Which news item did you hear about this week - the fact that the NHS has been brought to its knees so severely that a third of UK GPs expect to quit in the next five years, or the fact that Jeremy Corbyn had help writing his Labour conference speech? The fact that the World Economic Forum has placed our 'big picture' economy 108th in the world table, below Haiti and Zimbabwe, or the proposal that Corbyn is a threat to what is claimed to be the fastest growing economy in the developed world? The fact that David Cameron's government has been doing deals with human rights violator Saudi Arabia in secret, or that Corbyn borrowed a tie for Monday's conference? Most likely, you heard the second story over the first in each case.
It's obviously no accident: as we at political blog Shamocracy have highlighted before, the UK press predominantly supports the Conservatives, meaning news that reflects badly on David Cameron's party isn't as widely reported as that which affects Jeremy Corbyn's. Increasingly, people are turning away from the mainstream media to alternative sources for their news, but not quite enough for the public opinion-at-large to change. The Tories wouldn't have returned to power in 2015 otherwise, and the Labour party wouldn't now be going through a crisis in search of lost votes. Unfortunately for fans of impartial news coverage, the right-wing control the conversation in this country. On Monday, Jeremy Corbyn made reference to that in his conference speech. Simply pointing out the bias against himself and his party, though, isn't enough.
Corbyn has been called a friend of Hamas; why has Labour not countered that David Cameron presides over a country that launders money for drug cartels and terrorists? When Cameron and his Cons unveiled their most shameless piece of propaganda, and declared Corbyn a "threat to national security", where was Labour to hit back that Cameron and pals sell arms to countries of human rights 'concern' and nations that use child soldiers? When Boris Johnson - always better for a joke than for saying anything of political import - argued that Corbyn's absence from the Rugby World Cup opening ceremony proved his lack of patriotism, where was Labour PR to argue that Corbyn attending a meeting with a concerned constituent was perhaps more important?
Instead, it was left to ordinary people to share around the latter nugget on social media. It's not a new phenomenon: Labour was doing just as little to help itself in terms of public standing before the election. Under Ed Miliband, information regarding the Conservatives' austerity fantasy and the lie of Labour's 'economic irresponsibility' was readily available, but Labour did little to make the facts widely known. It was left to a switched-on few at home and in the press to gather the Cameron gov. facts and figures in the hope the knowledge would spread.
It makes sense, then, that Corbyn as Labour leader is relying on a grassroots movement; it was the people, and not the Labour party, who were in the run-up to the 2015 election doing the most to make the electorate aware of Cameron's fibs and failings. Granted, Labour has no Lynton Crosby-esque grand sorcerer like the Conservatives to craft propaganda, but Labour doesn't even need one - the facts regarding benefits claimant deaths, rising homelessness, cuts to the police and armed forces, NHS privatisation, academisation, dirty energy and general corruption are horrifying enough to bring the Tories down, if made public knowledge. And yet Labour doesn't seem to be using half of the ammunition it has at its disposal. It's like giving a man a rocket launcher, then watching him try and use a pistol to bring down a tank.
The revamped recent PMQs was refreshing, but Corbyn was less effective even than Ed Miliband in confronting the opposition. He merely asked questions, and gave David Cameron a platform to repeat the party line, without calling the PM out on the deception present in each and every utterance. Corbyn's message of hope is refreshing, but his current approach - no bark, no bite - allows the Conservatives too easy a ride. Without Corbyn and his new Labour pointing out everything the Tories have done wrong during their stay in Parliament, they'll be back in power again in 2020.
A story of hope isn't enough - voters also need to be made aware of the danger that lies in the alternative. Corbyn's Labour party can promise a world free of the constraints of 'austerity' (read: class war), but it could also point out how a nation under Corbyn wouldn't seek to impoverish the already desperate and give the proceeds to the rich, cripple the country's most beloved institutions or sell off prized assets at a loss, then blame any resulting issues on a scapegoat (immigrants, benefits claimants, Labour and the Liberal Democrats). There are crucial facts that most aren't aware of - Labour needs to teach some lessons, or lose again in 2020.