democracy is under attack from a government which is so hostile to the fundamentals of the UK’s constitution that they want to rewrite it. In such a situation, democracy is crying out for a champion to protect it from attack. That’s the role the media is supposed to play, but it’s one they couldn’t be less interested in if they tried. 


(Written by Tom Cropper, edited by Michael O'Sullivan)

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