Democracy and the problem of slippery journalism.

This is the unedited version of my published Guardian letter, 13 05 2017:

Jonathan Freedland (‘No more excuses: Corbyn is to blame for this meltdown’, The Guardian: 08 05 2017) continues his excoriation of Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters. It makes for slippery journalism.

He cites the election results as “evidence” and “proof” of Corbyn’s failure as leader, but notes the collapse of UKIP, “its programme swallowed whole by the Conservatives. Ukip voters transferred en masse, reassured that Theresa May will give them the hard Brexit they want”. Many working-class anti-EU voters, he says, feel better represented by May than Labour. Well yes, because Labour’s stance towards Europe, the EU, other nationalities, the world, is not the same as Ukip or the Tories. Generational and educational factors, as well as social and economic experience and circumstances, have influenced voting behaviour.

Few of the participants in the two focus groups Freedland observed ever bought a paper and seldom watched a TV bulletin. “So blaming the media won’t wash,” he proclaims triumphantly. Nor could they name a single politician, other than May, Corbyn and Boris Johnson. Freedland ignores the significance of where/how participants get their information, and the role of closed circles/echo chambers on social media, concluding: “They had formed their own, perhaps instinctive, view.” What on earth does that actually mean? As journalism it’s beyond poor. Is it disingenuous or just sly?

Freedland quotes Dave Wilcox, the Derbyshire Labour group leader, who refers to “genuine Labour supporters”, who will not vote Labour while Corbyn remains leader. “Genuine”: well what does that make the rest of us, those out campaigning for a Labour government? ‘Fake Labour voters’? And what of all those young people ready to vote Labour because Corbyn is leader?

Theresa May exults in her identity as a “bloody difficult woman”. Her bluster seeks to disguise the fact that, as Professor of European Law, Michael Dougan (speaking as a panel member on Brexit Britain, at Liverpool’s WOW [Writing on the Wall] festival, 06 05 2017) insists: “There is no plan”. Freedland would serve democracy better by calling to account a prime minister “nervously pinballing from one stop to the next, with apparently no idea of where she is going or why” (John Harris, ‘Today there are three voter types: the disconnected, deceived and dismayed’, The Guardian: 06 05 2017), but determined to take us with her.

val walsh



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