A reminder how BBC Newsnight reacted when they found out on-air that Jeremy Corbyn might become Labour leader

BBC Newsnight panel
Kerry-anne Mendoza

This week, the BBC cleared itself of any wrongdoing for presenting the leader of the opposition as a Russian stooge. But viewers remain unsatisfied with the show’s tone and approach to covering Jeremy Corbyn. And archive footage shows how presenters and guests reacted on-air to news that Corbyn might win the Labour leadership election in 2015. The contempt began there.

The reaction

Just before going to air on 21 July 2015, news broke about the election. It turned out that ‘joke’ candidate Jeremy Corbyn was a country mile ahead. Presenter Kirsty Wark, Newsnight political editor Allegra Stratton, and former Blair advisor John McTernan giggled over the news. When Stratton tells McTernan that it must be “scary” for Labour, McTernan responds by condemning “the moronic MPs who nominated Jeremy Corbyn to have a debate”. This refers to the MPs who gave Corbyn the minimum party nominations required to stand in the election. He continues:

They should be ashamed of themselves… They’re morons, right.

While the three continue to chuckle, Wark suggests maybe there are Labour activists and voters who like Corbyn. McTernan responds:

Political parties are full of suicidally-inclined activists.

The segment is a reminder of the contempt held in establishment circles for left-wing views and those who share them. Corbynism is the 21st-century version of democratic socialism; the ideology that brought us the NHS, universal education, workers’ rights, and the welfare state. It is a school of political thought that made a vast contribution to Britain and the world. Yet BBC Newsnight treats him like a candidate from the Monster Raving Loony Party.


Ever since, the BBC and other broadcasters have failed to temper this underlying contempt. Of course, the reaction from establishment media is that ‘Corbyn fans’ can’t handle any criticism. Nonsense. The job of any news organisation is to hold power to account and put every political leader’s plans for the country under scrutiny. But as repeated studies show, the media is acting as an attack dog rather than a watchdog when it comes to Corbyn.

Journalistic Representations of Jeremy Corbyn in the British Press, London School of Economics

It’s unhealthy to dismiss anyone to the left of Tony Blair as part of a supposed ‘Corbyn cult’, rather than accepting they hold legitimate and proven political views. It’s dangerous for democracy, which at its core is a battle of ideas. This means there might be more than one idea with some merit behind it.

Get Involved!

– Support the Stop Funding Hate campaign. Demand that advertisers withdraw funding from newspapers and websites which promote hate speech.

– Support the work of Hope Not Hate.

– Join The Canary, so we can keep holding the powerful to account.

– Read and support other independent media outlets:

Media DiversifiedNovara MediaCorporate WatchRed PepperNew InternationalistCommon SpaceMedia LensBella CaledoniaVox PoliticalEvolve PoliticsReal MediaReel NewsSTRIKE! magazineThe Bristol CableThe Meteor, The SkwawkboxSalford StarThe Ferret.

Featured image via YouTube screengrab

We need your help ...

The coronavirus pandemic is changing our world, fast. And we will do all we can to keep bringing you news and analysis throughout. But we are worried about maintaining enough income to pay our staff and minimal overheads.

Now, more than ever, we need a vibrant, independent media that holds the government to account and calls it out when it puts vested economic interests above human lives. We need a media that shows solidarity with the people most affected by the crisis – and one that can help to build a world based on collaboration and compassion.

We have been fighting against an establishment that is trying to shut us down. And like most independent media, we don’t have the deep pockets of investors to call on to bail us out.

Can you help by chipping in a few pounds each month?

The Canary Support us

Comments are closed