openDemocracyUK: Opinion

The leaked Labour report should have been an explosive scandal

But the media buried it, because they were complicit

Brian Eno
24 April 2020

Most people now agree that the media campaign against Jeremy Corbyn in the two years leading up to the last election plumbed new lows of viciousness, misinformation and character assassination. In some respects that was to be expected: The Right reacted at first with incredulity at the prospect of somebody with a coherent progressive agenda becoming prime minister - and then used every dirty trick in the book to prevent it happening. Corbyn had talked about renationalising railways, about supporting the NHS, about scrapping education fees, writing off student loans. He’d talked about phasing out Trident and other nuclear weapons, and suggested a culture of negotiation over one of war. And, sin of sins, he clearly didn’t believe in the religion of the markets. 

All these were popular positions with the public, which made him especially dangerous to the right: how were they going to fight this? They certainly didn’t ever want to debate the issues with him – actually they wanted to draw public attention as far away from those as possible. So their best strategy was to destroy him by relentless character assassination. Many of us expected the dirty tricks, but what we didn’t expect - or at least I didn’t - was the monolithic unanimity of the opposition. It wasn’t only the usual suspects - The Mail, Telegraph and Murdoch Press - but at times The Guardian, The BBC, the Head of The Board of Deputies and a bevy of ‘useful idiot’ columnists. The propaganda campaign was so successful that they managed to scare themselves nearly to death: like Chicken Little, their whole sky was about to fall in.

The deck was stacked against Corbyn from Day One, but at least we had the consolation that Labour was the biggest political party in Europe, with a lot of committed people who were prepared to get out on the streets for it. It’s only in the last few days we’ve learned that within the Senior Management Team of the Labour party itself there was a secret plot to prevent Corbyn becoming prime minister by ensuring that Labour lost the election. Half of ‘our’ team was actually batting for the other side! Let’s remind ourselves, first of all, that Corbyn was very popular with the actual membership of the party: people wanted a change, and Corbyn represented that. He also represented integrityselflessnessconsistency and commitment in a profession increasingly notable for their absence. But the backroom boys and girls in the Labour party had made up their minds that they knew better, and it's clear now that from the very beginning they worked day and night to undermine him – and any MP who supported him. 

Reading the exchange of messages between the plotters is pretty sickening. When the polls showed Labour losing, they cheered. When they showed Labour gaining, they mourned. When the accusations of antisemitism hit the party, they raised their glasses to celebrate – not because they were appalled by antisemitism but because they knew it was a big stick to thrash Corbyn with. Using their media contacts, they fuelled the anti-Corbyn propaganda machine, planting stories and misinformation designed to paint him as black as possible – all this while their wages were being paid by the subscriptions of party members, the very people who’d elected him as leader. 

This should be the political story of the year – but most of the media were complicit in it, so it’s been quietly forgotten. It’s a story about the corruption of public life, something we British hate to admit to.

This isn’t about whether you support Corbyn or not. It isn’t about whether you support Labour or not. It’s about whether you support democracy.

Last thing: Congratulations to Novara Media, who published this leaked report, for doing the job that journalists are supposed to do. We need, more than ever, to support organisations like this.

Peter Geoghegan: dark money and dirty politics

Democracy is in crisis and unaccountable flows of money are helping to destroy it. Peter Geoghegan’s new book, ‘Democracy for Sale: Dark Money and Dirty Politics’, charts how secretive money, lobbying and data has warped our democracy.

How has dark money bought our politics? What can be done to change the system?

Join us for a journey through a shadowy world of dark money and disinformation stretching from Westminster to Washington, and far beyond.

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In conversation:

Peter Geoghegan Dark Money Investigations editor at openDemocracy and the author of ‘Democracy for Sale: Dark Money and Dirty Politics’.

Mary Fitzgerald Editor-in-chief, openDemocracy.

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