ANALYSIS: Is this what Jeremy Corbyn meant by ‘change is coming’?

Posted On: 
13th April 2018

A couple of months ago, Jeremy Corbyn had a warning for the media.

Kate Osamor was interviewed in The House.
Credit: 
PA Images

Understandably annoyed by attempts to paint him as a Czechoslovakian spy - I gave my view on that carry-on at the time - he said that things would be very different when he becomes Prime Minister.

Staring down the barrel of a camera in his Commons office, the Labour leader said: "Publishing these ridiculous smears that have been refuted by Czech officials shows just how worried the media bosses are by the prospect of a Labour government. They’re right to be. Labour will stand up to the powerful and corrupt - and take the side of the many, not the few.

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"A free press is essential for democracy and we don’t want to close it down, we want to open it up. At the moment, much of our press isn’t very free at all. In fact it’s controlled by billionaire tax exiles, who are determined to dodge paying their fair share for our vital public services.

"The general election showed the media barons are losing their influence and social media means their bad old habits are becoming less and less relevant.

"We’ve got news for them: change is coming."

The message was clear. The hated ‘MSM’ would be forced to clean up their act. Leveson 2 would be set up and the recommendations of part 1 would be implemented in full - including the establishment of a state-backed Press regulator that all newspapers would have to sign up to or face the consequences.

This was warmly welcomed by Corbyn's many supporters on social media. At last, they said, the hated right-wing Press would be brought to heel and forced to give Labour (who would be the Government, remember) an even break.

No more smears against the leader, and no more misrepresenting the party’s policies. Fair enough, you might say. Who could possibly argue with that?

There is no doubt that journalists have misbehaved in the past - including breaking the law - and such behaviour should be called out and punished.

Speaking as someone who has been a journalist for nearly 24 years, 15 of them covering politics, it is essential that the public can be confident that what they read is fair, accurate and the result of honest reporting.

So how would the brave new media world operate under Labour? What does ‘change is coming’ actually mean?

All we really have to go on is how Labour treats coverage it doesn’t like at the moment. Which brings me to Kate Osamor’s interview for this week’s House magazine.

For those who don’t know, The House - as the name suggests - is Parliament’s in-house publication. As such, it isn’t prone to gotcha-style interviews. Rather, it serves to give MPs a platform to air their views on political issues.

Osamor, the Shadow International Development Secretary, was interviewed primarily about the upcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government summit. Inevitably, the discussion also took in wider global affairs.

Her comments on the conflict in Syria were, by any measure, eye-catching: "If a leader is killing their own they need to be removed. We don’t keep them there. They need to go. He needs to be removed."

She also suggested that the best way for Jeremy Corbyn to avoid causing controversy with his comments on foreign affairs would be to say nothing.

And she also gave a clear hint that a Labour government would support the campaign to boycott Israeli goods, a stance which has landed her in hot water before.

As is standard journalistic practice, the interview was recorded and her words were represented accurately and in context. The full interview is here and I would encourage you to read it.

Extracts from the article were put out in a press release early yesterday afternoon under an 8pm embargo, giving the Labour party ample time to respond should they wish.

A comment was eventually put out in the name of a spokesperson for Kate Osamor, which said: "Kate was expressing her horror at the chemical attack in Douma and the terrible suffering of the Syrian people in the conflict.

"She recognised that there is no simple solution to bringing about lasting peace in Syria, which is why there must be an urgent co-ordinated international drive via the UN to achieve a ceasefire, a negotiated political settlement and the right of the Syrian people to determine their own future."

It was, therefore, something of a shock when Osamor herself issued a different, lengthier statement on her Twitter page at 10.51pm.

 

 

Being careful not to suggest that she had been misquoted, she instead used the well-worn excuse of politicians of all stripes who have said something they wish they hadn’t by claiming her words "selectively" quoted and taken out of context.

Rather depressingly, her comments were taken at face value by supporters of Jeremy Corbyn desperate to prove that, yet again, Labour was being traduced by the “MSM”.
This, as I have hopefully demonstrated, is nonsense.

Quite simply, Osamor said a lot of things which she should not have done and, when they were published, reached for the time-honoured tactic of shooting the messenger. She isn’t the first politician to do so and you can bet your backside she won’t be the last.

But if this is what change looks like, it seems awfully familiar to me.