Corbyn’s media outriders need to go away

They deflected allegations of anti-Semitism and sneered at working-class voters. Labour’s defeat is, in part, theirs.

Ieuan Joy

Topics Brexit Politics UK

Hindsight is a beautiful thing. Following Labour’s disastrous result in the General Election, a great many of Jeremy Corbyn’s media outriders have been giving their detailed analysis of why Labour lost, only days after telling the public Labour was wonderful.

Now, when I talk about Corbyn’s outriders, you probably already know who I mean – people like Novara Media’s Ash Sarkar and the Guardian’s Owen Jones. They behave more like activists than commentators, always acting in Corbyn’s interests. A WhatsApp group was even created between some of these outriders and Labour staffers to coordinate messaging and attack lines during the election.

But even after selling themselves out to the Labour leadership, and being partly responsible for that leadership’s historic defeat at the ballot box, these commentators now want to lecture others on what the future direction of the Labour Party should be. Those hoping for a Labour government one day would do well to ignore them.

The moral authority of these people has disappeared these past few years. Just look back on how Owen Jones responded to the issue of Labour anti-Semitism. After Jeremy Corbyn was revealed to have defended an anti-Semitic mural, Jones called for an ‘all-out war’ on anti-Semitism. But this often felt like throat-clearing. Corbyn was later accused of taking part in a wreath-laying ceremony at the graves of the Black September terrorists who kidnapped, tortured and killed Israeli athletes in 1972. What was Jones’ response to the Jewish community’s outrage over this? He said ‘no one has [been] killed by a wreath’.

Jones talks the talk and has written articles condemning left-wing anti-Semitism, but he always held back from saying anything that could truly damage the Corbyn leadership. This is moral cowardice. And that he has since chastised Labour for its ‘absence of emotional intelligence’ over anti-Semitism takes some nerve. He has no right to lecture anyone on anti-racism. He has routinely defended a leadership that helped Labour become the only party other than the BNP to be investigated for racism by the Equality and Human Rights Commission. This should not be forgotten.

It has been clear for some time that Labour was alienating working-class voters. Looking back on the more memorable interventions of these outriders, you start to see why. Take Aaron Bastani, founder of Novara Media and a prominent Corbyn cheerleader: he once described the poppy appeal – a campaign embraced by working-class communities every year – as ‘white supremacist’.

Such contempt for ordinary people was most keenly expressed in relation to Brexit. After Labour’s battering in the European elections earlier this year, Corbynista Remainer Paul Mason said Labour should stop pandering to the ‘ex-miner sitting in the pub calling migrants cockroaches’ (a horrendous caricature of Labour Leave voters) and instead focus on winning over progressives and centrists.

That this was not a winning strategy was obvious. But these outriders don’t care about winning the working-class vote, they only care about their inner-city cliques. For them, the measure of success is shares and likes and retweets from the party faithful, rather than winning seats.

Maybe it is not all bad for Labour, though. Because during the election campaign Ash Sakar came up with a brilliant long-term solution to Labour losing working-class support: just redefine what it means to be working class! In a piece for the Guardian, she argued that it was a myth that Labour had lost touch with working-class people because it is supported by young people and low-paid white-collar graduates. The idea here is that woke young graduates in the inner cities are the new working-class bedrock of the Labour Party and that the voters Labour went on to lose in towns like Dudley and Wrexham are expendable.

This is the sort of ridiculous thinking that contributed to the collapse of the ‘red wall’. These outriders made excuses for the racism and snobbery coming from Labour and organised Twitter pile-ons against anyone who stood up to them. They need to take some responsibility for this defeat.

The next Labour leader must reach out to working-class communities outside of the city centres if he or she ever wants to win power. Labour cannot do that if its media strategy continues to be surrounding itself with out-of-touch media personalities who only ever talk to the already converted.

A conversation must be had about why Labour lost not only the election, but also its soul these past few years. That is a conversation these outriders should play no part in.

