Personality Culture

 

There are two Jeremy Corbyns. There is the strawman version, stuffed by the media and set up for pelting; then there’s the real one. Since being elected to the leadership of the Labour Party the latter has had to endure being eclipsed by the former.

This is no fault of Corbyn himself. His performances at the Dispatch Box and in interviews have been measured and reasonable. However, that image, no matter its veracity, is of no interest to the media.

Assisted in no small measure by self-seeking and disloyal Labour MPs, the media have constantly paraded the strawman in public, inculcating an impression of flaccidity and hollowness. And in a news-glance society it’s that impression that’s been influential.

Come the announcement of the snap general election it is hardly surprising that Labour lags in the polls as no opposition to seven years of coalition and Tory administration should. The failure to garner increased support must surely be the fault of the leader?

Absolutely it is, just not the present one. No matter Tony Blair won a large majority in 1997, it was his enthusiastic pursuit of essentially Thatcherite free market economics and the mendacity around the Iraq war that seriously drained the Labour pool.

Membership fell faster than voting numbers, a trend not altered by Gordon Brown or Ed. Miliband, both leaders who also lost elections. Whatever else, Corbyn has brought huge numbers into the party, especially the young who are all too often alienated by politics.

Seemingly, the media were quick to spot the danger of enthusiasm to politics as usual in which the requirements of finance capital are predominant no matter which party is nominally in power. The irony is, Corbyn is no revolutionary, being a mainstream social democrat.

It is a measure of how deeply reactionary ideology has penetrated society that the moderate reforms proposed by Corbyn can be portrayed, and widely accepted as being “hard left”, a phrase useful to the media due to being meaningless.

Elections, local and national, are essentially passive affairs. Voters are effectively political consumers invited to choose from the shelf of pre-packaged products. They play no part in formulating policy or determining candidates. Just put the cross in the box and then keep quiet.

Hardly surprising that there’s widespread disengagement with politics beyond a cursory consideration of the limited offerings. In a culture in which celebratory figures hugely it is relatively easy for the media to reduce politics to personalities the media is instrumental in creating.

So, the Tory “battle bus” tours the country emblazoned with the prime minister’s name in huge letters along it flanks, with a diminutive “Conservatives” as an after-thought on the door. To his credit, Corbyn has eschewed this in favour of trying to actually argue his case in public.

“And always keep a hold of nurse

For fear of finding something worse.”

This couplet from “Jim, who ran away from his nurse and was eaten by a lion” by Hilaire Belloc sums up the Tory campaign. Nurse May will keep us all safe from that wild, hard left lion lurking at the head of the Labour Party.

But, beware the nasty, down right toxic, medicine she will administer should we actually keep hold of her.

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