‘Recent unexpected electoral votes show that citizens want to take back control from Westminster.’ [Image: Andy Rain/EPA.]

‘Recent unexpected electoral votes show that citizens want to take back control from Westminster.’ [Image: Andy Rain/EPA.]


It is easy to see why Jeremy Corbyn is wary of news media bias – he only has to look at the way high-profile supporter Billy Bragg was treated at the weekend.

The veteran musician and socialist was misreported as having abandoned Mr Corbyn after he voiced concerns that the Labour leader needs to understand the macropolitical forces that propelled him into his party’s leadership, in order to form the policies wanted by the people.

He makes good points but he’s only partly right. Jeremy Corbyn understands very well the events that led to his gaining the Labour leadership. It is clear that the old, ‘New Labour’ policies of “triangulation not principle; decisions guided by focus groups not members; policies pitched solely to marginal swing seats rather than to the country as a whole and the party’s core supporters taken for granted” are of no interest to him.

That’s why he must win the current leadership election, incidentally – Owen Smith would return to those election-losing strategies and hand the Tories yet another victory in 2020 while Labour’s membership dwindled.

Corbyn is popular now precisely because he holds to his principles; he is a “signpost”, as Tony Benn famously described great politicians, rather than a “weathercock” blowing in the wind like Owen Smith.

He is handing greater power to the membership – who he holds in high regard – and calculating policies for the good of the whole of the UK, rather than tiny pockets of marginal voters.

And the media misinterpret him at every opportunity – along with his supporters.

It’s as though they no longer believe in free speech.

I seem to have got myself into a bit of a pickle this week over comments I made at the Edinburgh international book festival on Sunday. The Times took my answer to a question about Brexit and made it sound like an attack on Jeremy Corbyn, laying my general criticisms of the Labour party squarely at his feet. I was portrayed as a “previously loyal supporter” of Corbyn who now felt that he was a 20th-century Labour man, unable to reach the parts of the electorate needed to build an effective political force.

Needless to say, I spent much of the day fire-fighting on social media, explaining that no, I had not given an interview to the Murdoch press and yes, I am still a supporter of Corbyn. Unfortunately my message failed to reach the editorial departments of the Mail, Express and Metro, who went ahead and ran the story without my corrections.

Brexit is just the latest in a series of unexpected electoral results that have happened since the 2008 financial crash.

Cameron… took it for granted that a referendum on our membership of the European Union would produce a pro-remain vote so resounding that it would silence his critics on the Tory backbenches. Instead, those voters who felt ignored by Westminster for years took the opportunity to voice their anger.

Voters are looking beyond the three-party centrist model that has dominated national politics for the past 70 years, making it difficult to produce policies that attract support across the UK.

Yet barely a week goes by without one of the Labour rebels demanding that the party “get back to winning ways”, as if years of disconnection can be simply resolved by pulling the old levers that worked so well in the 20th century: triangulation not principle; decisions guided by focus groups not members; policies pitched solely to marginal swing seats rather than to the country as a whole and the party’s core supporters taken for granted.

Outlining this argument in Edinburgh was what got me into trouble in the Times, when I wondered out loud whether Corbyn fully understood the forces that had swept him to power. A parliamentarian for 33 years, does he recognise that the institution itself needs reform before a new political consensus can be built? I’m not being disloyal when I ask Corbyn for his views on fair votes, federalisation and progressive alliances. I’m just encouraging him to make the leap into 21st-century politics.

Source: I didn’t attack Jeremy Corbyn at the weekend. Westminster was my target | Billy Bragg | Opinion | The Guardian

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