The level of media bias in Britain now borders on the ridiculous.
Ever since the opposition Labour Party elected the veteran left winger Jeremy Corbyn as its leader last autumn he has faced repeated attempts to oust him organised by a powerful faction inside his party which continues to identify with the policies of the party’s former leader Tony Blair.
The same group plotted against Blair’s successor Gordon Brown and gave only lukewarm support to Brown’s successor Ed Miliband. Since Corbyn’s election it has however gone into overdrive with no week now passing when there have not been rumours of its plotting to remove him.
Plotting inside a political party is nothing new. What makes this situation unprecedented is that the British news media is not only openly siding with the plotters but is misreporting electoral outcomes to advance their agenda.
Central to the criticism of Corbyn made by the Blairite plotters is the claim that the Labour party under his leadership is unelectable. To that end, whenever elections come up the British media now fills up with stories predicting disaster for Labour. Artificial storms are also conjured up to try to discredit Corbyn in the eyes of the British electorate before those elections in order to make those predictions come true.
Thus on the eve of a parliamentary bye-election last autumn a furious row was concocted over British bombing in Syria – something Corbyn is known to oppose – whilst in the days leading up to local government elections last week an extraordinary row erupted alleging – falsely – that Corbyn is in sympathy with anti-semites within the Labour party.
In the event actual election results in Britain since Corbyn became Labour’s leader persistently defy the predictions of that his leadership is an electoral disaster for Labour.
Labour has won the two parliamentary by elections it has fought since Corbyn became leader with increased shares of the vote. In local elections held in England on Thursday Labour defied predictions and held on to nearly all the gains it made when the same elections took place in 2012 at a time when Labour was doing well. The same day Labour won convincingly three mayoral elections and the assembly elections in Wales. The most important of the mayoral elections was the one in London, the nation’s capital and by far its biggest city with more than a tenth of its population, where the Labour candidate won a landslide.
Only in Scotland did Labour do badly. This is because since the 2014 Scottish independence referendum the Scottish left wing vote which used to support Labour has gone over wholesale to the pro-independence SNP. This is a process that began since before Corbyn became Labour’s leader. It is universally accepted that Scottish politics have become disconnected from those of the rest of Britain. The fall in the Labour vote is not therefore connected to Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour party.
Over-emphasis on the elections in Scotland draws attention away from the in strictly electoral terms arguably more important mayoral and assembly elections in London – which Labour won convincingly – even though London’s population is bigger than Scotland’s (8 million to 5 million) and even though at the start of the electoral campaign in London in October it was the Conservatives who were widely expected to win.
Having however decided before Thursday’s elections to run the story of Labour’s electoral disaster in Wales and England, the British media including the BBC and the supposedly left of centre Guardian persisted with the story even when it failed to happen.
In article after article and news report after news report every part of the British mainstream media has hammered away at a story of an electoral disaster for Labour that was universally predicted but which never happened (for a proper and intelligent discussion of what actually happened in Thursday’s English and Welsh elections see here, here and here).
I hold no brief for Jeremy Corbyn. I make no prediction about the outcome of the next general election in Britain which is not due until 2020. Under any leader Labour has an electoral mountain to climb. Quite possibly Corbyn is not the man to climb it.
I would however say that the claim widely made in the British media that Thursday’s elections were mid-term elections in which Labour as the opposition party ought to have won more support than it did is simply not true.
The elections were not held mid-term. They were held just a year after a general election in May 2015 which Labour badly lost. Labour did in fact improve on its bad showing in the general election last year. It did so by getting itself back to roughly the level it achieved in 2012 when it was considered to be doing well.
What is however clear is that the entire weight of the British establishment including the media has now been brought to bear against Corbyn so that not only is every part of the British media now united against him but is misreporting electoral news in order to help a faction in his party get rid of him.
This same ruthless approach towards someone like Corbyn who challenges the dominant Atlanticist liberal consensus is used of course elsewhere for example against Donald Trump in the US or Marine Le Pen in France. It is also now used routinely in Britain in foreign news to misreport events in such places as Ukraine, Syria, Libya and Russia.
It has however never happened in Britain before that the entire media has united to misreport an election outcome so as to influence the outcome of a factional battle within one of Britain’s political parties.
This is an ominous development that crosses an important line. To the extent that a reliable, truthful and independent media is necessary for a functioning democracy the conclusion has to be that Britain no longer has one.