The Guardian‘s Jonathan Freedland has taken aim at Jeremy Corbyn’s election campaign. And he has actually commended Labour for the support it’s drawn. For a publication that has, along with the rest of the media, rallied against the Labour leader since his arrival on the scene in 2015, that’s quite the shock.
But there’s a glaring omission in Freedland’s congratulatory piece. And it speaks volumes about how little the mainstream media has learnt from Corbyn’s rise:
— Media Lens (@medialens) May 31, 2017
In his article, Freedland argues that the received wisdom in Westminster is that “campaigns don’t matter”. And that, regardless of these campaigns, “the voters tend to do what they had planned to do in the first place”. But Corbyn is shaking that up, Freedland notes, with his “extraordinary fightback”.
Labour is winning on two counts, Freedland says. On “a party’s leader and its policies”, Labour is “doing well” and the Tories have “done badly”. And this is despite Corbyn starting from a very different position to Theresa May. Freedland writes:
Corbyn could not have started from a weaker base: his approval ratings were low verging on subterranean. But he has had a good campaign, vindicating those who said that once he had the benefit of equal time on the broadcast media, voters might come to see him in a new light.
But at no point in the article does Freedland acknowledge what role the media had in Corbyn’s “subterranean” approval ratings. The media industry played no small part in causing those low ratings. And The Guardian columnist also neglects to mention why the media’s role in influencing voters’ opinions has diminished since the campaign began.
It’s because regulators expect the media – particularly, the broadcast media – to uphold impartiality guidelines much more rigorously during election periods. Therefore, much of the industry hasn’t been able to attack Corbyn and his ideas as ferociously as it was doing previously.
The devil’s in the detail
That’s not to say we’ve seen balanced coverage since the campaigning began. But any ‘stitch-up’ of Corbyn in the broadcast media now has to be somewhat more covert. The Media Reform Coalition (MRC) recently detailed, for example, one subtle tactic that was used in the Sky News ‘Battle For Number 10‘ debate.
The MRC looked into the amount of airtime given to “party-aligned issues” in the debate. These are the issues that each party prefers to focus on. For the Conservative Party, the issues of Brexit, foreign policy and security are discussion priorities. For Labour, it’s nationalisation, public spending and social care, the MRC assessed.
So you would expect a debate to feature equal attention to the key topics for both parties. But the MRC found that’s patently not the case. In fact, Conservative Party preferences made up 54% of airtime on The Battle For Number 10. But the programme coordinators only gave Labour’s 31%. The MRC also found that Jeremy Paxman’s interview with May was “overwhelmingly predicated on far right perspectives”; meaning issues like tough anti-immigration measures were focal points.
The Guardian is by no means the only publication to unexpectedly praise Corbyn’s progress. The Spectator just gave a ringing endorsement of Corbyn’s decision to attend the imminent BBC debate. And others like The Evening Standard, edited by ex-Tory chancellor George Osborne, are not explicitly praising Corbyn. But they are condemning May for the faltering campaign she has run.
These are not, however, innocent passengers jumping from May’s possibly sinking ship. They helped to build the boat and tried to force us all aboard. And some of them are still trying to plug the holes on the vessel, in order to make it look more attractive.
Let’s not forget that, as these accolades start rolling in.
– Get out and vote on 8 June! And encourage others to do the same.
– Discuss the key policy issues with family members, colleagues and neighbours. And organise! Join (and participate in the activities of) a union, an activist group, and/or a political party.
– Read more Canary articles on the general election.
Featured image via Rwendland/Wikimedia
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