Sunday 26 July 2015


The whole Jeremy Corbyn phenomenon is very strange. 

From the way some people tell it, it's as if Beatlemania has been reborn in the cause of an elderly, bearded far-leftist. 

Of course, much of that mania may be down to the distorting efforts of left-dominated social media echo chambers like Twitter, whose views bear very little resemblance to what most people actually think, as well as a lot of media hype and a few probably dodgy opinion polls....

...but there's no denying (I think) that Mr Corbyn is doing himself proud at the moment. 

His quiet, earnest, straightforward manner seems to be 'authentic'. His temper when questioned too strongly (as on Channel 4 News) also seems 'authentic'. His lack of a sense of humour seems 'authentic' as well. 

And politicians being 'authentic' really does seem to matter, to varying degrees, to many people. Nigel Farage does it for some; Jeremy Corbyn does it for others. (Andy Burnham and Yvette Cooper, it seems, less so).

Jeremy Corbyn became an MP just about the time when I began to be interested in politics. He's been around a long time, and in all that time I've never thought of him as anything other than a very-far-left, Israel-loathing, Hamas-Hizbollah-friendly, pro-Sinn Fein Labour Party fringe player, part of the 'awkward squad', utterly contemptible and unimportant. 

And, yet, now here he is, apparently poised to win the leadership of the UK's main opposition party - which is truly extraordinary.

And, even more extraordinary to me, is the fact that - like Sue - I've found him oddly plausible and weirdly appealing. Given how little large parts of the public know or care about party politics, couldn't he be onto a potentially popular thing, if he keeps this up? Could those Tories4Corbyn be laughing on the other side of their faces in years to come? 

(My guess is 'no, they won't be', but what do I know? The Tories could self-destruct into civil war after the EU referendum. UKIP might fail to get it together despite the open goal given to them by both main parties. The Lib Dems might revive a bit. The SNP could fall back (if Jeremy C is Labour leader). Who knows what will happen in 2020?)

Anyhow, Mr Corbyn's interview with Andrew Marr today was very oddly plausible. He's absolutely mastered the knack (if knack it be) of sounding moderate and commonsensical when saying all manner of (when you step back a bit) extreme things. No wonder the sort of journalists who fling the term 'populist' at UKIP are now flinging it at Jeremy Corbyn too.

And that brings me (at last) to the question of BBC bias. 

That left-wing echo chamber on Twitter is going mad at the BBC for being anti-Corbyn. They are beginning to outnumber the cybernats in dominating the #bbcbias hashtag. 

Even Andy Marr got it in the neck today on Twitter (en masse) for being anti-Corbyn.

That said, I've also seen a comment at another place (one strongly tending to the Right) accusing Andrew Marr of giving Corbyn the Magnificent a "cuddly" interview, "a cosy fireside chat". 

"Complaints from both sides. BBC must be getting it about right, #BackingtheBBC", as Professor Brian Cox et al might say.

No, Professor Brian Cox, Not at all. It means absolutely no such thing. It might mean than Andrew Marr got it about right on this occasion, but it doesn't mean that the BBC as a whole is getting it right. There could be an anti-Corbyn bias at the BBC, or pro-Corbyn bias. The only way to find out is to listen and judge the matter as fairly as possible (given that the BBC won't be doing so, publicly at least).

I, frankly, haven't seen enough of it to judge. Given the tenor of, say, Gavin Esler's comments on Dateline London yesterday and Andrew Marr's questioning of Mr C. today, however, I can see why some pro-Corbyn viewers and listeners might have detected an anti-Corbyn tone. Gavin was a little bit sneery about him yesterday and Andrew Marr did try, rather gently but nonetheless persistently, to paint Jeremy Corbyn as a communist today (but isn't he?)

Yet both also seemed fascinated rather than out-and-out horrified by the Corbyn phenomenon, in a way that they never seemed about, say, the Nigel Farage phenomenon. And the same, from what I've seen and heard, with Newsnight and Broadcasting House and PM.  

So let's speculate: The BBC probably would, I think, have been far more comfortable with boring, snoring Yvette, or mascara-wearing NHS-loving Mids Staffs guy Andy, or Blairite Liz. Though many of them (the vast majority of them, by most accounts) swing left, Jeremy Corbyn is too left even for them, despite him having a certain lingering (radical chic) appeal (memories of their student days perhaps).

Am I onto something here? Or not? 

Is the BBC pro-Corbyn, anti-Corbyn, confused or just being impartial? 

A good question, David. Where does the BBC stand (if anywhere)?


  1. I laughed out loud at "Red Andy" Marr today straining to show how he's grown out of his Young Communist phase. Marx should be looked at as a Victorian novelist! Simply awesome that he has such deep knowledge of the debate and quotes like that ready to hand, when he and his research team can't even get a simple recent Cameron quote right.

    I'll tell you where the BBC stands: in a delicious combination of joy and fear, with the extremists salivating over Labour at last becoming the Red Flag brigade they imagine it used to be, and that they've always dreamed it would become, balanced out by the more seasoned hands who have learned the lesson of Miliband pushing it so far to the Left as it is. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that the BBC has become as riddled with neo-Marxists because of their recent hiring practices as Labour party membership now is with all those new members flooding in to support Corbyn. They know exactly what will happen to Labour if Corbyn wins. The adult, jaded politics junkies are afraid that he will only serve to keep the nasty Tories in power for another decade, while the rest of them can't wait for a new dawn.

    What we're seeing is the obvious differences in editors and presenters of different shows. The website is more consistent because it's a single fiefdom. This is one time where there is clearly no coordination, no editorial directive from on high, no common approach to an issue across the spectrum of BBC broadcasting. There would be a revolt if Harding tried.

    At the same time, you can bet there are internal discussions to make sure they don't appear to support Corbyn over the other two (I'm assuming they see Kendall as a non-starter at this point). We don't see the usual agenda spreading and it stands out in such stark contrast to the standard operating procedure that everybody is noticing and doesn't quite know what to make of it.

  2. I approve of Corbyn in as much as he is a reminder that politics is a serious business that revolves around serious issues: not a beauty contest, or a plaything for billionaires, or a media mudbath or an extended soundbite.

    Ownership, wealth, work conditions, share of wealth, culture, the environment, our constitution and sovereignty, democracy, demographics, national security - that's what it's all about.

    It's good that Corbyn put a stop to the slow dance of the cadavers that was the Labour leadership contest.

  3. I am surprised that the BBC are not making more of cuddly Corby's age. After all, he would be at least 70 if he became PM , too old work for the ageist Beeb. Now , if he were a Tory...........


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