Saturday, June 3, 2017

What Corbyn’s debate victory tells us about bias in the British media

Jeremy Corbyn didn’t just survive Monday night’s Battle for Number 10, he thrived on the audience’s questions and on Jeremy Paxman’s futile attempt to get him to admit that he wished Labour’s manifesto was more like the Communist Manifesto. Corbyn’s performance brought him accolades from a very wide range of people, including Nigel Farage and Douglas Carswell on the Brexit right as well as some liberal commentators, like Jonathan Freedland and Alistair Campbell, who have done so much to de-legitimise Corbyn’s leadership. Should we be surprised by both the performance and the reaction?

The first thing to emphasise is that when Corbyn is given the opportunity to speak, he is able to resonate with millions of people because Labour’s manifesto policies around redistribution, investment in public services, and social justice are actually popular with voters. According to YouGov researchlate last year, 45% of those polled support an anti-austerity  platform as compared to 13% who favour continuing with the existing levels of cuts; 58% oppose any form of private sector involvement in the NHS while 51% are in favour of some degree of public ownership of the railways. Following the Manchester bombing, 46% of those polled agreed with the statement that the “UK’s military involvements abroad increase the risk of terror incidents in this country” as opposed to only 14% who believe that military intervention abroad decreases the risk of terrorism.

The problem is that the media all too often starts from a completely different place: that, as the BBC put it, “not taking a frontline part in foreign wars is also no protection against Islamist terror”, that nationalisation is a throwback to the 1970s and that Labour “has no hope of winning under Jeremy Corbyn”. If editors were truly in tune with the sentiments of their audiences, then they would have been far more open to interrogating the reasons for Corbyn’s success in two leadership elections instead of repeating a mantra about his lack of electability – a position that appears to be rebounding on them just a little. This disjuncture between the views of ordinary voters and media’s preferred agenda frames was clearly demonstrated by Jeremy Paxman’s line of questioning… read more:


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