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We Can't Blame the Right Wing Press for Labour's Current Problems

10/01/2016 22:02 | Updated 10 January 2016

The realists among Corbyn's supporters understand that any chance of success depends on winning a wide-scale economic argument. It is a difficult feat, but one we believe is achievable. Corbyn needs to convince the entire population - not just Labour supporters - that another society is possible. Thus far, Corbyn has failed. This isn't because the right-wing press are obfuscating the argument. It certainly isn't because the argument is impossible. It's because folks are unable to hear the argument over all the constant internal arguing.

It is common knowledge that the Labour Party is struggling. This isn't a conspiracy created and proliferated by the right wing press, nor is it some grand anti-Corbynite fantasy. The Labour Party is well and truly struggling. There is no loyalty in pleading ignorance. In fact, any chance of Labour's success depends on understanding and confronting this problem. Every MP - indeed every member - involved in the bickering is to some extent culpable. Until we take responsibility for our part in this problem - as individuals and as a Party - Labour are doomed to fail. And the longer the arguing endures, the greater the long-term damage.

To confront this problem, we have to accept the media are not to blame - at least not in this instance. It is always easy to hold the media culpable. Blaming the media in certain situations obscures the problem and allows us to deny hard truths. We claim they are undemocratic and unaccountable. We claim their success comes from bias and deceit. This is all true, of course, but the media are only successful when their opposition is weak. The Labour Party are the opposition and, right now, the Labour Party are weak.

At the beginning of Corbyn's leadership, the right wing press were struggling with their criticisms. They resorted, as is their wont, to ad hominem attacks. Some of these attacks, like denigrations of Corbyn's clothing, were absurd. Others, like condemning his failure to sing the national anthem, were trivial. Others still, like his purported failure to bow, were evidently untrue. They had little ammunition with which to attack and thus had to resort to the absurd, the trivial and the false. These attacks were largely unsuccessful and, in fact, highlighted the idiocy of the right wing rags.

The recent internal bickering within the Labour Party has awarded the right wing press an enviable arsenal from which to attack. And they are taking full advantage. They are calling us divisive, childish and incompetent. They allude to our inability to compromise. They suggest that if we can't function as a party, we certainly can't function in government. And they are not altogether wrong. They attack with maximum hyperbole, often lying to perpetuate a situation far worse than the actual situation. Nonetheless, their attacks have a degree of credibility. They are resonating with their readership. They seem powerful precisely because the Labour Party's bickering has awarded them power.

The media are unable to undermine strong political parties. They struggle further if a party can offer a convincing narrative that resonates with the public. Labour governments of the past have not won elections because the media decided to take a breather. Labour won because the media failed to undermine the persuasiveness of their proposals. The media consistently trounced Attlee and were brutal towards Wilson. Even Tony Blair, despite popular belief, was attacked by large swathes of the right wing press. The right wing press have always posed a threat to the left. But the press are a problem the left can overcome with a convincing narrative and a sense of unity.

At present, the real problem for the Labour Party is the constant bickering of the left and the right. Blaming the press is like blaming the crowd for encouraging an argument. The crowd want to see a fight. The crowd aren't helpful, but if the two sides were shaking hands they would be rendered silent - or at least their incessant jeers would make less sense. We need to stop blaming the crowd and start blaming the bickering folks in the centre.

The left and the right of the Labour Party need to compromise. They need to unite. The right need to stop their obstinacy, accept Corbyn's mandate and attempt to compromise. The left need to stop their childish and unhelpful criticisms of MPs that question the purity of Corbynism. If both sides can stop arguing and promote a strong, convincing narrative, the press will resort to their shallow, transparent criticisms. And these criticisms are easily negated and less of a threat to the left. Right now, the Labour Party are making the tabloids' job far too easy.

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