On July 22, The Guardian’s Anne Perkins condescendingly asked Corbyn supporters to “do a little research” and “think what kind of country you want for you and your children”. With this implicit suggestion that the candidate’s sympathisers were stupid, she characterised very well the type of patronising argument against the Corbyn campaign that would be seen across a number of different mainstream papers.
The Guardian’s Suzanne Moore, whilst partially criticising the Labour Party, referred on August 5 to support for Corbyn as a “self-soothing comfort blanket”. Then, she said it represented a “strange denial” of “what a political party is for” and of what happened in the 2015 general elections. Perhaps unsurprisingly, she provides no argument to justify these harsh, derisive comments, and simply goes on to say “there is nothing in [Corbyn’s] record to suggest he would be good” at undertaking the tasks required of political leaders. She ignored the funding he has managed to raise from grassroots activists, the massive popularity he clearly has around the country, and the fact that he has promised to work closely with all wings of the Labour Party (something the right has refused to do). And, maybe because of such gaps in her knowledge, she claimed that Labour would “become little more than a pressure group” if Corbyn became leader.
Elsewhere in the media, noted Vice senior editor Simon Childs, criticisms of Corbyn were very much focussing on the banal. For example, he had been criticised for caring “more about politics than his love life”, being “completely uninterested in material possessions and creature comforts”, and refusing to “drive a car”. Likewise, he was slated because he did not “drink alcohol”, “smile”, or “even smoke”. Other comments included the fact that he “eats baked beans”, “likes motorcycling”, and “likes animals”.
On August 14, Vice’s Gavin Haynes argued that Corbyn made “Bernie Sanders look like… Donald Trump”, while calling him (rather unsympathetically) “a man slightly to the left of Fidel Castro” who was committed to “impractical socialist idealism” (which ignored his very concrete, moderate, and workable policies). His support, supposedly, was coming from “a secret army of reborn hard left/New Left types” who didn’t care that Corbyn’s ideas had “already been tried” (Haynes was obviously following the ignorant, erroneous rhetoric of right-wing Blairites and Tories, here).The aforementioned “hard-left types… don’t even like the Labour Party”, asserted Haynes in a vacuum of historical context (which ignored the organisation’s significant shift to the right under Tony Blair). More worryingly, Haynes insisted Corbyn was “anti-American” (rather than anti-imperialist, which is of course true), in what was another lazy assertion which flirted with defamation (whether intentionally or not). In all fairness, though, Haynes did later call the Mail on Sunday’s article about Corbyn’s a dystopian Britain “ridiculous”.
The Mirror, which officially endorsed Andy Burnham as its favourite to win the leadership contest, was generally fairly sympathetic towards Corbyn. However, it published on August 11 a list of ‘surprising’ parliamentary motions supported by Corbyn (presumably in an apparent attempt to make them look eccentric. The vast majority of these motions, however, were simply in keeping with the candidate’s policies of peace, environmentalism, and progress in general. The paper then revealed that there were three main ideas supported by Corbyn that the general public was not yet sure about – including scrapping tuition fees, creating a republic, and considering immigration not to be a problem. At the same time, however, the paper acknowledged that a number of key Corbyn policies were indeed supported by the majority of the British people.
On August 23, ITV and The Independent reported on how Corbyn’s campaign manager, John McDonnell had “alleged that the public has been “robbed” by the privatisations of publicly owned companies from the early 1980s onwards”. In particular, they spoke about his warning that, if Chancellor George Osborne were to sell off assets “at below market value”, a Corbyn government would “reserve the right to bring them back into public ownership with either no compensation or with any undervaluation deducted from any compensation for renationalisation”. Obviously, however, this did not make for a very sensational headline, so ITV led with “sold-off institutions could be returned to public hands with ‘no compensation’ under Jeremy Corbyn” (which was still only a worrying concept for big businesses rather than British workers).
Almost a week later, Tom Baldwin (a former senior adviser to Ed Miliband) argued at the Guardian that Labour’s old electoral system (under which Miliband had been elected) had “meant that MPs’ votes were weighted to be worth 1,000 times more than those of ordinary members”, and that the party had thus “needed electoral reform”. Rather than criticising the new system, then, the task of “those horrified by Corbyn’s rise” was to ask themselves “how to galvanise voters as he [had] done”. Whilst claiming condescendingly that Corbyn had “inspired those who [fancied] another five years of protest”, he did admit that, in spite of “all the hyperbolic discussion in recent weeks about infiltration by perhaps a few thousand”, there had been “scant acknowledgment of how the old system institutionalised “entryism” by hundreds of thousands of Tories, Lib Dems, nationalists, Greens and – yes – Trotskyists too”. He then insisted that “the number of ballot papers being issued to affiliated supporters from the unions is less than a quarter of the total, and significantly fewer than in the last contest”. Rather than being a vehicle for “organised entryism”, then, the new system appeared to have opened the way for more of “a crowdsourced online insurgency”, which the supporters of the non-Corbyn candidates had not managed to get a hold of as well as the frontrunner.
The Evening Standard, meanwhile, published Yvette Cooper almost-libellous attack on Corbyn for supposedly “dodgy economics” that would not “survive an election”. Nonetheless, it also reported on Corbyn’s rebuke of such claims, in which he has insisted that his policy of People’s Quantitative Easing had been “endorsed by a vast range of leading economists” and that “investment was vital to stop the UK lagging behind rivals”. According to the frontrunner, there were “a number of funding options, of which People’s Quantitative Easing is one, and low-cost public borrowing is another”. For him, what was definitely “not credible” was “doing nothing or using the dodgy accounting trick of PFI deals that now risk bankrupting our NHS”.
On August 29, The Mirror reported on “an extraordinary deal” which “Labour’s most senior MPs” were apparently offering Jeremy Corbyn with the aim of keeping their party together. These MPs, the paper said, had “agreed to give [Corbyn] 18 months to prove to them he is up to the job” (a statement which makes one question whether they would have done the same with any of the non-Corbyn candidates). At the same time, these MPs were apparently also hoping to water down the frontrunner’s policies through Shadow Cabinet votes “so nothing too extreme gets through”, like “scrapping Trident nuclear missiles, leaving Nato or mass nationalisation”. In other words, this “double lock” would seek to cripple some of Corbyn’s most popular policies.