Ieuan Joy is a student journalist based in Sheffield. Follow him on Twitter: @JoyIeuan.

Picture by: Getty.

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1st January 2020 at 4:40 am

Good Heavens! While reading through this, I was struck by the similarities to the last election here in Australia. Glued on Labor groupies from the ABC, our National Broadcaster, predicted a Labor win, but did not count on the ordinary people out there, people who these elites who are on $300,000 per year never associate with. Yep, that’s right, $300,000 plus for an hour on air per week. And you are right Ieuan, these Media types then attack the voters after the election for not having the good sense to vote Labor.
And I’ve had a gutfull of the ‘New Age Reporters’ who seem to think their job is to try to form public opinion, not simply report what is actually happening.
Bill Shorten, (the Labor opposition Leader who lost the election here) got a free ride from the Media pre-election, up until a pesky reporter had the temerity to ask him how much Labors Climate Change Policies would cost. The Reporter asked several times until Bill said that it doesn’t matter what it costs, it’s what the cost will be if something isn’t done. He wouldn’t put a figure on it, but estimates were upward of $300 Billion. That pesky Reporter was just about the only one who questioned Shorten on CC. So by not answering the question, trust was lost in the Labor Leader. There were other policies as well, tax the rich etc., standard Labor stuff as usual, little realising that some workers are now making good money and putting themselves into the higher income brackets. But Shorten didn’t wake up to this, and was out raving on-“tax the rich”, without realising he was going to be ripping hard earned dollars off his mates. So the voters rebelled, with a kick up the backside to Labor.
We dodged a bullet here, and you dodged one there in your election. Corbyn seems to have no political sense at all, and I doubt whether he even has any common sense, having read about what he gets up to.
It all comes down to trust, and while Politicians will be Politicians, we have to vote for the one who we mistrust the least.

S P Johnson

31st December 2019 at 9:41 pm

I watched the BBC Panorama programme investigating Labour’s anti- Semitism and there seemed to be many problems that needed to be sorted out, particularly in Liverpool. I agree that Corbyn has been very remiss in dealing with the problems and I abhor his obvious and unfair Muslim bias. However, I think the anti-Semitism debate has been overplayed by Labour’s opponents and I have to say I think that some of the Jewish community’s outrage has more to do with their concerns about Corbyn’s Socialist message, than his possible anti-Semitism. Writers and broadcasters like certain Jewish Tory supporters who appeared regularly on the BREXIT biased Jeremy Vine TV show, were more concerned about their future tax bills under a Socialist government than anti-Semitism in the Labour party. Jewish middle class voters are no more friends to the poor than any other kind of middle class voter. They should be honest about it instead of falling back on the race card.

Noel Mac

26th December 2019 at 11:25 am

Why any right of centre would comment on Twitter I have no idea . The platform is for left wingers only. It’s ran by left wing cretins who’s subversive tactics are hidden in plain sight. Keep away from it.

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25th December 2019 at 3:40 pm

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Neil McCaughan

24th December 2019 at 3:46 pm

The astonishing and heartening success of #OwenJonesIsAWanker day on Twitter (the hashtag reached number 1 in the UK trending list and number 5 worldwide) suggests that Miss Sharkar and Mr Mason should receive similar attention.

We will laugh these cretins from the public arena.

Danny Rees

23rd December 2019 at 9:21 pm

Like smearing working class people as drunk feckless and criminal?

Ven Oods

24th December 2019 at 7:49 am

He’s obviously changed his mind, Danny. In the same article, he railed against single mothers, yet he seems to have created a few in the interim.

In Negative

23rd December 2019 at 8:58 pm

In Summary:
If Labour are gonna rebuild, it will need to be from the grass-roots. Labour need to involve themselves with real working class communities and work to understand and defend their interests.

In the aftermath of the election, Ash Sarkar is the only person I’ve heard saying anything like that with any meaningful force.

