Sky News turned its Press Review show into what felt like a party political broadcast for the Conservatives on Saturday 8 October.
The Rupert Murdoch-owned TV channel facilitated an unbridled rant against Jeremy Corbyn from guest journalist Christina Patterson, which viewers have described as “inaccurate and grotesque”.
The former Independent columnist ignored the given topic of Brexit and used an incredibly loose link to the Labour Party to crowbar an attack on the party leader into the coverage:
Interestingly this move’s been tabled by Ed Miliband, the guy who wrecked the Labour Party by suggesting that there should be three quid votes for any old nutcase who wants to start a new cult, which is what has happened.
The factual basis behind this claim appears to be quite irrelevant to both Patterson and Sky News. To suggest the party has been transformed because members of the public can now vote in Labour leadership elections by paying three pounds doesn’t add up.
There were three types of people who could vote in the leadership election last month. Corbyn won a resounding majority in all categories:
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For full party members alone (the category where he performed worse), Corbyn received a higher mandate than Tony Blair did among both affiliated supporters and full members. In 1994, Blair was elected with 57% of the vote. So it seems more likely that the party has been transformed by the movement coalescing under Corbyn than as a result of “nutcases” who want to “start a new cult”.
Ironically, the three-pound voting mechanism was introduced as an attempt to undermine the left-wing vote, because the Labour elite perceived the general public to be more right-wing than the trade unions. It was a gambit to subvert the trade union vote, which ended up spectacularly backfiring as registered supporters overwhelmingly backed Corbyn in two leadership elections.
Corbyn won in all three categories. Are these Labour supporters all “nutcases”? The party does not provide a running commentary on its membership figures, but reports suggest they are nearing 600,000 after a huge surge under Corbyn’s leadership. Labour is now the biggest political party in Europe. Membership under Corbyn has easily surpassed Blair’s peak of 405,000. So it seems ludicrous, and quite insulting, to suggest that all these members are nutcases.
Especially considering Corbyn won among 17 out of 20 YouGov demographics:
— YouGov (@YouGov) September 24, 2016
Patterson kicks the rant up a notch
Later on during the Press Review, the subject turned to a Daily Mail piece by David Blunkett entitled “Yes, Labour IS now the nasty party” and Patterson had a field day.
After praising Theresa May for how she “very cleverly” flipped what has been said about the Conservative party onto Labour, the freelance journalist launched another tirade against Corbyn:
… said that Labour is now the nasty party – which it is, it’s just full of feuding and abuse and what’s happened so some Labour MPs, particularly women MPs and some Jewish MPs, has been absolutely appalling. Bricks through the window, thousands of abusive tweets, threats, rape threats, absolutely horrible. Labour has become the nasty party. And I have to say, that Jeremy Corbyn, who everyone said was a decent man, seems to be endorsing this nastiness.
Only then did the Sky News host halfheartedly question what Patterson was saying. This is despite the unfounded claims made by Patterson.
Repeat something enough and people will think it is true
In July, Blairite MP Angela Eagle claimed a brick had been thrown through her window by a Corbyn supporter, which was immediately peddled across the mainstream media. Later, video evidence showed that the brick was not thrown through her window, but through one in the communal space in her building, home to five other companies. And while she immediately blamed Corbyn supporters, there was no political messaging or other evidence to support this.
Like the brick, the attempt to smear Corbyn supporters as antisemitic has frequently been rebuked. Earlier in the year, a group of around a hundred Jewish Labour members wrote the following, contained within a letter to The Guardian:
We do not accept that antisemitism is ‘rife’ in the Labour party. Of the examples that have been repeated in the media, many have been reported inaccurately, some are trivial, and a very few may be genuine examples of antisemitism. The tiny number of cases of real antisemitism need to be dealt with, but we are proud that the Labour party historically has been in the forefront of the fight against all forms of racism. We, personally, have not experienced any antisemitic prejudice in our dealings with Labour party colleagues.
We believe these accusations are part of a wider campaign against the Labour leadership, and they have been timed particularly to do damage to the Labour party and its prospects in elections in the coming week. As Jews, we are appalled that a serious issue is being used in this cynical and manipulative way, diverting attention from much more widespread examples of Islamophobia and xenophobia in the Conservative and other parties.
Discrimination can be a problem anywhere where there are large numbers of people. It did not begin with the election of Corbyn. After the very minor intervention to Patterson’s tirade, the host immediately gave up and allowed her to continue:
He doesn’t stand up against it. He really doesn’t. And nor does John McDonnell, his extremely nasty henchman.
To which the host interjected:
Well they would say they condemn it at every turn.
Corbyn and McDonnell have condemned any form of abuse from the beginning. But Patterson stormed on:
They could stop it if they wanted to, and they don’t want to. It serves their purpose. There’s a lot of bullying going on in the Labour party. And unfortunately because all these three quid members have now given Jeremy Corbyn an increased mandate, Corbyn now has an iron grip over the Shadow Cabinet. So Diane Abbott, my MP, is now Shadow Home Secretary which I have to say is totally laughable. Labour is now a nasty joke, just not a very funny one, and won’t be in power for probably decades.
The host did not challenge this with the facts about Corbyn winning in all three categories, which The Canary provided earlier. Nor did she interject to ask Patterson why Corbyn promoting the UK’s first and most prominent black MP to Shadow Home Secretary is laughable.
Considering Rupert Murdoch’s News UK controls a third of our national newspapers – 70% of which are owned by just three companies – broadcasters’ reviews of newspapers have Conservative bias from the get-go.
But, while newspaper outlets only have to compete with the other corporations which have the capital to mass print, online news is a lot more competitive, because anyone can create it. Perhaps Sky and the BBC should branch out to include online news in their press review segments.
Newspaper reviews may already be built upon a Conservative-leaning foundation, but Patterson’s tirade really took the biscuit. There is no real evidence for any of her claims, yet the channel let her carry on regardless. In reality, it was Patterson’s rampant smear campaign that looked like a ‘nasty joke’.
You can watch the exchange here:
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