Am I a “Corbyn Supporter”?
Perhaps it’s a funny question. Surely I should know? The problem is that “Corbyn Supporter” has become a pejorative phrase for the media. Even the “liberal” Guardian newspaper uses “Corbyn Supporter” in a sneering way that suggests a lot of negative stereotypes.
Apparently a “Corbyn Supporter” is used to mean; internet troll attacking Members of Parliament, “Nazi stormtrooper” according to one paper, terrorist sympathiser to another, anti-semite according to successive articles criticising “Corbyn Supporters” or Trotskyist entryists to the Labour Party. When challenged on the use of language you get told that of course we don’t mean you but there are these “other people” who are associated with Corbyn and people who stood beside him once at a public meeting 10 years ago.
So there is quite a lot on the shoulders of anyone who dares to wear a T-Shirt with Jezza’s name on it or come out of the shadows wearing a badge.
I have difficulty with being called a “Corbyn Supporter” having voted for him last year in Labour’s Leadership contest. It wasn’t a natural thing for me to do because Labour had just lost a General Election and needed to recover however for me the rot set in almost immediately Ed Miliband resigned.
On the weekend after the defeat the BBC’s Andrew Neil interviewed Liz Kendall MP and also Peter Mandelson. Liz was pretty clear she was a candidate and that the direction Labour needed to go was back to “New Labour”. Peter Mandelson was pretty much at one with this message with an anti-trade union twist to try and push them out of Labour. Both were pretty convinced that the party, after a defeat with “leftie” Ed Miliband, would vote for a return to right wing solutions.
As the days wore on and Chuka was in, then out, nominations flowed and the candidates assembled. I can’t quite remember the exact chronology but I seemed underwhelmed by the timid response to the Conservative victory. Then Corbyn was nominated. He scraped in by the smallest of margins and the MPs actually let in a candidate who not spent years climbing up the position ladder to push for the leadership.
My own MP nominated Andy Burnham. Burnham has always been a Labour loyalist. A strength and weakness. I wouldn’t have been upset by him as a leader but as Secretary of State for Health he was extremely comfortable with the private finance initiative that was bankrupting the NHS, enriching tax dodging investors which was criticised for a decade by trade unions.
Yvette Cooper’s pitch was that Labour should have a woman leader. Yes we should. However what did she believe in. As the wife of “austerity light” Ed Balls there was a trust problem in my mind. I wouldn’t have been unhappy with Yvette Cooper but she was cautious, right wing and for me — uninspiring.
I hadn’t really noticed Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign. I had a lot of work on and I was a bit detached. When I went to the Durham Miners Gala for a day out I didn’t really have at the front of my mind that the candidates would be there. Labour leaders, especially Tony Blair, pretty much kept 10 miles away from the nearest trade unionist. The exception was asking for support and cash. So for the first time ever at a Gala I noticed Yvette Cooper in the crowd. I knew then that the candidates had left the London bubble.
My traditional visit to the Labour Party Tea Tent for a hot drink and sandwich suddenly caused me to pause. The Gala is quite eclectic for a trade union event. You have all kinds of bizarre left groups that must number about a dozen members in the country, a fun fair for kids, brass bands, ex soldiers etc. However this was the first religious group I had seen. About 30 plus people that I guessed were under 25 had T-Shirts on with just “JC”. For literally a moment in time I didn’t get it. I really thought this was a bible group trying to reach out as a Christian movement. Then suddenly I thought to myself — they mean Corbyn.
Corbyn became the outlier who seemed to embody Labour values while the right wing candidates, always called “moderates” by the media, battled for tiny points of difference. Andy Burnham did break to the left when he saw his support drift after abstaining on the welfare bill. However it was too late. Corbyn was the colour set against grey conventional candidates.
I didn’t expect Corbyn to win. He did. I did expect the media to attack him every day. Errors of judgement, newbie mistakes, lack of clarity, all of the things that happen to politicians were reported with forensic detail. All of this helped by the Labour MPs who really disliked Corbyn’s election. A hard core thought it was more important to undermine the Leader than attack the Conservatives.
The first Shadow Cabinet resignation was the Cumbrian MP Jamie Reid. I actually didn’t know he was in the Shadow Cabinet until he resigned. He resigned while Corbyn was giving his acceptance speech. This set the pattern. Whenever you resign you try to damage Corbyn and Labour. By making it unelectable you can charge the leader with being unelectable.
With so much hostility to everything Corbyn you wonder if this is just the bile of bitter MPs. Is the media hostility the natural reaction of a journalist class that comes from the same schools, universities and Conservative clubs now presented with leader that looks, to them, as if he is wearing a target marked “hit me”.
However whenever the media have something nasty to say about Corbyn himself and can’t carry out a full frontal attack they talk about “Corbyn Supporters”. So it’s now a term of media abuse. Maybe putting an “x” beside a name makes me a victim too.