I don’t see a point to a Labour party if its force of change doesn’t rise from the people it’s supposed to serve.

Danny Rees

23rd December 2019 at 9:20 pm

Real working class communities…


In Negative

23rd December 2019 at 10:42 pm

The traditional working class is mostly white. Labour was set up to represent the white working class. That’s just its historical origin.

That doesn’t mean it should represent only the traditional working class. It shouldn’t. It should seek solidarity between working class communities, but the implication that it should just jettison its traditional base is suicidal – and honestly, if it goes that way, it deserves to die.

Right now, a whole set of wankers on the left and the right are exploiting this divide in the left. I’m not even sure what the game of guys like Paul Mason is. Do you believe for one minute that he wanted to dump the white working class because he likes the minority classes better? That he wanted to speak for them cos they weren’t getting a voice? That’s crap – he went that route mostly because he’s a remainer. It better served his own political preferences which, as it happens, looks very white middle-class. It sure as hell wasn’t black working class.

In Negative

23rd December 2019 at 10:50 pm

I replied but, awaiting moderation.

For “Real working class” read “Traditional working class,” so yeah, white. You’ll find the Labour parties origins are in the politics of the white working class. If you’re fed up of that history and fancy setting up with a new base, good luck with that, but that will almost certainly be the end of the LP.

In Negative

23rd December 2019 at 10:53 pm

Actually, I should have re-read myself before posting that. I didn’t mean white working class in that instance. I meant literally what I said: “real working class communities”. I wasn’t even talking about traditional working class there – I meant all of them.

Real working class communities here meant communities of working class people irrespective of ethnicity.

In Negative

23rd December 2019 at 8:34 pm

I’m kinda puzzled by this article. I’m wondering which part of Labour Ieuan Joy thinks represents the traditional working class? Let’s say we get rid of Novarro and Owen, who then? Kinnock? Thornberry? Benn? Starmer? Barry Gardner? Lisa Nandy? Who?

For sure, Labour have problems. The class Ash identifies in that Guardian article is real. Let’s call them the “graduate working class” (though they needn’t have graduated from anywhere). They are represented by dudes like Jarvis Cocker of Pulp or Nicky Wire of the Manic Street Preachers – intellectually aspirational rather than economically aspirational working class.

The values of this intellectual or graduate working class overlap with those of the intellectual middle-class. There is also something of the prosumer (producer-consumer) to the politics of this class. Their politics is made of media and screens: identity entrepreneurs.

And yet, these people are no less working class. Nor are they any less likely to be trying to hopelessly sell their Labour in markets that won’t meet any of their creative aspirations

What needs to happen for Labour is that they need to get better at recognising both these classes – that graduate class and the traditional working class. They need to work out how they can speak for both classes, which means admitting the existance and value of both.

And in all honesty, some of Ash’s responses since the election result seem to have been making this case. Some of the stuff she’s been saying about organising supportively in local communities looks, from this distance at least, really positive to me. I’d like to see where that went.

The above article seems to me to be suggesting LP just jettison the politics of this class. Ok, but again, who then will lead this magical new party with hardly any trad W/C in it? I don’t see any obvious traditional working class representation in the LP.. Getting rid of Novarro et al., just leaves you with Thornberry and Jessica Philips. Or is Len McLusky gonna take over?

In Negative

23rd December 2019 at 8:41 pm

Ven Oods

24th December 2019 at 7:55 am

“They are represented by dudes like Jarvis Cocker of Pulp or Nicky Wire of the Manic Street Preachers – intellectually aspirational rather than economically aspirational working class.”
Well, given that both are fairly minted compared to the ‘working class’, perhaps economically working class, too? And thus not too representative? Not that I’d dispute both of those gents having their hearts in the right place.

In Negative

24th December 2019 at 3:03 pm

“Well, given that both are fairly minted compared to the ‘working class’, perhaps economically working class, too?”

