Corbyn’s best win yet highlights the shallowness of our media
March 15, 2017
by Martin Odoni
Philip Hammond, the finest Chancellor of the Exchequer since… well, since… erm… um… well, he is somewhat less awful than George Osborne, I suppose.
Tell you what, I should start again; –
Philip Hammond, the Chancellor of the Exchequer who is somewhat less awful than George Osborne, was today forced into a humiliating climb-down. In last week’s Budget, he announced a rise in National Insurance contributions for self-employed people. Today, after just seven days of pressure from all corners of the House of Commons including many in his own party (some of whom are themselves self-employed, let it be noted), he performed a sharp U-turn.
During last week’s Prime Minister’s Question Time, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn really went on all-out attack, starting the ‘domino effect’ of opposition that brought about today’s climb-down. The reality is that this is one of Corbyn’s best victories since becoming Labour leader eighteen months ago. So, what congratulations did the media decide to bestow upon him in acknowledgement?
Well, Laura Kuenssberg of the BBC drooled,
…the Labour leader… was the one looking uncomfortable by the end of his weekly clash with Theresa May.
Helena Horton at the Telegraph raved,
Many thought PMQs would be a bloodbath, with Labour landing most of the punches… However, they forgot one thing: that Jeremy Corbyn is the leader of the opposition.
Her colleague, Christopher Hope, also lauded Corbyn on his achievement by commenting,
A compete abrogation of the duty of the Leader of the Opposition.
Andrew Sparrow at the Guardian was also at his usual level of fulsome praise for Corbyn, when he declared,
Corbyn failed dismally to exploit this at the dispatch box.
And so on, and so forth, and yada-yada-yada.
Read the mainstream media (something I only do with the utmost caution), and you would think that Corbyn has just fallen to his worst defeat. It is frankly breathtaking that the media have decided to find a way to attack Corbyn yet again, even as he has played a key role in forcing a Government U-turn. It is as contrary to the facts as the popular British myth that “Dunkirk was a great triumph”. The determination, especially of the shamelessly aristocratic Kuenssberg, to insist that absolutely anything and everything Corbyn does must be wrong even when it works perfectly seems almost quasi-instinctive now. It cannot be just stubbornness or orchestrated bigotry against the ‘real’ Left anymore, it seems to be just unthinking, ingrained habit. As soon as the media see Corbyn getting out of his seat to speak at the despatch box, they simply assume before he has drawn a breath that he is about to do a bad job, and then find a way to confirm it to themselves. Sure, they probably really do want to make sure Corbyn gets no credit when he deserves it, but it happens so routinely that it has almost ceased to be premeditated.
It has got to the point where the media have largely skated over the detail that today is a major defeat for Hammond that seriously hurts his credibility. Even where this is acknowledged, it is treated as ‘a draw’, or ‘a bad day all round’. It is no such thing, this is a big and embarrassing defeat for the Tories. (And had a ‘Blue Labour’ leader had exactly the same week as Corbyn has had, what would the media be saying now, I wonder?)
Now truth to tell, Corbyn’s performance today, while not exactly jugular-piercing, really was not noticeably weak anyway. A bit ordinary, I would concede, but not weak. But even if it had been, so what? As I have pointed out before, political commentators in Britain are much too focused on the theatre of what happens in the House of Commons, and too little interested in the substance of what happens there. So the media overlook the substantial reality of the U-turn; were it not for the pressure started by Corbyn at last week’s PMQs, the National Insurance policy might not have been overturned at all, let alone so quickly. That has to count as a significant victory for Corbyn; far from ‘abrogating his responsibility as leader of the Opposition,’ he has fulfilled that duty to a tee by effectively combating an unfair Government policy. Instead, the media focus on how ‘insufficiently showy’ Corbyn’s performance was in the aftermath.”Didn’t make good TV, dontchaknow?”
So apparently, Britain’s media imagine cheap point-scoring in a staged slanging match is much more important than getting a bad policy reversed.
Has Britain truly become this shallow?