Jeremy Corbyn. July, 2015. Flickr. Some rights reserved.
Jeremy Corbyn has been the leader of the Labour Party for little more than a week, but has already seen an incredible number of personal attacks from the press, politicians and even the members of his own party … no wonder no one wants to lead.
A Spaniard experienced something similar not too long ago and this experience should be used as a guide by Corbyn, his allies and, more than anyone else, the people of the UK.
The press, politicians, business executives, The City, in short the ruling class, attack whoever is deemed a threat to their power and influence, just ask Juan Carlos Monedero. The academic and former Secretary of Programmes and Constitutional Processes for Podemos, the political party that broke the two-party system in Spain, was the victim of one of the most vicious and unending attacks in recent memory.
Without even having an elected position at the local, regional or national level, Monedero’s professional and personal life was dissected like never before. The political science lecturer had his photograph on all the front pages of the national newspapers, sometimes on the same day, with scandalous headlines that were usually false or at the very least full of pure speculation.
In this sense Corbyn needs to be aware of the situation he is now in so that he can develop a good relationship with sympathetic journalists; without friends in the media Corbyn will not be able to breakdown the establishment’s propaganda.
During the Labour leadership campaign, Corbyn’s team demonstrated their skills with the press and especially with social media, sharing their message despite the hostility of the traditional outlets which was important; a movement with the support of the people on social media will be crucial to fight against the mainstream’s arguments.
In this situation, the one Corbyn finds himself in, silence is the worst idea; up against a torrent of abuse, the new leader of the opposition has to give his responses and present his opinions quickly and clearly in order to demonstrate his character and leadership to the people.
Despite his 33 years in parliament, Corbyn isn’t that well known outside of Whitehall and, for that reason, the press have more leeway to invent stories and alarm the public. Everyone in the UK knows something about David Cameron, his family and his privileged upbringing and, as a result of that, there is less room for lies and speculation; the press needs to make money and Corbyn sells more than Cameron.
Of course the media and the ruling elite don’t have many reasons to attack a conservative prime minister who does their kind of politics but Corbyn doesn’t have that good fortune. The MP of Islington North cannot afford to hideaway, especially now, with all the support and popularity he fostered following on from his victory, because more stories from his past are going to be revealed and the people’s opinions change very quickly.
With Juan Carlos Monedero, the Spanish press mixed the truth with lies and accusations into a lethal cocktail and in no time at all his reputation was in tatters. Everyone has a past and Monedero’s weakness was his previous work in Latin America and especially Venezuela, a country which doesn’t have a great reputation is Spain after more than fifteen years of the Chavez’s political doctrine.
Monedero earned a lot of money during his time Spain’s old colonies and the origin of his earnings and the way he was managing them was the subject of lots of rumours and headlines. After a lot of time, front pages and panel discussions, Monedero had to resign to get out of the spotlight and give a break to everyone else involved with Podemos; the media was insatiable and only stopped once Monedero stepped down from the front line.
The UK’s ruling class has the same objective; Corbyn scares them because with his alternative politics he has dismantled the idea that austerity is the only option and, most importantly, he has a lot support on the street after more than seven years of public service destruction, thanks to Tony Blair’s third way and the Conservatives.
Fortunately, Corbyn hasn’t worked for rival countries and has a reputation of being frugal, honest and brutally principled but as we have already seen, a story doesn’t have to be negative to be controversial or damaging to his reputation.
In the past Corbyn has talked to both Hamas and Hezbollah, and the press has written a lot about this already. After his election there have been stories about his former lovers, his decision not to sing the national anthem and the sexism behind his shadow cabinet.
Up till now the establishment’s reaction to Corbyn has been so excessive that people have not taken it too seriously but, with time, the press will improve and the attacks with be more intelligent and credible.
Corbyn has spoken of changing political and economic system and is going to suffer for it; there are a lot of powerful people in the UK and the rest of the world who are very happy with how things are going and they don’t want a self-professed socialist talking about a fairer and more democratic alternative, especially when now, except for the rich, everyone else is fed up of the current situation.
But as always there is hope because with the kind of support he’s been generating, Corbyn has something most politicians never have, a connection with the majority. Corbyn is not a great orator, but he always gives the impression that he’s being himself (other politicians spend untold amounts trying to create that sensation), and with his genuinely popular politics he has a formula for success.
Of course there are and there will be threats along the way but with good advisors and the momentum generated by the public, Corbyn will continue to change the rhetoric of British politics.
The case of Juan Carlos Monedero showed us that, even though he had to step aside, Podemos continued to surge ahead because, when people believe in something, there will always be someone to fill in the gap.