I’m speaking about them before they were minted. Wire was a uni graduate working class lad whereas Cocker was an arts school grad. They both represent an intellectually aspirant working class whose intellectual aspirations made them some money. In most cases, this class don’t make any money. They work in admin and slosh around at the bottom of the economy whilst trying to make their dreams live.

A quote by Richey Edwards (Manics) during the process of making himself famous and before his disappearance/suicide: “Our sense of romance comes from being secure in the knowledge we lost everything a long time ago”.

That was the effect of his class on his imagination – the useless generation.

And here’s another by Pulp, speaking about what it’s like growing up as part of the ‘artistic working class’:
It contains exactly the kind of prejudice that the Right are capitalising on right now. The artistic working class colluding with the values of the middle class in a war on their own people.

On the manics and Jarvis’ good intentions – I’ll give you the manics. They’ve remained, as far as I can tell, a proper decent set of lads. Not so sure about Cocker. That guy wanted to be a middle-class cartoon and has pretty much achieved it.

Ven Oods

24th December 2019 at 8:00 am

“What needs to happen for Labour is that they need to get better at recognising both these classes – that graduate class and the traditional working class.”
I doubt that Labour don’t ‘recognise’ both groups. Their problem is that the younger lot tend to be Left-leaning while making their way in lir3, while the other lot have grown gradually more small ‘c’ conservative as they aged. How to have policies that can appeal to both is Labour’s problem.

Jim Lawrie

23rd December 2019 at 7:55 pm

Despite what you are trying to imply, Mr Joy, working class voters don’t care about allegations of racism or anti-Semitism against Labour. If these allegations did not exist, it would not have affected their voting intentions one iota. It is Labour’s racism against the white working class that lost them the white working class vote. The next development in British politics will be party that represents them and theirs.

Danny Rees

23rd December 2019 at 9:22 pm

Which racism against the white working class?

Name a policy which was racist against white working class people.

steve moxon

27th December 2019 at 8:12 am

The Left has been anti’-white’ racist since it morphed into ‘identity politics’.
The Left is also anti-male sexist.
And anti-heterosexual: ‘heterophobic’.

steve moxon

27th December 2019 at 8:16 am

In a nutshell.
Folk have woken up to Leftard wokery pokery.
Liebore is dead, soon to be buried under a ton of quicklime and with a stake driven through its hate-mongering heart.
Rarely has a demise been so deserved.

Jim Lawrie

23rd December 2019 at 7:06 pm

Why do all of Spiked’s writers rely on on leaked lines from an enquiry as if they were established fact?

James Knight

23rd December 2019 at 4:26 pm

It was joy to see labour’s campaigners – moral jihadist – get their comeuppance in the election. There has not been a downfall as sweet as that since Jonathan Aitken or Jimmy Swaggart.

The Sun was right to gloat, throwing Corbyn’s menacing quote back in his face: Change Is Coming. It sure is.

In Negative

23rd December 2019 at 8:40 pm

Aye, but I’d take the values of Corbyn over those of the Sun any day. I mean, seriously, the Sun? How have we even got to a state where you can say something nice about the Sun? The Sun is pretty much a shape-shifting venomous lizard.

Ven Oods

24th December 2019 at 8:05 am

“Aye, but I’d take the values of Corbyn over those of the Sun any day.”
ALL of his values? And that’s Corbyn’s problem; he’s been seen as a principled (if misguided) pro-struggle politician for decades. When he changes (as on the EU), people wonder if it’s genuine. By contrast, I think BoJo is seen as a reed in the wind, so nobody’s surprised when he veers.

steve moxon

27th December 2019 at 8:22 am

Oh come on: you mean Sun READERS.
Folk round where I live (Penistone & Stocksbridge) well know you lot think we’re all “shape -shifting venomous lizards” — that is, that you ‘project’ your own pathological rabid hate-mongering on to us. That’s why we all voted Tawdrie and will now do so any and every time to make sure Liebore gets it in the nick. Liebore will never form a government ever again.

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