The conventional wisdom: Jeremy Corbyn and the ABC

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The re-election of UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has caused consternation among those in the know, with even our own ABC utterly aghast. Managing editor David Donovan comments.

THERE IS A CRISIS BREWING in the upper echelons of our society. The wisdom our self-appointed betters so generously shower down upon the lowly masses no longer appears to be being received. The prevailing wisdom is no longer prevailing. Woe betide the all-knowing elites!

There are so very many examples to demonstrate this, but let’s just take a recent one: the re-election of Jeremy Corbyn as UK Labour leader on the weekend.

Corbyn has always been unpopular amongst the elites. His anti-waranti-austerity, pro-working class variety of democratic socialism is highly unfashionable in establishment circles — as it is among many MPs in his own party, most of whom were nurtured under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown's neoliberal “New Labour” experiment.

After Britain voted to Brexit in June, Labour MPs attempted a coup, accusing Corbyn of not fighting hard enough to convince Britons to vote to remain. The received wisdom amongst these MPs ‒ as well as most of the British media, City and establishment ‒ being that the UK would be better off remaining in the European Union and the people were foolish to want to leave.

Unfortunately for those MPs, the UK Labour leadership was not determined by a vote of the parliamentary party, but a vote of the membership. Despite the party executive attempting to deny Corbyn a place on the ballot, suspending and expelling thousands of members thought to favour him without any explanation, as well as being the object of vicious smear campaign, Corbyn was re-elected in a landslide, with 61.8 per cent of the vote — more, in fact, than when he was first elected leader last year.

The prevailing wisdom, trumpeted through the media relentlessly during the elongated campaign, was that Corbyn was unelectable as prime minister. That Labour needed to elect someone more similar to the Tories to stand a chance of victory. But, sadly for the elites, this wisdom was not received by Labor Party members.

You might think that the Australian media ‒ especially the ABC ‒ might have been able to be a little more dispassionately objective about Corbyn, but seems not.

In an 7.30 piece prior to the vote (6/9/16), the ABC’s London correspondent, Lisa Millarfits up Corbyn as a “renegade leftie” whose supporters are suspicious sounding

“… Corbynistas, the true believers who joined the cult of personality around this career backbencher.” 

And then, foreshadowing the likely election of what she calls a “hugely unpopular” leader, Millar perfectly reproduces the prevailing wisdom, saying:

“If that happens, there's a fear moderates would defect. The party could split, and be left in the wilderness for a generation.” 

To support this conventional view, Millar interviews only the deputy editor of the New Statesman, a slightly left-leaning establishment political magazine. When challenged on this, Millar merely said that she was ‘seeing it firsthand’ and ‘not reading others work’.

Oh, heavens no. Perish the thought.

On the weekend (25/6/16) on ABC Radio National, stand-in Sunday Extra host Sami Shah, commenting on Corbyn’s resounding win in the ‘Outsiders’ segment, regurgitated whole the received wisdom.

It “wasn’t supposed to happen” said Sami, who declared that that the “extreme left wing” Corbyn election would delight conservatives, “guaranteeing them power until the mid-2020s.”

Sami was given fulsome support in this thesis by long-time Liberal Party apparatchik Terry Barnes, who said Corbyn was a symbol of politics all around the world becoming “more polarised”. Parties must try to “bring their supporters back to the centre”, where all good policy is made, Barnes reckoned. Apparently there is “little sensible debate in the centre” any more, just shouting from extremists. According to Barnes, an undoubted expert in this particular field, politics should be “more boring”. This enthusiastic recitation of the banal went unchallenged by either Sami or his other two guests.

Yesterday on ABC RN Breakfast (26/9/16), host Fran Kelly had Tony Blair’s former media advisor Lance Price on to give his highly “objective” opinion on the Corbyn re-election. He duly restated the now entrenched ABC narrative that the election could splinter the Party and would "keep Labor out of power for a generation”.

(Image screenshot abc.net.au)

You may be surprised to hear this, but there are, in fact, other views on the Corbyn re-election and his chances of electoral success.

Many people think, for a start, that Corbyn is not really “extreme” left wing at all but really rather a conventional sort of progressive. One that is against war, privatisation and nukes, is not in the pocket of big business, and believes in helping the suffering and disadvantaged. Does not subscribe to neoliberal dogma, does believe in universal healthcare, is against the creeping corporatisation of everything and is in favour of concerted action on climate change. From where I sit, that’s not radical — that’s human.

Many people think that there is growing movement around the world in favour of Corbyn’s brand of democratic socialism. That sees that even as inequality is increasing out of control, politicians are looking to cut welfare and give more tax breaks to the wealthy, while making trade deals that advantage mega-corporations, but not the working poor. That this same movement against neoliberalism has seen the Bernie Sanders “revolution” in the United States, the rise of Podemos in Spain, the election of Justin Trudeau in Canada and Syriza in Greece, and is a movement that continues to grow exponentially. And that, moreover, Corbyn may have positioned Labour perfectly if economic bad times strike the febrile British economy before the expected 2020 election.

Many people think that even though Corbyn may be unpopular in the opinion polls in Britain right now, this may be more due to the smears and media campaign against him. That the British people are far more likely embrace a real alternative to the Conservatives rather than vote for a watered down Tory, like Corbyn’s challenger — Owen Smith. That having almost doubled Labour Party membership since being first elected and having rejuvenated the base, Corbyn now has a massive army at his command to support his campaign at any national vote. And if austerity continues to bite and new Prime Minister Theresa May is as incompetent as she appears, Corbyn would seem quite likely to be swept to power at the next election on his populist, humanist agenda.

None of these things are the received wisdom and so none can be discussed in this country — at least not on our narrow minded national broadcaster and certainly not by our myopic mainstream media.

Which is sad, because the prevailing wisdom so seldom seems to prevail in reality. For instance, the elites appear to be pooh poohing the idea of a Trump presidency right up until his inauguration. And in this country, the prevailing wisdom said Julia Gillard was bad and Tony Abbott was good. Told us Turnbull would be elected easily and be in power for a generation. Such insight. Such wisdom.

That’s why Independent Australia is so important. It swims against the prevailing tide so as to reach the far shore: the still and tranquil waters of the truth. IA keeps fighting against the conventional wisdom because this sort of wisdom should rarely be received as it is very seldom wise. Like so much swimming in the mainstream.

(Image screenshot thefreedictionary.com)

You can follow Dave Donovan on Twitter @davrosz. Listen to Dave on IA's exclusive subscribers' only podcasts HERE. (To subscribe to IA for as little as $5, click HERE.)

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