John McDonnell Warns Labour Will Not 'Take S***' From Media During Election Campaign

Shadow chancellor at event on the alleged "media war on Labour" hits out at journalists and press.
Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, listens to speeches during the Labour Party Conference at the Brighton Centre in Brighton.
Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, listens to speeches during the Labour Party Conference at the Brighton Centre in Brighton.
PA Wire/PA Images

Labour will not “take shit” from the media during the snap general election campaign, shadow chancellor John McDonnell has warned.

Shadow cabinet ministers used a fringe at the Labour Party conference in Brighton to lay into journalists and the press.

At the event called ‘The Media War On Labour - And How To Defeat It’, which was organised by Morning Star and funded by Unite the union, senior party figures accused a “right wing press” of ruining Labour’s chances of victory at the polls and of being biased.

McDonnell claimed to have seen newspaper articles tell “lie after lie after lie” and pointed to independent research which said he was interrupted 21 times in comparison to zero times former Tory minister Amber Rudd in two separate interviews.

“It was the same on Question Time, I was interrupted more than any panel member put together,” the shadow chancellor said.

Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott also hit out at the BBC at the meeting, calling former Question Time host David Dimbleby “fairer” than his replacement Fiona Bruce.

McDonnell said: “We have to make sure that when we use live broadcast in particular, because they can’t edit it out, we do it more effectively and as best we can - and we don’t take the shit anymore. We don’t take shit anymore.”

He claimed there were outlets where editors “refuse to report the truth”, adding that Labour activists must “use the broadcast media that we have” and “make sure that we do know what we are talking about when we go on air”.

McDonnell also claimed that journalists resiled from criticising Labour “because we’re the threat”, and added: “We are going to make the owners of these newspapers pay their taxes.

“We are going to make them accountable in Leveson part 2, and we are going to make them responsible for their actions.”

It comes as the party is set to face a tide of criticism from political opponents over the party’s refusal to back a side in the Brexit argument and an attempt by party chiefs to delete the role of deputy leader Tom Watson.

Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott, told the fringe organised by the Morning Star, which is well known for its strong support of far left policies, that “both Jeremy Corbyn and myself are regular Morning Star readers and contributors”.

She added: “In fact, I always told my staff if you want to bring anything to Jeremy’s attention, we should write about it for them.”

To cheers from the crowd of Labour activists, she said: “The first thing to say is that so-called liberal papers, I won’t mention any names, liberal papers are part of the political establishment, and the political establishment has never forgiven Jeremy for winning the 2016 leadership election.

Fiona Bruce and Diane Abbott
Fiona Bruce and Diane Abbott
HuffPost UK

“Remember, he beat a whole generation of rising stars in the process - so he will never be forgiven.”

Abbott, who was targeted more than any other politician on social media during the 2017 general election campaign, also said she had “an interesting experience” on BBC One’s Question Time programme.

Abbott went on to hit out at Bruce saying Dimbleby “was fairer”.

Labour lodged a complaint with the BBC, claiming the shadow minister was repeatedly interrupted, with Bruce stepping in to correct her, wrongly, over polling figures.

The BBC has since acknowledged Abbott was right about the polling figures.

“David Dimbleby, in my opinion, was fairer than Fiona Bruce,” Abbott told the fringe. “And David Dimbleby did not wind up the audience against me live on air.

“I have to say Fiona Bruce has yet to apologise.”

Abbott went on to say that “attacks” on Labour were “heightened” as an election neared, adding they wouldn’t be happening if MPs weren’t “saying the right thing”.

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard went further in his criticisms of the media, claiming media outlets were ideologically opposed to the party.

He said: “The Morning Star is the only daily newspaper which is on the side of Labour and not on the side of capital.

“The reason why there is a media war on Labour is because our manifesto in 2017 was for the many and not the few and we are the many and they are the few.”

Citing a recent case where Scotland’s Sunday Mail faced being silenced, he said: “We are on the side of the freedom of the press. It is the distortion of the press which we are against.”

He criticised what the media “report and what they do not report”, saying journalists had failed to ask about a speech Labour had set out days earlier.

“John [McDonnell] was going to speak about economic transformation and I was going to speak about democratic transformation and renewal,” he said, referring to a recent event in Glasgow.

“And when we were interviewed by the broadcast media, they didn’t want to speak about any of that. They wanted to speak about what was our position on a second independence referendum. They wanted to know about what our position was on Brexit because Tom Watson had made a speech that week and they’d like to know our position on what a suspended councillor in the South of Scotland.

“They didn’t want to ask important questions about how we were going to transform our economy and how this Labour Party is going to renew our democracy as well.”


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